Welcome to my musings...

After a 3 year hiatus from blogging (too busy parenting teens to have time to write about it!), I have decided to revive my blog. I look forward to sharing my perspective on mothering as I am at the tail end of my child-raising journey. Nothing could be more beautiful, more full of joy and pain and anguish, than the divine calling of motherhood. I pray my musings will bless you on your own journey, and that you will feel encouraged and equipped!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Adventus Redemptoris

I have always loved Christmas, starting when I was just a little girl. Christmas has always felt magical to me, and I’ve enjoyed it even more as a mother than I did as a child. A few years back, when our first two children were small, we took a long, hard look at how we celebrated Christmas, and made some major changes in our house. We decided to find a way to make Christmas more meaningful, and to create some new traditions to go with our old ones. Ever since, Christmas has been my very favorite time of year, and also my children’s. Starting about late October, my kids start asking, “How long until we start Advent?”

So…what is Advent? The word comes from the Latin “Adventus Redemptoris”, which means “the coming of the Saviour”. It is a season of preparation and expectation, waiting for the Birth of Christ and for His return. It is a way to focus our minds and hearts on what Christmas is really all about…not Santa and reindeer and snowmen, but the birth of a tiny baby in Bethlehem who changed the entire world forever. I guarantee it, if you will consider adding the celebration of Advent to your Christmas traditions, you will have a Christmas that is unlike any you have ever experienced--full of true joy and peace in the midst of all the craziness that Christmas can bring.

Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas…this year it begins November 30th. We celebrate Advent in our house by using an Advent wreath. The evergreen wreath itself symbolizes eternity (the idea that God is everlasting) and life (a symbol of newness and eternal life). The wreath contains five candles, each one representing something unique. The light of the candles itself symbolizes that Jesus is the light of the world, casting out fear and darkness. The first candle is purple (which represents repentance and longing for Jesus’ birth—it also represents royalty) and is lit on the first Sunday of Advent (11/30). It is called the prophecy candle and represents all of the prophecies in the Old Testament that Jesus fulfilled. The second candle is also purple and is known as the Bethlehem candle, which reminds us that God appeared to us in a humble form, being born in a stable. Bethlehem was located in the territory of one of the least powerful and least important tribes of Israel. This candle is lit on the Second Sunday of Advent. The third candle is rose-colored, and is called the shepherds’ candle. Rose is a symbol of joy and hope that Jesus is coming. The fourth candle is also purple and is called the angel candle. It symbolizes the angels’ peace and the message of good news that they brought, telling of the Saviour’s birth. The fifth candle is white (for purity), and is placed in the center of the wreath. It symbolizes Christ, the heart of Christmas.

The wreath is used by lighting one new candle each Sunday of Advent. The first Sunday (and every night that week), only the prophecy candle is lit. The second Sunday (and each night the second week), both the prophecy and the Bethlehem candles are lit. Each night of the third week (again, starting on Sunday), three candles are lit (prophecy, Bethlehem and shepherd candles). From the fourth Sunday until Christmas Eve, the first four candles are lit (prophecy, Bethlehem, shepherd, and angel candles). On either Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, the final candle (the Jesus candle) is also lit. As more candles are illuminated, we know that the coming of Jesus is getting closer. The anticipation builds as we expectantly watch for our Savior, just like the Jews of long ago. In our family, we usually light the candle(s), read a passage of Scripture (see suggested readings below) or a special Advent devotional book (many are available at your Christian bookstore), sing a carol about Jesus’ birth, and spend some time in prayer. This is a time to be quiet, to be thoughtful, to take a few moments out of our busy lives and focus on the gift of the Saviour, given to us at Christmas. We often dim the lights and make it a very special time of family worship together.

How about giving your family a very special gift for Christmas…make the time to celebrate Advent this year. I promise you, it will be your best Christmas ever.

