Boys, Family, Fatherhood, Homemaking, Motherhood, Parenting

The Obedience Trifecta: Or the “Three-finger Strategy”

Harry-Potter-Fingers

Lest you think by looking at the picture that this post is about the three Harry Potter children, it isn’t. I just thought the little fingers were cute, are they not?.

This post IS about fingers, though…..sort of.

When our children were young my husband and I really wanted to focus on their obedience.  We knew obedience would be key if we wanted a peaceful home.  We weren’t sure, being young ourselves and having four small children, how to carry out this goal.  To gain some wisdom on this I listened to cassette tapes (yes, I am that old) of the same name by Elisabeth Elliot which taught the importance of instilling obedience in your children:peaceful home lI listened to my “Peaceful Home” tapes over and over again.  They were a tremendous help.  Soon after I had all but memorized these tapes, I became aware of an additional component to obedience that I hadn’t heard before – for lack of a better description, I call it the Obedience Trifecta (OT).  This OT answered a concern we had (not from what we learned on the tapes, but with our own parenting style): we didn’t want our kids to just mindlessly obey like robots; we wanted them to obey well.  I can’t remember how I first heard about this trifecta (the author of the concept didn’t call it a “trifecta”, that was just my name for it).  The idea came from either reading a book or listening to a radio show.  (If anyone knows of its author/origin please let me know so I can give them credit.) The OT had three components: a child’s obedience must be 1. right away, 2. all the way, and 3. the happy way.  To help children remember this, the parent held up three fingers to remind their kids of these expectations.  I loved the idea and we decided to give it a try. Here is how the concept played out in our home.

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Christianity, Family, Homeschooling, Motherhood, Parenting

The Arduous Struggle: or Prayer and Peeling Carrots

ElisabethElliot (older)I was thumbing though some old files and came across a little gem.  It was an article from the May, 1999 issue of The Gatekeeper, Elisabeth Elliot’s monthly newsletter. The article, written by Elisabeth, and titled, “Motherhood:  The Most Difficult and Rewarding Job” said this:

Mothers are always on call, expected to have all the answers and limitless energies. They’re supposed to do everything; it’s taken for granted.  How can you be and do everything expected of you?  What you need is an habitual sense of the presence of God. Think that Almighty God, who created the stars and keeps the seasons revolving in perfect rhythm, is there in your kitchen, in your bathroom, in the laundry room, in the grocery store.  Mothers, be prepared for an arduous struggle.  Your calling is impossible without prayer, the comfort and instruction of the Scriptures, and fellowship in your church.

If you’re feeling anxious, without peace, it just may be that you have not made time in your schedule for study in the Scriptures and prayer.  It is essential, no matter what you have to forgo, no matter which people in the church you’re going to have to say no to, no matter how crowded  your schedule may be at home, you must somehow, but the grace of God, make time to read your Bible and pray.

God knows you can’t always be thinking of Him.  You have to put your mind on what you’re doing.  You have to concentrate on that recipe.  You have to study those homeschool geometry lessons that you forgot so many years ago.  You have to concentrate on measuring out that medicine for the sick child or making up the grocery lists and menus for the next week.  This means that you must concentrate in your quiet time as well.  Then learn to turn back to God throughout the day.

Try looking up to the Lord with a hundred little looks of love during the day.  Every now and then lift up your eyes, lift up your heart, and remember that Christ is in you.  He dwells in you.  He gives you the gift of grace.  (Don’t forget grace – you need it!  We need it every hour of every day, every minute of every hour.)  Learn to pray while you’re peeling the carrots, driving the car or cleaning the house.

Remind yourself that the materials of your work and play and all of your daily life are hallowed by the presence of Christ, by the presence of His infinity in the midst of your finiteness.  Remember that Christ is present even in the weak and the mean and the ugly.  In Matthew 25:40 Jesus said, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these My brothers, you have done it for Me.”

