“Traveling in the company of those we love is home in motion.” — Leigh Hunt
My friend @aliciathewriter shared this quote with me which inspired the name of the series I am working on this month, here on Insta.
It captures so much of what is on my heart for my kids. Our life has meant a lot of change in our experience of home. We have felt displaced & homesick many times. We have also struggled with chronic health issues, have been outsiders and without strong community around us.
What about your kids? How are they suffering or struggling? This all reminds us that we are not home yet. That everything has not yet been made right.
I long for our kids – yours and mine – to know that Jesus sees and cares for them in every way. Belonging to Him and with Him, we are always safe no matter where we go. They can grieve with him and hope in Him, because He loves them, understands them and is doing them good.
As parents nothing is more comforting than knowing that it is only in trusting the Father through the Son that our kids have hope in their own journeys, regardless of the reason they are going thru a season of suffering.
We are all traveling home for as long as we are on this earth. We are not traveling alone, however. We are in the company of our Keeper – he is our home even as we travel to our place of permanence & feast.
So praise God for our home in motion – and for the way our Father gives us His love as a sure abiding place.
“Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:1 -2).
I read recently that we become what we pay attention to (Curtis Thompson).
In any conversation about parenting there’s the danger of paying too much attention to our parenting. To focus on and obsess over how we parent.
But friend – if there is one thing you will take away from this whole series (and from anything else I write) is this:
Focus your gaze and pay attention to Christ himself. There really is no one like him. He is sufficient in every single thing. His abundance surpasses our need by a trillion.
That is why one of the best pieces of advice from my husband is to outsource my parenting to the Lord. Every time I feel deeply my need for grace, or my ignorance, he reminds me to outsource that to the Lord.
My job is not to make myself a good mom – all sufficient and enough. My job is to let the Lord parent through me, and to parent by faith in his sufficiency.
We are not wise, we lack discernment, we have dysfunctional ways of parenting…. And we still have every reason to hope. Our Father is none of those things.
He is mighty to save them, hold their faith, keep them hungry for Himself. And I cling to that. Because I can teach them that it is possible for faith and doubt to coexist, or that we are always living in the tension of joy and sorrow. I can teach them about God and everything He is for us in Christ. We can read the Scriptures and memorize them. But I can’t make them SEE unseen truth. I can’t make them discern spiritual realities. There is only One who can.
This turns my prayers to be:
“Jesus, help me.”
“Speak through me.”
“Love through me.”
“Be patient in me and through me.”
And while we too with Paul ask, “who is sufficient for these things?” we can also say with him,
“Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves but our sufficiency is from God.” (2 Cor. 2: 16; 3: 4-6).
As Christian parents, he made us ministers of the new covenant of the Spirit, of the Spirit who alone gives life. Is there something more humbling than this? That we would get to be representatives of the life-giving Spirit of Christ? Christ who is so tender-hearted, who loves children and loves to draw them to himself?
All of Christ’s riches and resources are ours! Let’s fix our attention on him and rejoice.
Yesterday I wrote about the importance of paying attention to our kids and being curious about them. But paying attention is not enough. We need to practice discernment about what we see in them.
So I am learning to evaluate my kids’ attitudes and responses throughout the week and trying to figure out what they need. I am asking questions like:
**Is this simply a sinful response? Is there suffering at the root of this response? What role would compassion play as I deal with it?
**Are there real physical and personality limitations at the core of this meltdown? How do I help my child deal with these limitations in a way that honors the Lord while at the same time not shame them for being human?
**Are their nervous systems overloaded by input? Have they had enough time to recharge?
**Is this a form of grief?
**Have they had enough time in the sun and fresh air recently? How much physical activity have they had?
**Have I given them long hugs? Have we laughed together?
**Have they done things recently that bring them life?
**Is there a balance between the things that sap their energy and the things that help them destress?
**Have they eaten anything recently that may be contributing to this struggle? (Some foods actually set up the brain to feel more anxiety, despondency and depression).
**What is at the heart of this outburst of anger? Is it anxiety? Grief? What is triggering it?
**Who is God relevant to this struggle? What does he promise? How does he speak into it? How can I, like God, draw near my child and speak life into him/her? (**adapted this question from a @ccef self counseling project).
