Tag: parenting

Comfort

 

1. Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?

A. That I am not my own,
but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death,
to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins
with His precious blood,
and has set me free
from all the power of the devil.

He also preserves me in such a way
that without the will of my heavenly Father
not a hair can fall from my head;
indeed, all things must work together
for my salvation.

Therefore, by His Holy Spirit
He also assures me of eternal life
and makes me heartily willing and ready
from now on to live for Him.

 

Heidelberg Catechism, Question 1

 

 

I am finding great comfort in the promises of God, especially as they are expressed in the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism.

Our boys’ best friends’ mom died yesterday.  I know she would  have said will full confidence,

I am not my own,
but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death,
to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.

I don’t doubt that she was ready to see Jesus, even if not ready to leave her family.

But, I’m not ready.  Not ready to help my sons mourn.  Not ready to watch them walk alongside their grieving friends.  Not ready to consider my own mortality and leaving my kids behind.

 

Review: “Love, Honor, and Virtue”

Hal and Melanie Young’s most recent book, “Love, Honor, and Virtue” is a great primer on puberty and purity for parents and sons to use together. (Come back later for a mom-to-mom interview with Melanie!)

 

Mom and boys standing near a loch in Scotland.

My teen boys tower over me… Obviously, they’ve hit puberty!

We have five sons, half of whom are now legal adults. In all honesty, I expected to navigate the muddy waters of adolescence with a little more clarity than I have. Instead, I often punted the ball to my husband who is a bit more direct, rather than addressing things head-on myself.

 

I used to joke that the best way to teach about puberty and reproduction is through mom being pregnant. And while that isn’t the reason WHY we had child #5, it sure was convenient that I was pregnant when the older boys were 12yo – 16yo. It was easy to talk about reproduction, hormones, and birth while living through it. But let’s be honest — we can’t all keep having babies just to make talking about puberty and reproduction easier.

 

Let’s be honest — we can’t all keep having babies just to make talking about reproduction easier.

“Love, Honor, and Virtue” would have been a welcome resource to have when our older boys were first entering adolescence. While there are topics in the book which I wish didn’t need to be addressed in early adolescence (sexting, porn, masturbation), they do need to be brought up at a younger rather than older age. This book would be handy to open the conversation with them about these more challenging issues.

 

Life, love, sex, and development are all connected and part of God’s design. That is the foundational premise of “Love, Honor, and Virtue,” and that is a great starting point.

 

Written directly to the young teens themselves, the book gives a good overview of the biology of puberty and reproduction. The information is specific and accurate. It’s just a primer, though, and eventually I’d want to use biology textbooks and further health resources to for more detail. The biology section addresses some areas especially well, including a summary of the birth process aimed at future fathers and the impact of hormones on male emotions.

 

Life, love, sex, and development are all connected and part of God’s design.

Our culture assumes hormones will impact young women’s emotions, and ignore that those become cyclically predictable and therefore somewhat easier to handle. I find that young men are surprised at how hormonal changes lead to mood changes — and at how confusing it can be when these emotion swings seem to come out of nowhere. (This was one of our topics of conversation as we drove to church just yesterday!)

 

As I expected, this book communicates a Biblical sexual ethic clearly. I appreciated the discussion on how we tend rationalize our sin, including sexual sin. Some materials in the Christian market err either in making light of sexual sin, or presenting it in doom and gloom morass that will ensnare everyone. The Youngs are frank about sexual temptation and the seriousness of sexual sin, without presenting fighting sin as a hopeless cause. In addition to Scriptural encouragement, they address some very practical ways to fight temptation, as well as some of the biological factors (dopamine!) which make it harder to resist temptation.

 

“Love, Honor, and Virtue” is a great primer on puberty and purity.

What I didn’t expect was the depths of discussion on boy/girl relationships — friendships as well as relationships leading to marriage. I think we’ve learned over the past few decades that it is not healthy to cling closely to idealistic relational models(courtship! betrothal! dating!) I found that the Youngs provided young men with very helpful insights into relationships, without being prescriptive. Rather than a “don’t do this” list of rules, they offered counsel on practical ways to build good friendships with young women which may (or may not) lead to marriage.