Suggested Advent Readings:
Week One
Sunday, Nov. 30 Isaiah 53; Isaiah 40:1-5
Monday, Dec. 1 Isaiah 52:7-20, Isaiah 40:9-11
Tuesday, Dec. 2 Isaiah 2:1-5
Wednesday, Dec. 3 Isaiah 35:1-10
Thursday, Dec. 4 Jeremiah 33:14-16
Friday, Dec. 5 Psalm 89:1-4
Saturday, Dec. 6 Isaiah 11:1-10

Week Two
Sunday, Dec. 7 Zechariah 6:12-13
Monday, Dec. 8 Micah 5:2-4
Tuesday, Dec. 9 Malachi 3:1-6
Wednesday, Dec. 10 John 1:1-8
Thursday, Dec. 11 John 1:9-18
Friday, Dec. 12 Mark 1:1-3
Saturday, Dec. 13 Luke 1:5-13

Week Three
Sunday, Dec. 14 Luke 1:14-17
Monday, Dec. 15 Luke 1:18-25
Tuesday, Dec. 16 Luke 1:39-45
Wednesday, Dec. 17 Luke 1:46-56
Thursday, Dec. 18 Luke 1:57-66
Friday, Dec. 19 Luke 1:67-80
Saturday, Dec. 20 Isaiah 7:10-14

Week Four
Sunday, Dec. 21 Luke 1:26-35
Monday, Dec. 22 Isaiah 9:2-7
Tuesday, Dec. 23 Matthew 1:18-25
Wednesday, Dec. 24 Luke 2:1-20 (Can now light Jesus candle in center)
Thursday, Dec. 25 Matthew 2:1-2; Luke 2:21-35

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I'm Thankful For...

Every Thanksgiving, we go around the table and share what we are thankful for that year. The answers have ranged from big things (we didn’t move to Kansas City, Grandma is now cancer-free) to small things (a new puppy, chocolate) and from serious to light-hearted. There is never a lack of things to be thankful for, even in years that have been difficult. God’s hand in our lives is always evident and our faith is always strengthened by the sharing of these things. This year, I feel overwhelmed by thankfulness…for who God is, and for what He has done.

Here are just a few of my “thank offerings”:
* I am ever so thankful that God IS…and that I am not Him. Life is so complicated and so full of trials, that I am blissfully thankful that I am not in charge. Thank you, Lord, that you are in control, no matter who is elected President or what is the state of our economy.

* I am deeply thankful that this world is not all there is…that Jesus came and died for me, so that I can look forward to a home in heaven with him.

* I am profoundly thankful for my parents and for the loving Christian home they raised my brother and me in. I am grateful for the things they taught me, for introducing me to Jesus, the unfailing love they offered and the legacy of faith they began in our family. I am thankful for the example of a loving, patient mother who understood the importance of motherhood. I am thankful for my dad, who has a heart the size of Texas and would give a perfect stranger the shirt off his back.

* I am incredibly thankful for my wonderful husband and for all he does for our family. I am grateful for how hard he works to provide for us, never complaining, even on difficult days at work. I am thankful for his unending love and faithfulness, for his wonderful sense of humor that keeps me laughing, and for his dedication to our children and our homeschooling. God has given this man so many talents and I am so thankful that I get to walk by his side and watch as God uses him to further His kingdom. After twenty years, he still makes my heart beat faster when our eyes meet across the room.

* I will always be thankful for my three precious children. I will never take them for granted after the months of wondering if God would grant us children at all…I know they are a miraculous gift and I treasure every day as their mother. I am thankful for Molly, and her valiant faith, her determination to follow God’s will for her life. I am thankful for how she is my right hand, helping me with every task. I treasure our late night talks and our Thursday night giggle fests over dinner at CafĂ© Mexicali. She takes my breath away when I watch her dance. I am thankful for Noah and his loving heart, which senses his mom’s every emotion. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of raising this remarkable young man who loves God and has big dreams. I am often awestruck at the amazing talents God has given him. I am thankful for Lexi, with her tender heart for both man and animal, and her joyful zest for life. I am grateful for every time she makes me laugh and smile and just enjoy the beauty of the world around me. She makes my heart overflow with joy when I watch her skip into a room, singing a happy tune.