Thankful for the generous promise of the Lord to give us wisdom without reproach when we face our kids’ suffering (which also becomes ours) (James 1:5).
May we parent on our knees – assured of his heart to give us the discernment we need.
Our kids souls’ (like ours) have a shape. Many circumstances and people shape their soul but no other human shapes their soul and their ability to know they are always & completely loved by God than us as their parents. I am eternally grateful though that the Spirit can supernaturally reveal this reality to them even as we fail.
So trusting him & empowered by him, I endeavor to communicate the Father’s love in 3 ways. Today I will focus on the first one:
Practice curiousity. Our kids are not our clones. Being curious about them (and staying curious as they grow up) honors both our kids and the Lord who made them so fearfully & carefully.
By paying attention to our kids we are giving them the gift of being truly & deeply known by us. It is the gift God gave us that shows we are his children and heirs, no longer slaves (Galatians 4:8-9).
I want to be slow to speak, and quick to listen. And sometimes listening means listening to what they are saying with their whole being: with their words and also their body.
I want these observations to be non-evaluative & non judgemental (this is who they should be, they shouldn’t feel this way). The goal at this stage is deeper understanding, not necessarily correction. I want to always be a humble student of my kids -aware that as they grow up they are always becoming someone else that I get to know.
These are some of the questions I pay attention to:
What makes them really happy?
What makes them really sad?
What is their favorite kind of day? Why?
What makes them thrive?
What seems to sap energy from them?
How do they learn best?
How does s/he cope with disappointment? Anger?
What situations typically trigger fear (maybe even panic?)
What kind of people is she drawn to?
When does s/he have more energy?
Let’s encourage each other. How do you stay curious about your kids? What are some questions you ask yourself to get to know them better?
We can enable our kids to abide in the love of the Father, by reflecting how he parents us: both body and soul.
This has massive implications for our parenting. We can’t shepherd their hearts without paying attention to what is happening to their bodies. And nurturing their bodies impacts their souls. What happens to one, will necessarily affect the other.
We see this in how our Father cares for us. He is a God who nurtures us through a myriad of scents, textures, sights and sounds. He calms our souls not only through his word but also through deep breaths, fresh air, and multiples shades of green.
God moves toward us in physical places and provides through them what we need. The beauty of the sunset over the desert in the Middle East helps regulate our emotions. The expansiveness of fields in Iowa grounds us, and help restore our sanity and think true thoughts about Him and ourselves.
Our Father cares about the body. He is compassionate about the complexity of the human brain and how profoundly it affects us.
When we struggle with fear, anxiety or depression, for example, he doesn’t just see it as a spiritual problem that needs training and discipline. He draws near to us, and takes care of our bodies’ need for rest and nurture (remember Elijah?).
Similarly, caring for our kids as embodied souls means we care for the whole child. I think all too often in Christian parenting we think that shepherding our kids’ hearts means mostly taking care of the spiritual and that physical care doesn’t impact their souls. But it does:
Daily long hugs
Brushing their hair
Getting down to their level & looking at them in the eye,
Feeding them breakfast, lunch and dinner (and all the snacks!), day after day after day
All these shape not only their brain but also their heart and soul.
This week I will share 3 things that help me care for my kids as a whole person. I would love to hear yours!
I still remember riding the Dubai metro, almost 6 years ago, listening to a voice note from @kimransleben. Her words introduced a new concept for me that really changed the way I thought and helped me live in the hope of Christ. She said:
“You need to take sin lightly enough to take it seriously.”
I was intrigued by this idea. Christians, she said, often take sin seriously in all the wrong ways. They gasp at it, surprised by other Christian’s sins. But also, they hide, taken aback by their own sin. Believers that grew up in Christian homes especially are often shocked of what they are capable of feeling, thinking and doing.
As Christian parents we are susceptible to both of these things, both about ourselves and about our kids. We hear our harsh words, encounter our selfishness, envy of our kids and impatience and we are shocked. Or sometimes, we live in shame over all the standards we are failing to meet.
Likewise, we may gasp at our kids’ sin and either shame them for it or give into despair. We hear their disrespectful words, for example, and say something like, “I can’t believe you said x, y or z.” Or we may see their defiance and feel hopelessness. We sink at the thought: “how will they ever change?” We feel a weight that is not ours to carry about how to effect transformation in their hearts.
