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Devotional 10: How to Raise Confident Kids

I am regularly asking parents about their child-rearing techniques.

It’s not that I think I’m bad at parenting, but I love gleaning parenting ideas from other moms, dads and other caregivers.

I understand that there is no one-sized-fits-all approach for raising kids.

But among the Christian parents I know, we all agree that the Bible holds the answers to our child-raising challenges.

Book Project on Raising Godly Kids

This is why I set out to write a book that encapsulated some of the best advice for raising godly girls in today’s world. I have a daughter and a son, but because my daughter is older, I thought I’d focus my research there.

I’ve interviewed several parents so far, and as you would expect, I’ve actually learned some tips that apply to both sexes.

There is a common thread among the parents I’ve interviewed, too.

And that is, we all tend to approach child-raising from the perspective of our own childhoods.

There may be some tweaks here and there.

For the most part, however, today’s parents tend to mirror their moderately “normal” childhoods. It is only in extreme situations and dysfunction do we see a major departure from our own parents’ child-raising styles.

For example:

If our parents spank, then we instituted corporal punishment (at least some version) as a form of discipline, too.

If our parents were diligent about teaching us the Bible or church attendance, then we also put an emphasis on the same as well.

If our parents tended to get angry and yell when they were upset, then, unfortunately, we will be more inclined to do the same with our own children.

You see the pattern.

No matter the good or the bad, it often gets passed down from generation to generation.

But, as a Jesus follower, it’s important we not base our parenting skills on experience alone.

That’s where the Bible is so critical to doing it the “right” way.

Notice that I didn’t say “perfect” way, because I don’t think there is necessarily a “perfect” way to raise a child.

But armed with scriptural references and a foundation based on pleasing God alone, I think we can get pretty close to perfection.

Planting Spiritual Seeds

The Bible references the planting of seeds, particularly the mustard seed (the smallest of all seeds) to suggest that something (in this case, faith) as small as an pen point can produce impressive outcomes.

When translating this metaphor to parenting, it holds a great deal of hope for us parents who trudge along, day in and day out, trying to raise our children the best way possible.

There was a 1950s movie called The Bad Seed about a little girl who was adopted.

Spoiler alert: The 8-year-old child killed another student and it was later revealed that her biological parent was a notorious serial killer. The storyline goes on to suggest that her murderous behavior was genetic and could not be reversed by “good parenting or a wholesome environment.”

I think Hollywood produced the movie to scare parents into subversively thinking that nothing can change a child.

Okaaaay. So maybe the intent wasn’t so sinister. Perhaps it was only meant to be a blockbuster of a psychological thriller.

Nonetheless, I want to let you know that according to my Bible, I beg to differ with the notion that a child (and an adult, for that matter) is incapable of change.

Generations were eternally re-directed because of Jesus Christ. Individuals whose ancestors believed in less inferior gods since the Old Testament, put away their ancestors’ beliefs and unrighteous behaviors when they put their trust in Jesus.

And so it is with you, dear parent.

It doesn’t matter what your past looked like.

What matters is the choice you make today — and every day, for that matter — in your decisions made regard to parenting.

Jesus told the parable of the mustard seed and that one’s faith as small as it can move mountains. That’s an incredible promise!

Faith & Parenting Go Hand-in-Hand

Where does your faith stand today?

If you believe godly parenting methods will produce “good fruit” down the road, no matter how small the effort, then it is your faith that brings that desire to fruition.

The Apostle Paul used another seed metaphor to describe how another person’s faith can grow.

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 1 Corinthians 3:6 NIV

Indeed, it is ultimately God who will make the seeds we plant in our children right now, to grow.

As a parent, we have the opportunity to plant seeds. Every. Single. Day.