* I am thankful for the church family that God has so graciously provided for us. He led us to just the right place at just the right time when we were hungering for Biblical truth, godly fellowship and a place to serve God together.

Truly, there are so many things to be thankful for this year…I can’t even begin to list them all. On Thursday, as we eat turkey with my brother and his family, my heart will be even more full than my tummy. Thank You, Lord, for all that you have so abundantly provided.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Practice of Thankfulness

One thing I have observed lately is that we seem to have lost something in our society…the art of thankfulness. We live in a country where we are extremely blessed. We have nice houses, plenty to eat and every form of entertainment known to mankind. Yet, if you look around, you’ll see unhappy people, clamoring for more. On a recent trip to a giant shopping mall in another city, we observed all the people, rushing from store to store in pursuit of yet another thing to purchase. In the news recently, there is much talk of how we have to get more money into the hands of the people, so they will purchase more things in order to stimulate the economy. We have entered the season of Christmas, where ads will abound telling us what we have to receive in order to make it a perfect Christmas. It’s all about getting more, more, more. What ever happened to being thankful for what we already have?

One of our primary goals as parents has been to teach our children to be thankful. We have found that this doesn’t seem to come naturally, and requires some concerted effort in imparting this to our children. It also doesn’t seem to be common in our society. From a very young age, we required our children to express their thanks for even simple things. In a restaurant, we taught them to order their own meals politely and then to say thank you when the waiter delivered their food. I can’t tell you how many times waiters have commented on their manners, which always makes me feel somewhat sad. Shouldn’t this be normal and not exceptional behavior? We have also required our children to write their own thank you notes when they receive a gift. We’ve taught them to express their thanks politely when someone does something kind for them, such as holding a door open or blessing them when they sneeze. Now, this act of being thankful is a habit in their lives and doesn’t require reminding. Being consistent in teaching these things when they were small has reaped a harvest of thankfulness in their lives.

How did we teach these things to our children? Mostly, it involves modeling. If your children observe you being thankful for what you have, they will be thankful, too. If they see you expressing yourself in thankfulness, they will be more likely to do so themselves. Occasionally, though, it has required more extreme measures. Once, when my oldest daughter was in first grade and going through a “grumpy” phase, we tired of her constant negative attitude. We began sending her to the bathroom to sing a few rounds of “This is the day that the Lord has made” (loudly!) until she could come out and be thankful. While, at the time, she thought we were being unjust and ridiculous, she still remembers this form of discipline and now laughs about it. On another occasion, our middle child was going through a phase of his own, being unappreciative and grouchy. We presented him with a new notebook and pencil and called it his “thankful” notebook. Whenever he was struggling with his attitude, we would send him to his room with his notebook to make a list of all the things for which he was thankful. We taught the children to take the words of Philippians 4:8 to heart and to think about things that are lovely and honorable instead of dwelling on what is negative.

As we enter into the celebration of Thanksgiving this week, take a look at your family. Are you living in a state of thankfulness or a constant seeking after more? Take the time to sit down as a family and talk about what God has given you and how you can show your thankfulness. Talk to your kids about what our forefathers endured in order to give them this great country that we have the privilege of living in. And instead of just serving up some turkey and mashed potatoes this Thursday, serve up something life-changing…the practice of thankfulness.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wanted: Mother or Martyr?

WANTED: Someone to fill a full-time (24/7) position, includes endless laundry, preparing three meals a day (plus countless snacks and drinks), dish-washing (every time you pass the sink), house-cleaning (never finished), running a household (and keeping track of each member’s schedule), chauffeuring (miles and miles per week, must also pump own gas), bill-paying, nursing (including the unpleasant duties of cleaning up after sick children), teaching (everything from manners to how to tie a shoelace to geometry), peace-keeping, police officer and judge (even when both sides think they are justified and there is no actual evidence to prove who is right), entertainment providing (to the frequent refrain of “there’s nothing to do!”), and other assorted duties. No holidays or sick days provided; pay is not negotiable (in other words, there isn’t any).