So if despair, shame, gasp & gossip, and hiding are some of the wrong ways we take sin seriously, how do we, abiding in the love of the Father, take sin lightly enough to take it seriously?
We need to know what happened to us and our sin:
Romans 6: 6-7: Your sin has been brought to nothing. You no longer have to obey it. You have been set free from sin.
Romans 6: 4: So you not only died, you were buried. And why did he do that to you? IN ORDER THAT you could be raised from that old self to a new one. You don’t walk in the old life, you walk in the new one.
Ephesians 2: 4-7: This one is really mind blowing: God is committed through all the ages of time to show the world how rich he is in grace and he’s going to do that by being kind to US because of our union with Jesus. You are seated with Christ, by and for a God who is committing himself to being kind to you forever.
Colossians 3: 2-3: You were crucified, buried, raised, seated…and now hidden with Christ right in the very center of God. The one thingAdam and Eve wanted to do is hide. The one thing we do in our sin is hide. Why? Because we don’t grasp the reality, the truth that we are already hidden. That’s the reality of your life if you belong to God. You are HIDDEN.
If this is all true, do you see why we can only take sin seriously if we first take it lightly? We can look at our sin and breathe a sigh of relief. Because it is not who we are! Sin is not our master anymore.
We are crucified, buried and raised with Christ! It doesn’t make sin fun to deal with but Christ made it possible for us to put it to death because HE ALREADY KILLED IT. Our job is to live like this is true – running away from temptation and from the things that lead us astray.
The more we grow in taking our sin lightly enough to take it seriously, we are better able to face our kids’ sin. We are faithful to their souls trusting the power of the gospel. We place them in front of the word rejoicing in the self-authenticating nature of God’s word. We speak the gospel knowing the Spirit works in his time and his ways. We don’t despair, nag or try to control our kids.
We see that the only solution to their struggle is the one we too needed: death and new life. We pray while breathing a little easier, because there is only one who is mighty to save…and praise God – that’s not us but the God who committed himself to being kind to us forever in Christ. So we trust him.
So dear mom or dad, take heart in your fight against your sin and your kids’. Take sin lightly enough…to actually take it seriously.
*I adapted a talk by Kim Ransleben to write this blog post for this series.
I praise you for letting me know you as Father – with life-giving authority and power, filled with self- sacrificial love, always working out of the overflow of the wealth of your wisdom
Father, you know me well. You know my story – both the sin AND suffering that have shaped my soul. You know my struggle to believe you do love me & are always for me in Christ.
It is hard for me to take joy in parenting because I think I live under your frown, disappointment and frustration for how slow I am to believe and change. Sometimes I think I deserve better.
When I sin against my kids regret fills my heart but I don’t turn to you. I just feel shame. Other times, I dig my heels in my self-righteousness and justify my harshness & pride.
It is hard for me to enjoy parenting because all I see when I look at my kids is demands on legs. I am terrified of failing & hurting them, especially when I keep sinning in the same way. I realize just how broken I am. I have well worn paths in how I respond to triggers & temptations.
Father, I look to you. Who are you for me in Christ in my parenting? You are merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love & faithfulness. When I repent, you lift up my head, because you – and not my performance -are my glory.
Thank you for killing me in Christ and with him giving me new life. I repent of walking by the flesh when you have given me the Spirit of your Son. I praise you for equipping me with his life and that well worn paths of anger and impatience became old.
You are my refuge, I trust you to grow me in all the ways I need – in your time and your way.
In the meantime, parenting is not one long opportunity to fail but one long season to see you redeeming my sin & leveraging my weaknesses for your glory and the joy of my people.
Fill me with faith so that out of my profound conviction of your abundant love, I love my kids. May I see parenting as the privilege to be served by you over and over again.
Oh Father. I see deep joy in your eyes when I look at you. THANK YOU for only giving me what Christ deserves. Your love, my only home.
My favorite scene in the movie Hitch is when Hitch is teaching Albert Brennaman how to dance. Albert tells him, “That’s the one thing I am not worried about.” He goes on to show Hitch all his dance moves. But Hitch is not impressed at all with his moves making pizza, throwing away a q-tip or starting a fire. As he models actual smooth moves, Hitch tells him, “This is where you live. Right here. This is home.”
