2.26.2014

Quotes on parenting from a must-have book!

There is a fantastic little book on parenting that every home should have on its shelves:  The Duties of Parents written by J.C. Ryle in 1888.

A thin, small, 50-page booklet that is packed with wisdom and insight from the first page to the last.  There is not one paragraph lacking underlines and highlights in my personal copy, and I find myself returning to it time and again.  Sometimes for encouragement and sometimes - for a kick in the pants!

I am sharing these in the hopes that you will find them as encouraging, and challenging, as I do.  I have yet to meet a mother or father who does not need words of encouragement and strength to keep running the race of parenthood.  It is a long, hard run, and we need all of the refreshment, energy, and coaching we can get!

Enjoy!

~ It is a wise parent who does not respond to the behavior of their children initially before responding to their hearts.  Yes, behavior must be disciplined, but unless the heart is reached, there can be no lasting change.

~ Never confuse character flaws with purposeful disobedience.

~ Children are weak and tender creatures, and, as such, they need patient and considerate treatment.
We must not expect things all at once.  We must remember what children are, and teach them as they are able to bear.
Truly there is need of patience in training a child, but without it nothing can be done.

~ If, then, you would deal wisely with your child, you must not leave him to the guidance of his own will.
It must not be his liking and wishes that are consulted.
Train him in the way that is Scriptural and right, and not in the way that he fancies.
Self-will is almost the first thing that appears in a child's mind; and you must resist it.

~ Precious, no doubt, are these little ones in your eyes; but if you love them, think often of their souls.  No interest should weigh with you so much as their eternal interests.
This is the thought that should be uppermost on your mind in all you do for your children.  In every step you take about them, in every plan, and scheme, and arrangement that concerns them, do not leave out that mighty question, "How will this affect their souls?"

~ He that has trained his children for heaven, rather than for earth, - for God, rather than for man, - he is the parent that will be called wise at last and throughout all eternity, enjoy each other's love and fellowship.

~ Train your children to a knowledge of the Bible.
They cannot be acquainted with that blessed book too soon, or too well.
If you love your children, let the simple Bible be everything in the training of their souls.
See that your children read the Bible regularly.  Train them to regard it as their soul's daily health.
Fill their minds with Scripture.

~ Parents, if you love your children, do all that lies in your power to train them up to a habit of prayer.

~ Train them in the duty and privilege of going to the house of God, and joining in the prayers of the congregation.
Tell them of the importance of hearing the Word preached ... not to forsake the assembling of themselves ... to exhort and stir one another up.

~ Train them to a habit of obedience.
Let there be no questioning, reasoning, disputing, delaying, and answering again.  When you give them a command, let them see plainly that you will have it done.
Teach them to obey while young, or else they will be fretting against God all their lives long, and wear themselves out with the vain idea of being independent of His control.

~ Train them to the habit of always speaking the truth.
Encourage them in any circumstance to be straightforward, and, whatever it may cost them, to speak the truth.
You will find it a mighty help indeed, to be able always to trust their word.

~ Train them to a habit of always redeeming the time.
Service and work is the appointed portion of every creature of God.
Work attached to purpose excites the soul and drives the spirit in its creative powers.
Work mixed with service brings joy.
The active moving mind is a hard target for the devil to shoot at.
But if you love them well, let idleness be counted a sin in your family.

~ Fear not to withhold from your child anything you think will do him harm, whatever his own wishes may be.  This is God's plan.
Hesitate not to lay on him commands, of which he may not at present see the wisdom, and to guide him in the ways which may not now seem reasonable to his mind.  This is God's plan.
Shrink not from chastening and correcting him whenever you see his soul's health requires it, however painful it may be to your feelings; and remember medicines for the mind must not be rejected because they are bitter.  This is God's plan.
Reader:  be not wiser than God; - train your children as He trains His.

~ Do not forget that children learn more by the eye than they do by the ear.  No school will make such deep marks on character as the home.
The parent who tries to train without setting a good example is building with one hand, and pulling down with the other.

~ Children require no schooling to learn to sin.
But you must not be discouraged and cast down by what you see.  You must not think it a strange and unusual thing, that little hearts can be so full of sin.
Let it rather make you more diligent ... let it make you more and more careful.