Does this sound like your job? Sometimes, this is what motherhood can feel like…an endless stream of chores, expectations and repetition. We feel like the maid, the nurse, the cook, the chauffeur. The repetition of each day’s activities can be tiresome, the sheer amount of work to be done overwhelming. Have you ever felt like this?

If this is your view of motherhood, no wonder you aren’t enjoying your role! Who in their right mind would apply for the position above?! Any woman would run as fast and as far as she could to avoid a job such as this. Yet this is what our world has convinced us that motherhood entails…being everybody’s unappreciated slave, with no benefits. Have you bought into this lie? Do you think that what you do is an endless litany of chores and housework with little reward, other than to fall into bed at night exhausted and then get up and start all over tomorrow? If so, bless your heart, no wonder you’re exhausted and joyless.

So, I’d like to tell you a secret…are you ready? It’s all in how you look at it. What?? Satan has stolen from us something beautiful and replaced it with something that seems ugly and unappealing. How has he done this? By convincing us that the description above is what choosing to be a mother entails. He has taken what God meant to be a noble and holy calling, and convinced us that it is unworthy of our talents. So, how do we combat this? By embracing what our Creator intended for us as mothers and by changing our vision of motherhood. When we step back and look at our role with a different perspective (an eternal one), suddenly the picture changes. When we realize the significance of what we are doing every day (impacting little hearts for God), we also realize that the things we are doing (even the seemingly endless tasks) have an eternal result, not just a temporary one. You are not just feeding those hungry mouths every day, you are feeding their spirits, teaching them to love and honor the One who made them. You are not just clothing them with jeans and sneakers, but with spiritual armor to fight the battle for their very souls. You aren’t just preparing them for pre-school, or high school, or adulthood, but for an eternity in heaven with the Lord of the universe. You’re shaping their hearts, their worldview, and their futures. Wow…who knew peanut butter and Pull-ups had such eternal significance?

So, how about this one…would you apply for this position?

WANTED: Loving, patient mother to nurture tiny souls for the Creator of the Universe. Opportunity to impact the future of the world by raising little ones to love Him with all their hearts and souls. Involves much heavy work and tears and prayer, but the rewards are beyond all that you can imagine. You will never be alone in this task, manager available 24/7 to offer support and encouragement. Instructions provided, with impressive results from faithful application of these principles. Rewards are diverse, ranging from the sweetest hugs and kisses ever known to an eternal reward of life in my palace (with all your loved ones) upon completion of your duties. Prerequisites include a humble heart and a willing spirit…this, too, can be provided upon request. Apply now for the most amazing experience of your life.

Which job would you like to accept? It’s up to you…it’s all in how you look at it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a Mommy

Have you ever asked your kids what they want to be when they grow up? I remember, when my children were small, some of the unexpected answers they gave me when I asked them this question. When my son was about three, he would likely have told you that he was going to be a pastor, a garbage man, and a “bad guy” when he grew up. My daughters would probably have answered with the more standard “a princess” or “a ballerina”. I’m not sure what appeal those three choices held for my son, other than possibly getting to drive the cool garbage truck, and I tried not to panic when he insisted on those future occupations. While my daughters will not likely marry into a royal family, they are already well on their way to their aspirations of being ballerinas. Now that my son is eleven, his goals have changed. He is considering a Christian movie producer/videographer, anything to do with computers, or, much to his mom’s dismay, a NASCAR driver. My oldest daughter has her heart set on becoming a physician’s assistant (and is laying out her high school plan to help her reach that goal). My little one is still thinking along the lines of ballerina or maybe a nurse. I know that God has great plans for each of them, no matter what they choose to do as a career. I’m doing my best to teach them the things they need to know to be successful whatever path they take, but I have hopes that one of their goals will be that of godly parenthood.