Our thoughts and desires need to be more referred to Him, determined by Him.  We need to ask for wisdom in mind, holiness in will, and a mind and a will made one with Christ.  Living in his presence – in your kitchen and in your laundry room; loving, which means to will the good of another, not allowing any hardship or sacrifice to deter us from helping them; and looking  for His best.

To this I say, Amen.

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Christianity, Motherhood, Parenting

The Weaver

woven clothIn 1976 Corrie Ten Boom (WWII concentration camp survivor and author of The Hiding Place)  spoke at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts.  Elisabeth Elliot (wife of murdered missionary Jim Elliot) and their daughter Valerie attended the lecture*.

Later that week Corrie invited Elisabeth and her daughter to join her for tea at the house where Corrie was staying. They enthusiastically accepted.  Over piping hot cups of tea Elisabeth asked Corrie more about her life in the concentration camps and about her book,The Hiding Place.  She also asked Corrie a number of questions about God and suffering.  At one point in their conversation Corrie walked over to her suitcase and pulled out a piece of satin, showing Elisabeth and Valerie the tangled web of threads on the underneath side of the cloth. Corrie then recited for them the poem The Weaver  by Grant Colfax Tullar:

My life is but a weaving betwixt my Lord and me,

I do not choose the colors – He worketh steadily

Ofttimes He weaveth sorrow, and I in foolish pride,

Forget He sees the upper, and I the underside.

Not till the loom is silent, and the shuttles cease to fly

Shall God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful in the Weaver’s skillful hand

As the threads of gold and silver in the pattern he has planned.

After she finished Corrie turned the cloth over revealing the beautiful and intricate pattern on the other side.

Moms, parenting can be challenging.  It can be difficult.  It can be devastating.

Do not lose heart.

God said, “Never will I leave you.  Never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5.

He is the El Shaddai, “the God who is Enough.” And He weaves your life into a beautiful pattern.

(*Story of Corrie Ten Boom and Elisabeth Elliot taken from The Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter,  March/April 1998.)

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Christianity, Family, Parenting

Do the Next Thing

walking-feet

Parenting can sometimes be completely overwhelming….and thoroughly exhausting….and utterly confusing.  Parenting can hurt your heart and drain your spirit.  There have been times in my life (and there will be again) when I was overwhelmed – sometimes with grief, sometimes with confusion – over a situation with a child.  The challenges before me seemed so difficult and I felt paralyzed.  To make matters worse, my prayers during these times often felt empty and ineffective.  During these difficult seasons  I frequently turned to this poem found in the book, A Shaping of a Christian Family by Elisabeth Elliot.  The author of the poem is unknown, but Elisabeth writes how the poem brought her mother solace and guidance during difficult periods of her life.  If you are feeling overwhelmed today – if you are struggling with  fear or indecision – I pray this brings you some comfort.

Do the Next Thing

From an old English parsonage down by the sea

There came in the twilight a message to me;

In quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,

Hath, it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.

And on through the hours the quiet words ring

Like a low inspiration, “DO THE NEXT THING”

Many a questioning, many a fear,

Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.

Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,

Time, opportunity, guidance are given.

Fear not tomorrow, child of the King,

Trust them with Jesus, do the next thing.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer;

Do it reliantly, casting all care;

Do it with reverence, tracing His hand

Who placed it before thee with earnest command.

Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing.

Leave all resultings, do the next thing.

Looking to Jesus, ever serener,

Working or suffering, be thy demeanor;

In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,

The light of His countenance by the psalm,

Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing

Then, as He beckons thee, do the next thing.

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Christianity, Homeschooling, Parenting

Keep a Quiet Heart

boat in stormHold us in quiet through the age-long minute

While Thou art silent, and the wind is shrill:

Can the boat sink while Thou, dear Lord, art in it?

Can the heart faint that waiteth on Thy will?