 

In discussing the book with one of my sons, I was surprised at the area where he and I disagreed. I liked the rule of thumb, “Are you finding your desire rising in a situation or activity? Then it’s time to back down. . .” (page 42.) That seemed sensible to me, especially as a mom, and remembering my own desires. My son, on the other hand, didn’t like that — he expressed wanting more “rules” of what to do and not to do. Similarly, I liked the idea that young men treat women in their lives as mothers or sisters — another son didn’t. While he wants to respect a girlfriend like a sister, he felt weird considering a girl he likes as a “sister or mother.”

I even appreciate areas in which I disagree with the book, as it opens the doors for conversation.

 
A few areas I would approach differently — yet I even appreciate areas in which I disagree with the book, as it opens the doors for conversation in our family. Really, though, what mom wants to talk about masturbation with boys? That’s a conversation I leave for my husband.

 

 

As a holistic introduction to puberty — biological, spiritual, social — I highly recommend “Love, Honor, and Virtue” for parents and young teen boys.

 

 

 

When I saw that the Young’s were working on this book, I (selfishly!) requested a review copy. The above is my personal opinion and does not contain affiliate links. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview (also selfishly requested) with Melanie Young!

Restoring Gently and Bearing Burdens

At this stage in my life, so much of my reading and studying is filtered through the perspective of mothering. This includes my study of the Bible and theology. I find the deeper I dig into God’s Word, the more light it shines on my life–and how I ought to mother.

 

“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Galatians 6:1-2

 

“Brothers. . .” This passage is written to Believers. As parents, God has given us special responsibility towards our children. But they are also our “brothers” and in the Covenant.

As parents, God has given us special responsibility towards our children. But they are also our “brothers” and in the Covenant.

 

My friend Kristen shared,  “We went to Ash Wednesday services at the beginning of Lent with Kate at the Episcopal church around the corner (we missed liturgy) and when the priest put ashes on her little forehead, it really made an impact on me. As much as I am her mother, I am also her sister in Christ. This has been really helpful to me in thinking through parenting issues. Most Christians wouldn’t serve wine to a fellow Christian who was a recovering alcoholic. Why do they discipline their children and then set them up to do the same things again?”

 

In his commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther clarifies that “caught in sin” is not speaking about doctrinal errors, “but about far lesser sins into which people fall not deliberately, but through weakness.”

 

As our children are learning right from wrong, they will sin. As they are growing through various stages of development, they will have greater or lesser control over their impulses.

 

Luther goes on to say, “is caught in imply being tricked by the devil or sinful nature.”  Sinful nature, temptation, weakness, developmental stages–remembering these sins of our children are part of their weakness helps me respond to them with compassion.

 

Luther states, “Paul therefore teaches how those who have fallen should be dealt with–namely those who are strong should raise them up and restore them gently.”

 

I don’t always feel “strong” or “spiritual.” Often I feel weak and struggling myself. But it is my responsibility to raise my children and be strong for them. We have no trouble with the idea of parents being a “mama bear” protecting her young child. I also want to be strong spiritually to correct them gently, to be the “mama bear” to help my children when they are struggling with sin.

 

It’s interesting to note that this passage is immediately proceeded by the admonitions to walk in the Spirit and the list of the fruit of the Spirit– love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These should be on my mind as I restore my children gently.

 

Luther reinforces the idea of this passage reminding us of “the fatherly and motherly affection that Paul requires of those who have charge over souls.”

 

What does “restoring gently” look like?

 

Luther explains, “when they see that those persons are sorrowful for their offenses, they should begin to raise them up again, to comfort them, and to mitigate their faults as much as they can—yet through mercy only, which they must set against sin, lest those who have fallen are swallowed up with depression.” And “. . .gently, and not in the zeal of severe justice.”

 

To be honest, at times I’ve had Christian mothers advocate some child-training approaches that seemed to have more of the “zeal of severe justice” than how Luther describes the Holy Spirit’s correction, “mild and pitiful in forbearing.”

we are told to “carry each other’s burdens.” I see this, in light of mothering, as an especial entreaty to know our particular children and their particular weaknesses.