Have you ever noticed that girls in today’s world rarely answer “Mommy” when asked what they would like to be when they grow up? This saddens me…we’ve lost the vision of motherhood as being a wonderful and godly choice of careers. Our little girls are taught from the cradle that they can be anything they want to be…and this is true. But what’s wrong with teaching them that motherhood is a beautiful choice as well? I have to confess, as my girls get older, I am much less concerned with what job they choose to do and much more concerned that they catch a vision for raising godly children. My husband and I not only have a vision for what we want our children to be, but what we hope and desire for our grandchildren. We believe the Bible teaches us to have a multi-generational vision for our family. Raising a godly family goes way beyond just managing to raise our kids to leave the nest at 18 and fend for themselves. It is about creating a legacy of faith for our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren, and so on.

This must include teaching our daughters to respect and aspire to the role of motherhood. Am I saying that girls can’t be doctors or lawyers or teachers, or whatever else they choose? Of course not, but I am saying that if we don’t teach our daughters that motherhood is a divine calling, a beautiful choice worthy of their talents, then we will fail in our attempts to further the Christian family in our society. When I was in high school, I aspired to be a physician. I won several scholarships and intended to begin a course of pre-med in college after graduation. But, during my senior year, God convicted me that what I really wanted to be was a mother. I was also convinced that I couldn’t “have it all” and be the kind of mother I wanted to be. So, I walked into my guidance counselor’s office, told her my decision, and switched my future major to something else. She looked at me in disbelief, shook her head and with exasperation in her voice (and not a little anger), told me I was “stupid”. She informed me that I was wasting my brain and would regret it. Was she right? Do I now regret giving up medical school for staying home and raising and teaching my children? Absolutely not. I am convinced that I chose what was best and have not regretted it one day since. Our world is teaching our precious daughters that motherhood is something you “settle for”, not aspire to. We must counter this teaching with God’s truth…that motherhood is precious in His sight, and is a very worthy calling.
I am convicted, however, that we often fail in passing on this vision by the example that we set for our children. Do they see us enjoying motherhood or just grumbling about the next load of laundry or meal to be cooked? Do they observe us joyfully serving our families in love, or putting on the martyr act? Are we making motherhood something appealing and rewarding, or does it look to them like a drudgery? I cringe inside when one of my children says to me, “I’m sorry, Mom, that you have to work so hard” or “We’re sure a lot of trouble, aren’t we?” My heart melts as I realize that I’ve made them feel like a burden, instead of a joy.

The next time you pass a mirror, take a look at your face…what are you showing your children? Is the face looking back at you one that is delighting in the role God has given you or is it a stressed-out, unhappy visage? What you see in the mirror is the image of motherhood your children are forming…will they want to follow in your footsteps?

Tonight, on the way to church, I quizzed my youngest about what she wants to be when she grows up. She answered, “I want to be a ballerina…or a nurse.” After a moment of thinking, she added, “No, what I really want to be is a stay-at-home mom who homeschools her children.” I smiled and enjoyed the warm and fuzzy moment…until my oldest daughter spoke up. “Me, too, Mom, only I want to be a stay-at-home mom who brings my children to you to homeschool.” I think she was joking…

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Ray of Sunshine

Nine years ago today, a little piece of sunshine came into my life. Her name is Alexandra Elise, and today is her birthday. Lexi came to us in a little different manner than our other two children. While we experienced infertility the first two times around, Lexi was our surprise blessing from God…a gift to celebrate our tenth anniversary. When my husband announced to me, on our anniversary trip to Hawaii, that he was positive I was pregnant, I just laughed. His proof was that I (an eater with a typically small appetite) was eating everything in sight. At dinner at “Cheeseburger in Paradise” (one of our favorite Maui places), I devoured not only my own ½ pound cheeseburger, but polished off his as well. My excuse was that I was simply enjoying a meal of my own, without sharing with my two small children at home. For those of you who don’t know me, I am a petite person, not accustomed to eating such portions. Alan kept insisting I was pregnant, and I kept laughing.