And according to the Bible, planting seeds in children can happen just about anywhere:

  • In the car,
  • at home,
  • while you’re making pancakes in the morning,
  • while you’re helping out with homework after school,
  • as you sit in the passenger seat as your teenager practices her driving skills,
  • on the way to Grandma’s house, and
  • before saying good night.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Deuteronomy 6:6-8 NIV

To put something on your heart in Old Testament times, is similar to our modern version of taking something “to heart,” which means to commit to it with loyalty.

In other words, as parents, we are called to be committed to God’s Holy Scriptures and to teach them to our children, and to never give up on this endeavor.

If you keep at it, wisdom and moral principles in your children will prevail.

Three Primary Way to Grow Confident Kids

The Deuteronomy passage is specific enough, but here are some other practical ways to raise children who are confident in God, based on the Bible:

1. Pray for your children. Prayer takes faith, repetition and routine. Don’t give up on praying for your children, no matter how old they get or how wayward their lives may end up as adults, the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective (James 5:16 NIV).

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6 NIV

2. Ask God for wisdom in raising your children. God raised the most perfect son who ever lived: Jesus! How much more equipped is He to help you raise your own child? Ask the Lord for guidance as you determine the best methods for instilling righteous values in your children, and He will give you everything you need.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. James 1:5-6 NIV

3. Seek advice from other godly parents.

The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. Proverbs 12:15 NIV

Plans are established by seeking advice; so if you wage war, obtain guidance. Proverbs 20:18 NIV

At times, it will feel like we are waging war with our own kids, under our own roof. But have no fear. Seek perspective from parents who’ve “been there, done that.” As I suggested earlier in this post, parents of children with older kids and even peers are a great source of advice. When you’ve gone through something already, you tend to have a better sense of how to avoid missteps and what you could’ve done better. And most parents are more than willing to help you avoid their mistakes if you simply ask.

4. Don’t withhold discipline from your children. Kids need routine and they need to be told what to do and what not to do. Discipline is necessary to raise confident children because it establishes boundaries. Contrary to what popular thinking says, boundaries are actually a good thing for children.

Keep in mind that it is important to discipline children out of love, not when you’re angry.

When it comes from a place of love, discipline also shows our children that we are concerned about their wellbeing and their character development. Without correction, children inevitably grow up with no clear sense of direction.

According to scholars, the Egyptian “Instructions of Ankhsheshonq,” a priest who was imprisoned and wrote a set of instructions to his young son, points out that “the children of fools wander in the streets, but the children of the wise are at their parents’ sides.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be known as having children who are devoted to me and my husband and stick to our sides rather than those who “wander” the streets.

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. Proverbs 13:24 NIV

5. Encourage their identity in Christ. Most children grow up with not necessarily a sense of their own identity in Christ. They lean more-so on their parent’s faith, rather than develop one of their own. To an extent, that’s okay and to be expected. But if we expect our faith will eventually “rub off” on them, then we are misguided and deceived.

It takes work to pour faith and righteous living into your children. It’s not something that just “happens.”

We can plant the seeds, however, by sharing how their identity is (or should be) rooted in Christ.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.     1 Peter 2:9 NIV

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. Ephesians 1: 3-4 NIV

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-15 NIV

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. 2 Corinthians 5:20 NIV

Remind your children that they are different, and that being different is okay.

Tell them they are “chosen,” a royal priesthood, holy, God’s “special possession,” etc.

Show them that their identify is not rooted in this world, but rather is already established by the One who made the world and everything in it!

What’s your advice? How do you raise righteous children? Please share your tips and scriptures in the comments section below!

Christian Life, Family, Inspiration

Devotional 6: Lesson Learned on a Family Roadtrip

My family and I were in Georgia for the Fourth of July holiday, visiting my mom, dad, and one of my older brothers. The 13-hour drive to see them is always an opportunity to reflect on life and where I’m going.

Long drives can do that, you know.

As we pass other vehicles on the road, destinations and pit stops, it’s a reminder that we’re all on this journey, a journey that is oftentimes rife with the proverbial bumper-to-bumper traffic, detours, bumps in the road, and near-death collisions. Oh, how unexpected life can be.