~ Without the blessing of the Lord, your best endeavors will do no good.  He has the hearts of all men in His hands, and except He touch the hearts of your children by His Spirit, you will weary yourself to no purpose.  Water, therefore, the seed you sow on their minds with unceasing prayer.
And then ask the Lord, with a holy boldness, to be gracious and merciful to His own gifts.
You cannot name their names before the mercy-seat too often.                - J.C Ryle

2.25.2014

We can do it ... because His grace is sufficient.

Can we REALLY understand, empathize or have compassion for something we have never experienced ourselves?
We can try - we can imagine - but since we have never been there, walking that specific path of tragedy and heartache, we will not succeed.  It just isn't possible.

So wouldn't it follow that we need to have grace, abundant grace, for those who have never been where WE are?  They will not understand our hurts, our agonies, or our sorrow.  They cannot understand.
And that needs to be okay!

People are not in sin, 'wrong', or bad friends/family members because they are not as passionate, excited, devastated, or intensely sorrowful about something as we are.  Our passions and our pain are our own.  We cannot force them upon others, and we certainly cannot judge their character or their level of commitment to our relationship based on their responses.  We are not all the same. Responses are not WRONG.  They are just different.
Can we respond with apathy and a lack of compassion at times, thereby injuring someone we care about?  Of course.  But often it is not intentional so it needs to be addressed, forgiven, and overlooked.

I recently came across an article that I thought appeared to be a fantastic resource for my files, but about halfway through I found myself completely irritated with the author.
She was explaining how we should respond to/help/support a specific group of people.  Yet the entire article was self-serving. "We are about to experience something that will make us seem distant, selfish, absent and not ourselves. You need to love us, pray for us, seek us out, bring us meals, serve our family, take our children on dates, educate yourselves about what we're going through, and then - if you do all of those things and stick with us until the end - YOU are a good friend." (my abbreviated version)

Um???
What about the commands of Scripture to love, serve, pray for, encourage, and exhort ONE ANOTHER?  Starting a business, having a baby, moving, adopting, starting to homeschool, suffering through a long-term illness, preparing for the mission field ... none of these situations give us an excuse to be selfish.  Do they require unusual amounts of time and focus for a season? Absolutely!  Should we be patient with one another, seek to understand, and faithfully walk through difficult circumstances with our brothers and sisters?  Yes, we do!

But we cannot go through life assuming that everything is about US
and
we cannot go through life making assumptions and judgments about the motives of others.

When we are suffering or going through an intense life change, we do need understanding and compassion.  Scripture commands us to "weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn."  But our busyness and season of intensity does not give us the right to ignore the hurts and needs of those around us.  There is nothing in Scripture to support such thinking or behavior.
Just because her trial 'seems' much easier to bear than ours - it does render it invalid.  It is her trial - and it is overwhelming to her, regardless of how it compares to ours.

We cannot expect to receive compassion when we are not willing to give any.

There is a time and season for everything - but the lives of others do not have to STOP because we are overwhelmed with our own sickness, a new baby, an adopted child, marriage difficulties, or financial disasters.

We are called to MUTUALLY encourage one another in the faith.  To spur ONE ANOTHER on to love and good deeds.  There is no clause that reads, "unless you are totally overwhelmed - then you can just focus on yourself and let everyone serve and pamper you until you feel like loving others again."

I cannot speak to every trial, because I have not walked through all of them.  But I can speak on miscarriage.
I have absolutely no business getting hurt or offended because a friend does not remember the anniversary of Matthew's death, or even acknowledges his existence.  She was not the one who delivered a son who would never draw breath.  She was not the one who clung to her husband weeping with such intensity she thought her heart would physically shatter.

It was me.

My arms held my lifeless son.
My pain was real.
My tears flooded the pillow.

Not hers.
And it is unfair for me to place a completely unrealistic expectation upon a friend to understand my heart, my needs, and my pain at any given moment of any given day.
The Lord is the only one able to bear that burden.  The only one who can heal me.
And while I am clinging to His feet, seeking desperately to hold on because I am afraid to let go ... I am still a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, and a friend.  My people need me.  They have their own sorrows, their own hurts, their own fears, and they need to be cared for as much as I do.
Mutually encourage one another in the faith ...
It is not an option to serve, love, encourage, and pray for one another.  It is a command.