In some ways that is what I want to do with this series. I want to be your personal cheerleader encouraging you to stay “right here.”
(Can you hear me chant: “His love is home! His love is home!”)
So how can we tell where we are abiding? Here are some diagnostic questions:
🌿What makes your soul happy in God?
🌿When you are discouraged and weary, what renews your hope?
🌿Where does your security come from? Is it from “right” theology? From how your walk with God is going?
🌿Do you sometimes find yourself listing all the things you are doing for God as a way of strengthening your confidence?
🌿Does confidence before God come from comparing yourself to others who don’t get it as right as you do?
🌿When you picture looking at the Father’s face, is he smiling at you? Or disappointed in you? What makes him smile at you?
🌿What motivates your desire to keep Christ’s words? To follow him & be fruitful?
🌿Where do you run to when shame tries to bully you? To the approval of others, to please them, to do more and try to be enough?
I am not trying to encourage unhealthy introspection with these questions (believe me, I was a pro at that). I am just hoping these will serve as markers to know when to redirect your gaze at the all sufficient work of Christ and to his complete rescue when we have wandered over to (or chosen) the life of the flesh.
Self reliance, pride, shame over not being enough or better; anxiety & fear – these are not marks of our real lasting life. These are all the old man, and Christ killed it.
Let’s count the old man dead and turn to our real & only life: Christ. Even when our hearts are prone to wander, his powerful union with us holds us fast.
Growing up in a world that emphasized robust theology, I used look down on those who emphasized God’s love too much. It seemed to be at the expense of right theology. Those who sang about God’s love & seemed to only talk about it, were too “wishy-washy” for me.
But, friends, a laser focus on the Father’s love for us through Christ, *is* right theology. That is the life of the Son in us. It was the Father’s unfailing love for the Son – and the Son’s faith in it – that carried Christ here on earth, all the way to the cross and beyond.
Listen to how much he talked & prayed about it (these are all Christ’s words):
The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand (John 3:35).
For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel (John 5:20).
Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world (John 17:24).
For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again (John 10:17).
Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love (John 15:9).
I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them (John 17:26).
I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me (John 17:23).
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love (John 15:10).
Jesus *knew* His Father loved him. He delighted in it, it fueled his confidence and motivated his obedience. Our natural bent because of the flesh is to abide in performance and to focus on our own righteousness. But Christ’s life gives us a new normal, a new place to abide.
Friends – let’s ask the Father to increase our faith so that we live only through the Son.
It is the only way that redeeming love can be our theme now & always.
This summer my husband gave me 24 glorious hours by myself to rest. I was trying to recover from a very painful season in ministry. During my time away I read Scripture, listened to a sermon, took an epsom salt bath and prayed. I sat outside and journalled but still towards the end of my time away, I still felt this nagging anxiety trapped in my body. I decided to do a workout video. And would you believe it was as I stretched and listened to the instructor that it hit me?
She said something like, “are you feeling love?” I was about to roll my eyes at what felt touchy-feely….when the Spirit stopped me. “So, Aylin… are you?” He gently showed me how not once that day had I considered my Father’s love for me.
Rest had eluded me when I anxiously focused on rest. But as the Spirit enabled me to take hold of his love by faith, I felt my body finally relax.
This series is about teaching our kids to abide in love, more specifically in the Father’s love. It is as we keep believing in His unstoppable love that we are home, no matter where we are, or how difficult our circumstances.
But, friends – it will be hard for us to model our parenting after the Father’s, if we are not secure in his love. As my husband says, “the ministry he does in us is the one he wants to do through us.” Are you receiving the ministry of the Spirit assuring you of the Father’s love?
My problem that day hadn’t been the Word itself – as if it wasn’t enough or the wrong place to meet Christ. The issue was with the heart that approached the word. I had been abiding in performance, caring for myself as an orphan.
In Greek, to abide means to remain, to live, to stay, to continue. Abiding in Christ is so much more than reading Scriptures and praying. I had done both those things that day, but I hadn’t done them in faith – believing that I was one with Christ or that my Father was for me. I had given into thinking if I did the right things, peace would come. But peace didn’t come until the Spirit reminded me it wasn’t about what I did but what He did.
I was already home – dearly loved and dearly delighted in.