Amy Carmichael, from Toward Jerusalem

I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of trouble keeping a quiet heart.  I am not usually a noisy person but my heart can sure get loud.  Loud with worry.  Loud with angst.

There seems to be so much too much to worry about these days:  friends and family who are battling serious illness,  friends with sick children, tornadoes sweeping through our community (in November of all months!), yet another school shooting.

Those are the heavies.  Then there’s the middlings: increasing health insurance costs, approaching Christmas expenses, and badly needed house repairs.

But it’s the trifles that bring me to the tipping point and cause my heart to yell:  educational challenges with children, trimming the budget, an endless stream of dirty dishes and laundry.

Here are some verses that have brought me peace.  May they bring you the same:

Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face continually.—1 Chronicles 16:11

Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.— Psalm 31:3

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.—Psalm 119:10

Be still, and know that I am God. – Psalm 46:10

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. –  Isaiah 26:3

In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. – Isaiah 30:15

May I also recommend a wonderful book?  Keep a Quiet Heart, by Elisabeth Elliott.  It will strengthen and encourage you when your heart gets loud:

keep a quiet heart

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Christianity, Homeschooling, Motherhood

Words of Elisabeth Elliot, pt. 5

elisabeth-elliot“This job [of motherhood] has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”
Elisabeth Elliot

 

“Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”

We have come to the final blog entry for this Elisabeth Elliott quote, and this last part of the quote is my favorite.

I must admit I am a romantic…and a dreamer…and a perfectionist.  It is a dangerous combination of traits.  When I was a young mother the romantic in me would marvel at the stories of great missionaries – like Jim and Elisabeth Elliott, for example – and all the amazing things they accomplished for God. Oh, the sacrifices they made!  I assumed God was really impressed with them because of all they did out in those hot jungles.  Or, as I listened to speakers at homeschooling conventions or Christian conferences, the dreamer in me was envious of how well they communicated their ideas or dealt with obstacles in their lives.  To me, those speakers really lived out their calling. My dreamer-self wanted to be just like them. The speakers always appeared so put-together, happy, and knowledgeable.  And then my perfectionism would kick in and I would compare the dangerous life of the missionaries to my safe life, and the impactful performance of the public speaker to my mundane activities, and I would feel guilty for not “doing” more for the Lord or living out a more significant calling.

But if I was honest with myself, I really did not feel “called” to go overseas.  Nor did my husband.  And traveling from convention to convention would be difficult on a young family like ours.  Besides, what I would talk about anyway??  I was a young woman trying to figure out her role as wife, mother, and eventually home school teacher.  So I started reminding myself about this Elisabeth Elliot quote, and I would ask myself, where would I best learn about God and his plans for me?  The answer according to Elisabeth was, right where I was at that moment.  Being at home with my children and husband was the best opportunity to learn God’s way.  Faithfully attending to my “portion” would strengthen my relationship with God.  I was called to be faithful right where He had me.  Right now. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way.

Knowing this brought me much contentment and eased my guilt.  I was being faithful to God by doing exactly what I was already doing – learning to be a supportive wife and mother to our young children.  In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness. And I didn’t need a podium or a passport to do it!

Moms, if God has called you to motherhood and you are giving your all to the raising of your children then you are being FAITHFUL in what God has called you to do!  Bless you as you walk in your sacred calling!

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Christianity, Motherhood, Parenting

Words of Elisabeth Elliot, pt. 4

elisabeth-elliot“This job [of motherhood] has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”
Elisabeth Elliot

 

“Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him.”

We are making our way through this paragraph by Elisabeth Elliott.  Today, it’s all about attitude.

When the children were small there was a saying that I recited often to the children when something I wanted done was met with resistance.  I would tell them, “Do what I ask of you, ‘all the way, right away, and the happy way’”, and I would hold up three fingers as a reminder.  If their response to my command didn’t meet these three criteria, then their response wasn’t fully obedient and they would have to do the task over. You see, obedience was more to me than just their robotic compliance, it was also about their heart.  When the kids got older, and they would complain about a task they were given, I only needed to hold up three fingers for them to understand my meaning.