We need to show grace - abundant grace - to our brothers and sisters.
The amount of friendships, and marriages, that are destroyed during times of tragedy and stress is frightening - and unnecessary.
Is friendship always perfectly balanced?  Of course not.  Sometimes one friend is drowning and the other friend must give everything she's got to rescue her and bring her safely to dry land.
But once on dry land, it is time to stand up, shake off the seaweed and the sand, and engage in life once again.

And we can engage in life in the midst of our darkest hour.
We can show love and compassion to others when our own heart is breaking.
We can encourage and pray for a hurting sister when we feel like our own world is collapsing around us.

Because ...

My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness."  
II Corinthians 12:9

2.13.2014

A time to retreat - and a time to engage!

A few nights ago I could not find one of our children.  We called and called, but no answer.  After a short time, I discovered his location.  He was hiding in a closet!

After a brief interview it was understood that he was trying to avoid a bothersome brother who refused to cease his antagonistic ways.  He was fed up and just wanted to find a place of peace.  Apparently the closet was the best solution he could find.

I reminded him that avoiding difficult situations does not solve our problems.  Everything is simply waiting for us upon our return.  We have to work through it ... doing whatever we can to live at peace with everyone.  Even with those who are difficult to love.
I invited him to rejoin our family, and peace and harmony were soon restored.

But it made me think.

The reason my son hid in the closet was valid.  He needed to get away from bad company - from someone who was seeking to hurt him.

But his motive for hiding was wrong.  He sat in the closet pouting, whining, thinking of revenge, and manipulating the family so we would see him as a victim.

Nope, sorry dude.

The story of Saul and David is a perfect example.
Saul wanted to kill David, and chased him hither and yon throughout the land so he might destroy David with his own hands.
Did David run and hide?  Yes he did!
Did he spend his time sitting in a cave moping and asking "Why me, Lord?  Why ME?"  NO!
He may not have understood the driving force behind Saul's hatred for him, but as he continued moving from city to cave and back again, David went about his business.  He fought battles, commanded his men, ate, slept, worshiped the Lord, and sought God's wisdom and judgment for all of his actions.

David had a legitimate reason for running and hiding.  His life was on the line.
He also had a pure motive for continuing to run ... work and worship!  In all of the time he was running from Saul, David continued doing what he did best - battle.  And he faithfully sought the Lord's guidance for every battle, and every concern.  He did not sit idle.  He LIVED.

And what happens in the end?  David has an opportunity to kill Saul yet declares, "I will not lift my hand against the Lord's anointed!"  And then - The Lord makes David King over Israel.  Just as He promised He would.

Was my son wrong for running away from his tormentor?  Of course not.

Sometimes it is wise for us to remove ourselves from a situation, or a specific person.  But not with the intent of whining, complaining and placing ourselves in a state of bitterness and discontentment.

When we run away from something or someone that is hurtful ... overpowering ... or even dangerous, there should be only one place we seek:  The feet of the Savior.
Our rock.  Our stronghold.  Our fortress.  Our deliverer.

For it is only there, that we will be able to gain the strength we need to endure, fight, push through ... and then find that beautiful peace that surpasses all understanding.  Regardless of the difficult circumstances raging around us.

David stood in the dark places of a cave with Saul just a few feet in front of him.  He could have killed Saul in a moment, with full support from his men.  But David trusted the Lord more than he trusted himself ... and he let Saul go, knowing he was in the Lord's hands, and it was only BY the Lord's hand that Saul would live or die.

There is a time to walk away, to separate, to create distance ...
but only for the purpose of the Lord.  HIS strength.  HIS refreshment.  HIS power.
We must spend that time drowning ourselves in the Word.  Crying out to the Lord, asking Him to take our frustrations and fears, so that we might find rest and gain the strength to stand up and carry on once again.

Because no matter what the hardship may be - running away without ever intending to return is not an option.  Not for the believer.

We love and serve a mighty God who has promised that we can do ALL THINGS through His strength.  And that includes facing our darkest enemy or our greatest fear head on - and engaging in the battle, so that we might win the war.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.  James 1:12

2.07.2014

A quote - on contentment.