Long road trips are also a lot of fun. My two children in the back seat, with their endless appetites, chomp away at snacks that I pack for the family. They sometimes fight over who gets to use the electronic device first. Every once in a while, we’ll all join voices and sing one of our favorite gospel songs by Tasha Cobbs, sounding so woefully off-key.

Yes, family road trips are a reminder that life is not all good, but not all bad either.

My dear husband drives about 90 percent of the way. I take a couple of naps during our journey. Feeling refreshed, I ask if he needs a break, and more than often he says no. I offer again as we near Atlanta, which is usually when his fatigue really starts to set in.

As I get behind the wheel, adjust the mirrors and seat, I can’t help but think about how blessed this life is.

For one, it’s a privilege to visit my mom and dad. Though they are getting up and age, and their bodies show signs of wear-and-tear, they are still on this side of heaven. For that, I am grateful.

Family. It warms my heart to be in their presence.

I get a feeling of wholeness when we make the long trek to Georgia from Washington, DC.

Sure, we could take trips to more exotic locations or locales in the U.S. where the air smells different and new. I’m sure the kids wouldn’t mind an amusement park now and then, instead of the Georgia countryside. But, no, Disneyworld can wait.

Let’s be honest. Life is so fleeting.

James, Jesus’ brother and a leader in the church, said it best:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If this is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

No matter how long we live, this life is a blink of an eye compared to eternity.

I am humbly aware that my shelf-life here on earth is short. In fact, it is not even in my hands. My life, your life, is in God’s hands.

Being aware of my humanity compels me to listen to the Holy Spirit, which guides me and presses upon my heart the righteous thing to do.

It is that soft whisper that compels me to go see my family whenever there’s a chance. In doing so, I submit to the Lord’s will.

And I am all the more better for it. Time with family, in the place we call our roots, refreshes the soul.

As James suggested, tomorrow is not promised. Our earthly lifetime is, indeed, short. Therefore, let’s not put off tomorrow, what we could do today.

Here are some simple ideas from my own life:

  1. Spend quality time with a loved one.
  2. Call a friend/family member and tell them you love them.
  3. Forgive a wrong.
  4. Speak honestly to someone who needs it.
  5. Give a much-needed hug.
  6. Let go of regret.
  7. Kick a bad habit.
  8. Try something new.
  9. Get real with God and turn away from a sin/fear/doubt/insecurity/bitterness, etc.
  10. Serve someone in need.

What are you putting off tomorrow, that you could be doing today?

Devotionals, Faith, Family

Devotional 5: The Summer We Unintentionally Lived Minimally

2016 was the year we sold our first “family” home.

It was the house my husband and I brought our two children to after leaving the hospital. It was where we struggled financially to make ends meet after I decided to become a stay-at-home mom. It was also where I studied the Bible with a number of women, had house church with fellow disciples and prayed over countless situations.

But it was time for a change, preferably one that was a little bigger than the 2-bedroom, 1 bath, 800-square-foot row house our family had outgrown.

Like most life situations, this change did not come easy and was a long time coming.

After living in that home for nearly 8 years, we put our house on the market in August of 2016.

Though we got an offer the first week, we actually didn’t sell the house until the following year in June.

Because of the timing of the sell, we had to move into a hotel for a week as we waited to close on a house that we put an offer on. We put an offer on a house, but it appeared the seller was having second thoughts.

This is the part of the story where God’s sovereignty really shines.

That week of “homelessness” (I use that term lightly) turned into two weeks.

During this time, I started praying fervently. I told God about my hesitation in buying that particular house because it needed a lot of work. I let Him know that I didn’t feel right about it. Our goal was to move to a safer, more family-friendly neighborhood, I said, not to find ourselves in a situation that would frustrate us and lead to mounting debt in trying to modernize this fixer upper.