A couple of weeks later, after returning from Hawaii, I took a pregnancy test and was astounded to confirm that Alan was correct…our third child was due in November of that year. It was such a joy to know that God had blessed us with this child so soon after our decision to just trust him for a third child instead of pursue the medical options again. We quickly settled on the name Lexi (Alexandra for her “full” name) and chose “Elise” for her middle name as a testimony to what God had done (it means “My God is bountiful”). She was born in the middle of the night with her grandma and grandpa and great-grandma in attendance. Lexi was a tiny little thing (6 lb. 15 oz) and was easygoing from the moment she was born. She rarely cried, loved people and smiled all day long.

On our second day in the hospital, the pediatrician came to me and sat down beside my bed. He took my remote and turned off the TV (I remember I was watching “The Waltons” while I ate my dinner) and very reluctantly told me that he had discovered that Lexi had a hole in her heart. He was so apologetic, saying that he didn’t know how he could have missed it on her ultrasound. I remember replying that I was glad he had missed it…they couldn’t have done anything about it, and it would have ruined a very joyful pregnancy with worry. He told me that it was a very large hole, and in a bad place. It was possible, he said, for it to heal on its own, but very unlikely. This meant that our precious, tiny baby would likely require open heart surgery sometime before her 2nd birthday. I looked at her, sleeping peacefully in her bassinette and thought, “How can anything be wrong with her? She’s perfect!” The doctor left with these words, “I know you’re a Christian…you need to get all your friends praying.” So we did.

Two months later, we were scheduled to see the pediatric cardiologist from Denver. Our doctor had been monitoring Lexi’s progress weekly, checking her weight to see if she was thriving. Indeed, she was…she gained weight rapidly, ate well and seemed healthy. The cardiologist listened to her heart, abruptly pulled off his stethoscope and said somewhat gruffly, “What are you people doing here?” I patiently explained her condition and the location and size of the hole. He looked at me like I was stupid and replied, “There’s nothing wrong with this baby…she’s just fine.” I looked to our doctor for confirmation, who donned the stethoscope and confirmed the specialist’s diagnosis. He smiled and nodded and said that the hole in Lexi’s heart was healed. The specialist said that there was no explanation, that sometimes this just happened. We looked at our doctor, who had told us to pray, and smiled. We all knew exactly what the explanation was for Lexi’s healing.

Now that our little bundle of sunshine is nine, you can see that there is nothing wrong with her perfect little heart. She’s a joy, an energetic pixie full of life. She loves to dance (jazz is her favorite), read books, use her vivid imagination in many ways and most of all, to talk. Her quick mind and even quicker wit keep us entertained daily. Her love for God and for other people is something that brings us joy as we watch her mature in her faith. Her sense of humor is exactly what our family needed, as the rest of us tend to take life too seriously. She is a delight and a wonder, a colorful butterfly that flits from room to room, bringing joy into this mom’s life. Thank you, Lord, for your bountiful gift…my daughter, Lexi. Happy birthday, sweetheart…your mommy loves you very much.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Where Do We Go From Here?

Tonight, we had a party. We decorated with red streamers, political posters and stuffed elephants and sat down with Grandma and Grandpa and lots of munchies to watch the election returns. I gave each of the kids a blank map of the USA and a red and blue marker to color in each state as it was called for either Obama or McCain. We started out with high spirits and lots of excitement, but as the evening wore on, our spirits drooped. We watched as Obama became the next president of the United States. We watched as our state replaced a beloved Republican Senator with a Democrat. We watched as our Republican Congresswoman lost to another Democrat after a very harsh and bitter campaign. Most devastating of all, we watched as 75% of Coloradoans voted that innocent, unborn babies do not qualify as “persons”. Our neighbors came over and we joined our hearts and spirits in prayer together for our country.

So, where do we go from here? As Christians in this country, we have suffered a resounding defeat. It feels like the end of the world, or at least the beginning of the end. The future seems bleak, and more than a little scary. It feels as if God has removed His hand of blessing and turned us over to those who do not fear Him. So, how should we respond? The answer is clear: we should respond in trust, and in faith, and in repentance. We should cling to the knowledge that God is still in control, and that we are safe in His keeping. Throughout the Old Testament, God used hard times to draw His people back into relationship with Him. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God says, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

We need to repent—for our political apathy, for standing by and doing nothing while millions of babies are aborted every year, for not sharing the hope that we have with others, and for becoming so numb to the world that we live in that we don’t even realize what we’ve lost. God is calling us to rise up, to be silent no more. He is calling us to teach our children to be passionate followers of His, to be separate from the world and to never turn a blind eye to sin. He is calling us to trust Him, even when things look bleak. He is calling us to be the champion of the unborn, the protector of what is sacred and the voice of truth in a world that is drowning in lies.