"Godliness with contentment is great gain." 1 Timothy 6:6

Nothing is lovelier in life, than the spirit of contentment.

Fretting
mars the beauty of many a face. Discontent spoils all one's world. Out of whatever window he looks, the discontented person sees something that is not pleasing.

But to a contented person, there is only good seen everywhere. The happiest homes in the world are not those in which are the finest carpets, the costliest pictures, the most luxurious furniture - but those in which glad, peaceful hearts dwell. A contented heart beautifies the plainest surroundings, and even the hardest conditions.

"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength!" Philippians 4:11-13 

                                                        ~ J.R. Miller

2.06.2014

To leave a legacy, you must LIVE a legacy.

I recently enjoyed an afternoon at a park with a dear friend.  We are able to get together about once every three months, so these park dates are precious to us.  The children run and play while we literally sit in our chairs and talk non-stop for two hours straight, barely taking time to breathe.  There is just so much to cover!

I laughed when she pulled out her phone and clicked on her notepad because she did what I often do ... she brought NOTES about what she wanted to talk about!  (When you are apart for so long, it is hard to remember everything you want to discuss/share/ask, so taking notes along the way is a great way to make your time together purposeful and poignant.)  She started with number one, and we made it through her entire list before it was time to say goodbye for the next three months.

Our conversation was incredibly uplifting, encouraging, thought-provoking, and challenging.  But there was one thing she shared that stood out from everything else ... so much so that I came home and immediately wrote it down lest I forget.

We were discussing the way people (believers) respond to the Word of God in different circumstances.  Sadly, the Word is not always received with joy, comfort, appreciation, or even the way intended, by those who are either struggling, hurting, or sinning.  We shared our personal experiences and convictions, and found Scripture to support the sufficiency and efficacy of God's Word ... and it was then that she spoke the words that have been chasing me ever since.

She was describing a frustration she had with a particular author's views on Scripture/womanhood.  Emotion overtook reason for a few moments, and she e-mailed her brother, whom she respects and admires greatly, asking him for insight.  His response was a long, detailed and completely Scripture-supported response that instantly soothed all of her doubts and confusion.  And then she said this:  "Michelle, the thing I love most about my brother is that the Word of God is always on his lips."

Isn't that a beautiful way to describe someone?

Think of the countless other things that can be found on our lips on any given day ...

bitterness
anger
wrath
lies
discontentment
selfishness
pride
arrogance
complaints
jealousy
envy
self-loathing
gossip
slander
greed

These things are not beautiful at all, and the Lord tells us more than once in Scripture that we are to put all of them far away from us so we can be Spirit-filled instead.

I have written many epitaphs for myself over the years as I grow and mature in the Lord.  Every time He takes me through a trial, shows me more of who He is, puts examples of astoundingly godly people before me ... each of those things inspire me to pursue a better character.  A more godly character.  A character that is solid - faithful - and always desiring people to see the Lord instead of me.  Isn't that why we are still reading about people like Amy Carmichael, Charles Spurgeon, and Hudson Taylor 100 years after they lived?  It is not because they accomplished tasks or overcame obstacles in which no one else ever triumphed.  It is WHY they were able to accomplish those things that draws every generation back to their story.  Their unshakable faith.  Their unmovable conviction.  Their resilience to the lures and temptations of the world.  Their unswerving determination to surrender everything for the sake of the Gospel.  

We love and adore people whom we have never met because we know who they are ... we have evidence of God's work in their lives ... we have testimonies from those who knew them declaring that they truly lived what they believed ... and we see a part of God's character that we have never experienced in our own lives.  All because they were faithful to seek God first, delight in Him, and obey every marching order He sent their way.

I have no idea which epitaph from my "collection" my family will choose for me after the Lord calls me home, but what a wonderful testimony it would be to read:

Here lies Michelle Renee Eastman
Beloved Wife and Mother
"The Word of God was always on her lips."

The catch is ... to leave  a legacy, you must LIVE the legacy first.

Oh, Lord, may I fall in love with Your Word more and more every day, so that I can be a woman who is known for speaking Your truth instead of her own opinion.