Finally, I asked and petitioned God to make it clear. Make it clear he did.

A day after that prayer, we got a call from our realtor saying the seller was withdrawing the contract because they found a better buyer.

God answers prayers, y’all!!

Minimalist life

The story doesn’t end there, however.

We proceeded to move from that hotel to another hotel. From one Airbnb to another Airbnb, and finally to a friend’s house and rental by the end of summer. We moved 9 times the summer of 2016!

We lived out of two suitcases during that entire time. We were living the Minimalist life!

Ironically, my kids were unfazed by all the moving. Quite frankly, if it were not for having to move so often, it was actually quite liberating not having a mortgage or utility bills.

I learned some things about myself during that time that has proved invaluable.

  1. I need a lot less “stuff” than I have. (This isn’t the first time I’ve lived with next to nothing in my possession, so this wasn’t especially new.)
  2. God wants to renew your faith during times of  wilderness (and bewilderment). When you’re not sure what’s happening, it’s a great time to simply be still.

As we were waiting for someone to buy our home, and as we looked to buy a new one ourselves, so many scenarios were playing through my mind. Doubt. Fear. Even a little bitterness.

Bible Application

Thankfully, I did a deep Bible study leading up to the Summer of 2016 that reminded me of God’s sovereignty during that time.

I studied the early days of the Israelites and their pilgrimage to the Promised Land, I see a God who is gracious and just, devoted and faithful — despite our lack of faith and obedience.

He desires dependence, trust and faith in Him — not faith in our ability to please Him.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” NIV

Despite the uncertainty, I recalled times past.

God has never failed me. And I’m sure if you look back on your life, He has never failed you either.

As for me, I only needed to trust in Him and his divine purpose for my life, my family’s life.

As I surrendered, gradually at first, I began to rest in God’s holiness and grew confident in the direction he was ushering us in. I knew he wouldn’t leave us without a place to land.

I also knew that it was no coincidence that the offer on the original house we offered to purchase fell through!

We eventually did find our ideal home at the price point we could afford.

Do I need to say it again? God answers prayers, y’all!!

If you’re struggling in your faith, just remember what God has already brought you through. Live and walk in righteousness and obedience to Him, and he will give you rest.

“Abraham believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6 NIV

Is God testing you? In what areas of your life do you need more faith and/or obedience? Share in the comments section below!

Bible Scriptures, Christian Lifestyle, Faith, Family, Inspiration

Devotional 4: Waiting on the Lord

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3 NIV

When you’re waiting for God to answer your prayers, do you doubt or have faith?

Three years ago, I sat on a friend’s living room sofa on the verge of tears.

I felt stuck. I wanted out.

More specifically, I was growing weary of living in a two-bedroom, one bath house in a rough part of the city.

I wanted something better for our young family. But “better” was taking too long to get here.

My dear friend listened as I lamented. She offered some encouragement.

While it didn’t make things better right away, the talk did help me gain some perspective. And it gave me a chance to off-load some things that were weighing on my heart.

The epiphany: My lack of faith

It was around that time that I realized I was failing to trust in the Lord.

It had been 7 years since we moved into that house, when we thought we’d only be there for two.

Somewhere along the way, I had lost my faith.

I started wondering if God didn’t want our family to move.

Is there something in my character that God wants to prune?, I thought.

Perhaps there’s someone here that he wants me to reach on His behalf, my mind wandered.

Or could it be that we’re just not ‘ready’ for that kind of blessing and responsibility? I asked quietly.

Over the next several months, I prayed. Studied the scriptures. And asked the Lord to show me where I was falling short.

He did, in fact, reveal some things that was darkening my heart and chipping away at my faith.

Once corrected, I saw the darkness lift.

My faith was restored.

Suddenly, I started to dream again.

Taking steps to receive the blessing.

With the Lord’s help, our family took steps that put us in a position to buy a new home.

But of all the things we did in preparation for the next stage, the most critical step was the clarifying moment when I repented of unbelief.