We need to call on the name of the Lord and beg Him to forgive us. America is guilty of so many abominations. We can never be the country we were at its inception until we return to the foundation America was built upon…the Sovereignty of God. And if we do so, God promises to forgive us and to heal our land. We could, once again, be the great God-fearing country that our forefathers bequeathed to us. So, please, don’t wallow in discouragement and despair. Look at this as a new beginning, a revival of those whose hearts are committed to the Lord. Let’s be on our knees, praying for a new spirit to invade our country…one of whole-hearted devotion to God. And our heartfelt plea will be this…May God bless the United States of America.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

It’s About More than Just Who Wins

If your house is anything like mine, the upcoming election is a major topic of conversation. Lately, the conversations have centered around “what if’s”. “What if _______ is elected, Mom? Will we still be allowed to homeschool? What if he decides to outlaw Christianity?” This election year, my kids are old enough to feel some very real anxiety as they watch the debates, hear all the endless political ads and listen to the conversations all around them. Four years ago, they enjoyed watching the returns on election night, keeping track of the percentages for each side throughout the evening. This year, their understanding is much deeper and they have much more personal concern over the outcome. My two younger children even learned a harsh lesson about the ugliness of politics when a sign that my son had labored over and staked out in our yard (giving their political opinion) was vandalized (twice) with the opponent’s name spray-painted over their artwork.

As a mother, how should we use this election time to teach our children? First of all, it’s a great opportunity to teach our children about the electoral process. As they ask questions, share with them how our country chooses a president. Teach them how important it is to choose carefully whom they will vote for, and especially to choose someone who will follow God’s leading in governing our country. Teach them to pray for the leaders of our country, and to pray for the outcome of the election. Consider attending a political rally or volunteering some time for a local candidate. Giving your children an understanding of the process and a respect for the privilege of voting will help them to be ready to assume this responsibility when they turn eighteen.

Even more important than teaching our children the mechanics of elections is to be sensitive to their fears. As children get older, they will sense the anxiety felt by their parents as the election nears. Hearing adults debate the candidates endlessly, and hearing each side bash the other in political attack ads can be very stressful for children (and for me, too!). This year, especially, the candidates are so diametrically opposed in their moral values that the stress is very real. During this time, we have an opportunity to teach our children something far more important than how the government works. We have the priceless chance to teach our children that God, and only God, is in control, no matter what the outcome of the election.

In our family lately, we’ve talked a lot about what God could be doing in this election. In reading the Old Testament, it is painfully obvious that the Israelites only turned back to God in times of suffering. When things were going well, they would merrily make their own way, away from God. Many, many times, God handed the nation of Israel over to a more powerful enemy to draw their hearts back to His. In looking around at America lately, maybe it is time for Him to do the same to us. If things don’t turn out the way we’d like in this election, we are confident in one thing: God knows what He is doing. If the candidates we favor lose this election, it’s not the end of the world. Romans 13:1 tells us that “all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.” Help your children to find comfort in that fact…it’s a great lesson in learning to trust Him even when we don’t understand exactly what He is doing. Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; he guides it wherever he pleases.” God can use any president, just as he did the wicked kings of the Old Testament, to accomplish His divine purposes.

So, in this time of political uncertainty, do your kids a favor. Set them an example, first of all by exercising your privilege to vote (and by voting for godly candidates), by praying for the leaders of our land and for the election, and, most importantly, by teaching them to trust in God’s sovereign plan for the future of this great land. Let’s raise a new generation of true American patriots, who understand that America was established to be a nation that honors God above all else.