 

After restoring gently, we are told to “carry each other’s burdens.” I see this, in light of mothering, as an especial entreaty to know our particular children and their particular weaknesses.

 

One of my preschool sons was insecure around lots of guests–and he responded in the past by getting very loud, climbing on furniture, and even hitting a guest. I’ve found that to carry his burden means I prepare him beforehand for our guests, and I hold his hand when they arrive, until he is comfortable and calm. Another son was prone to lash out at his brothers when he was angry. Bearing his burden has meant praying with him and for him, helping him recognize when he feels anger rising, and giving him strategies to deal with that anger without hitting. And it has meant letting him know it’s good to come to me and say, “Mommy, I’m angry” so I can help him not sin in his anger.

 

Also in this encouragement to carry one another’s burdens, it strikes me how wrong it is to follow the child-training technique of placing a child in a situation of temptation–to test him and see whether he can withstand it (or be punished.) This method is encouraged by some for training toddlers and preschoolers, and seems to be very contrary to bearing the burdens of temptation.

 

Luther also comments on this passage that sometimes in bearing with one another, things need to just be let go–“These people are the ones who are overtaken by sin and have the burdens that Paul commands us to carry. In this case, let us not be rigorous and merciless, but follow the example of Christ, who bears and forbears these burdens. If he does not punish them, though He might do so with justice, much less ought we to do so.”

 

“And watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. . .” For parents, I see this as a two-fold warning. First, to be gentle, not be angry—the caution here illustrates how very easy it is to slip into being harsh.

 

And also I see the warning not to be tempted to pride. When we become concerned about appearing to be “good parents” it is easy to slip into correcting harshly, minutely. This is one of the areas in which I struggled a lot, especially when my children were smaller. And especially when we were guests in churches and people’s homes. I felt pressure (from myself even more than others) for my kids to be perfect and “prove” we were worthy to be missionaries. That pressure tempted me both into pride in my children’s good behaviour, as well being overly picky and correcting unnecessarily.

 

“Christians (parents!) must have strong shoulders and mighty bones, so they can carry their brother’s weaknesses. . .” — Martin Luther

The end of these verses is “in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

 

As Martin Luther said, “After Christ had redeemed us, renewed us, and made us his church, he gave us no other law but that of mutual love. To love is not to wish one another well, but to carry one another’s burdens–that is, things that are grievous to us, and that we would not willingly bear. Therefore, Christians (parents!) must have strong shoulders and mighty bones, so they can carry their brother’s weaknesses. . . Love, therefore, is mild, courteous, and patient, not in receiving, but in giving, for it is constrained to wink at many things and to bear them.”

 

Footnote: Quotations are from the Crossway Commentary series,

Martin Luther on Galatians. Luther’s commentary is also available free online, in a variant translation.

 

*****

 
It’s funny how some of the lessons the Lord leads us through circle back again for us. I continue to pray that the Lord will show me how to “restore gently” as I’m once again in the toddler/preschool years and as we navigate the new road of our children being adults. Originally posted May 2005 and January 2010.

 

Arrows, Soaring

When the boys were younger, they had plastic toy bows and arrows. I remember playing with the boys, and shooting arrows with them.

I draw back the arrow, the bow bends — and I’m worried that I’m going to break the plastic bow if I pull too hard. The string is taut and tense and for a moment before I release the arrow.

I’m living in that moment now, feeling the pulling tension between the bow and string.

We’re on the verge of great action, energy, loosening, flying, soaring, aiming towards a goal. . . Pulling back and taking aim. Drawing firmly, but not too hard with this plastic toy bow. The bow is stressed.

In this analogy, it only seems proper that the young adults are the arrows getting ready to soar.

But where does that leave me? Am I the bow? The string? The archer? I’m not sure.

Things are taut. There is tension. Everyone in our family feels it. We are all living through this time of stretching and expectation.

I want to be in this together. Connected. Not working at odds with one another, but pulling together. Aimed at the same target. On the same team.

We’re working on that.

Being connected, while preparing to release.