The writer of the book of Hebrews declared that:

“[W]ithout faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 NIV

In reading the gospels, it was evident that people lacking faith displeased Jesus, and dare I say, even disgusted him?

See Matthew 8:26; Matthew 14:31 and Luke 12:28.

Therefore, dear friends, I pray that wherever you are in life, whatever struggle you currently face, that you have faith in the midst of the difficulty.

James 1:6 NIV puts it plainly:

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

I don’t share this story to claim that simply repenting can lead to material blessings. That would be misguided and unspiritual. I share this story to show that there is often a direct relation between our circumstance and our faith and obedience to God.

So, what happened in the end?

How does my story end, you ask?

Well, I’m sitting here in a new home that is more spacious and, for the most part, considerably safer. And I praise God for revealing my shortcoming and allowing a chance to change courses.

It only took about two years from the day I sat on my friend’s couch for God to deliver an outcome I had once thought was so far out of reach.

Lessons learned?

Wait “expectantly” for the Lord, as Psalm 5:3 suggests. Trust that He hears your prayers and wants to refine you, and not necessarily to withhold from you. Don’t doubt.

I wonder what God will do in your life two years from now? Where in your life do you need to replace doubt with faith?

Faith, Family, Inspiration, Prayer

Devotional 2: God’s Hidden Messages

Now that my daughter, who recently turned 9, is tall enough to reach the mirror over the bathroom sink, she often spends extra minutes after her shower standing in the steam doodling on a foggy mirror. She writes messages attempting to make contact with anyone who will notice her scribbles, which can only be seen from a certain angle — a slant to the left and a slant to the right, usually.

Her most recent message appeared to be meant for my husband. I love you Daddy, she wrote.

I don’t think she realized it yet, but he recently replied back to her: I love you very much. Daddy

God often communicates in much the same way to his devoted daughters, doesn’t He?

He sends hidden messages to his daughter throughout the day, weeks, months and years, letting his devoted daughter know that she is seen, heard, worthy and loved by Him.

These divine messages, however, require a certain spiritual outlook in order to be seen. Much like the tilting of the head to decipher a note on the foggy mirror, you must angle yourself, rooted in scripture, to discover God’s notes of encouragement and admonishment.

Indeed, the messages aren’t always obvious; hence, why I call them ‘hidden.’ They are embedded in the holes and corners of life, indiscernible by the hurried and worried disciple.

The messages are delicately inscribed throughout the mundane, everyday routines of life, too. Much like the words composed on a foggy bathroom mirror. They can only be seen by the keen, discerning eye.

Do you hear His call?

In a whisper he calls out to her. His daughter need only listen and watch. Listen and watch.

It is the message of hope when you get word that your best friend’s cancer has gone into remission.

I hear your prayers, says the Lord.

It is the message of unconditional love, when your child tackles you from behind and with tightly wrapped arms says, ‘I love you, Mommy.’

As do I, says the King.

It is the message of wholeness when he binds up your wounds and mends your broken heart.

My arms are not too short to save, He proclaims.

His voice is also hidden in a message of grace, when you fall short of His glory but vow to walk in obedience next time, and the time after that.

I see you, God says, and I will stoop down from my heavenly throne to make you great.

Dear sister, God’s messages are nested in all sorts of places in your life. You need only wait in holy expectation.

It is a daughter’s resolve to reach the Holy One, connecting with Him through the messages of a righteous life lived — indeed, her devotion — that compels the Good Father to take notice, and to respond.

Whether in the Bible or in the nooks and crannies of your life, how is God speaking to you?

Prayer

Dear Lord, you are a good, good Father. Help me to have eyes to see and ears to hear when you are speaking to me. Teach me, O God, how to discern your whispers even when the world calls out in its loud, distracting voice. Give me the strength and resolve to be obedient to your call. And grant me peace and contentment as I walk with you all the days of my life.