In the first chapter of the Old Testament book of Isaiah we find that the Israelites didn’t always abide follow this Rule of Three either.  They were bringing to God the sacrifices and offerings required of them, but their hearts weren’t in the right place and God knew it.  The Lord told them, “Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations– I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.”  The Israelites were obeying God’s commands, but their hearts were elsewhere.  To God this was meaningless obedience.

In the same way, if we mothers stay home to be with our children, or home school our children, or nurture our children because it looks good, or because we feel it is our duty, or because we feel it is what God requires of us, but we grumble all the while, then, like the Israelites, our offering of motherhood will be meaningless to God (and our children!).  But if we offer ourselves up gladly before the Lord, the fragrance of that offering will be pleasing (one translation even used the word “soothing”) to the Lord.

When the children were little I would frequently sit down in our family room chair to nurse or rock a baby to sleep.  I was often disheveled, unshowered, and unlovely.  My shirt smelled of regurgitated breast milk.  My floor was covered – and I mean covered, thanks to my two-year old – with every toy we owned.  (Sometimes I think she purposefully tried to scatter her books and toys as widely and thoroughly as she could just to irritate me).  The dishes in the sink were multiplying like fungus and the laundry was spilling out of the laundry room.

I had little to offer the Lord in those moments.  I was crabby.  I felt ugly.  I felt under appreciated.  The somewhat tidy house of a half an hour ago was long gone.  We had just finished eating breakfast and already the children were clamoring for lunch.  Resentful, I wanted to get up and yell and shut everyone in their rooms in order to have a small moment of peace.  “My life feels utterly trampled upon by these children!” I would sometimes rancorously think.  And though I knew the right thing to do was to finish my nursing or rocking, then get up and start lunch, do another load of laundry, and wipe another runny nose – I was willing to be obedient in what God was asking of me – I was also quite content to sport some hefty resentment over my situation, like a child with a newly skinned knee who shows off his injury for pity.  Sure, I would do what needed done, but I wasn’t always happy about it.  And God knows that kind of attitude is not the best way to handle a task.  My resentful obedience meant I had a grumpy manner, which affected my heart and my children’s heart, and it pretty much went downhill from there.

Over time I learned the importance of looking at the situation the “happy way” (probably while I was holding up three fingers at my children).  Admittedly, I didn’t always give my offerings happily; sometimes I royally blew it.  But sometimes, when I would feel overwhelmed or resentful, I would stop and thoughtfully assess my situation.  I would survey the mess of toys on the floor and thank God for our “abundance” of entertainment.  Our children were certainly not lacking in amusements!  I would examine the spit-up stains on my shirt and remind myself of the privilege to be able to stay home and nurse that beautiful baby that put them there.  I would gaze at the food-encrusted dishes in the sink and thank God for the food on our plates and in our cabinets, that all our physical needs were met and exceeded for that day.  I would meditate on the tremendous importance of my job as mother and think about the long-term rather than the right-in-front-of-me.  I would sometimes even imagine placing my messy house and messy life on God’s altar, and somehow that sacrificial imagery would still my resentful soul. Basically, I learned to take the focus off myself and put it on God.  It is amazing how that change in perspective improved my assessment of the situation!  Dirty dishes didn’t seem so bothersome, stained shirts didn’t seem so embarrassing, and a cluttered floor meant ABUNDANT life was happening under my roof!  I was starting to obey what God was asking of me in a “happy way”, and my obedience to Him felt much more satisfying and rich.

Moms, I know you are busy.  You are crazy, crazy busy!  This season of life with little ones is so extremely exhausting.  But if you sometimes find resentment rising in your heart toward the job of motherhood, first know you’re not alone, then take a step back to look at the big picture – contemplate the awesomeness of what God is calling you to do – then give your offering to God, gladly.

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