Because We Never Stop Being Moms -Book Club- Chapter Four

This is certainly a strong chapter, don’t you agree? In this chapter, Saying Hello to Please God, the author challenges us to see if we are not acting like Eli, “this sad figure in Israel’s history [who] is the quintessential example of a father who chose to please his sons rather than God and lost everything he cherished as a result.”

We are like Eli when we hear that our children are not being faithful to the Covenant, when they are not walking in the Lord and we pretend we are dealing with the matter using words, an infinite number of words that sound hollow in our children’s ears. We are like Eli when we refuse to do what we know God wants us to do, but instead we only keep up having conversations with our children -while fooling ourselves knowing that the reality is that they are not listening to us.

“Eli was fully aware of his sons’ actions, and he knew that they were not only in the wrong but in danger of the Lord’s judgment. He certainly nagged them and criticized them, but he did not restrain them and ultimately both he and his sons paid the price.”

How many times we, parents in the church, have not done everything in our hands to restrain our children from doing evil? May the Lord have mercy on us!

Moms, if you are reading this and have younger children, don’t fall into this trap. The world is telling you that the best thing you can do to make your little one come to her senses is not the rod, but a good conversation. Beware of this philosophy; if you start following this pattern of not doing the hard, biblical thing, of not doing something beyond a good talk with your daughter to restrain her from sin, you won’t be able to find a way out of this terrifying maze when she grows up. Remember, the sin of not restraining our children often starts when they are young.

And as always, there is a heart issue behind our actions -or behind our lack of obedience-. In the text we read that Eli honored his sons more than he honored God.

“Eli’s sin was that he treated his sons as more weighty or important than the Lord. He was so concerned with maintaining the peace that he didn’t have the courage to do what the Lord required him to do.”

The authors give us some good examples on page sixty-one in which we can clearly see when parents are nagging their children and not seeing changes: the sluggard child, the one who parties every Friday, the girl sleeping at her boyfriend’s house, the one who abuses their parents’ provision, the child who gets drunk over and over again and brags about it on Facebook, the one who is disrespectful, the one who is unloving, the one who shouts and wants things done her way. But we can also think of lesser examples that if are not dealt with, will only lead to our children’s destruction. Oh, that the Lord will give us a humble heart that recognizes and admits these struggles. That He will give us grace and courage to deal with the most difficult issues and stop pretending that things are really not that bad.

The key in how to act once our children are adult but are living a sinful life under our roof (or somewhere else with our credit card) is found on page sixty-one:

“While parents cannot be held responsible for the sins of their independent adult children, they are responsible for what goes under their roof. When dad and mom, like Eli, become enablers of a sinful lifestyle, they inadvertently dishonor the Lord and share the sin and guilt of their kids, even though that’s the farthest thing from their minds.” (emphasis mine)

We know that in this life there is no neutrality. We are either building or destroying. We are either enabling sin in our children’s lives or we are restraining it. 

Sisters, we have a God full of grace who not only gives us grace to endure the hard providences in our lives, but One who also gives us grace to obey Him in the most difficult things. His Grace is sufficient.  God can give us the grace to open our eyes and see what we have been trying not to see all along because “we feel entrapped by our love and hope for them.” The questions are real, “What would happen to them if we told them to choose between right and wrong? What if they chose wrong?” But there is no way around, the only way to keep our hope for our children anchored in Christ is to obey our Lord.

And, oh what a great and unshakable hope we can have in Christ! In our Savior! To know that He hears our prayers, to know that His promises are truth, to know that His desire is to save families! What a blessed hope!

On page sixty-four we read some practical things that the Lord might call us to do in order to restrain the sin in our children’s lives, but I like the way the author summarizes it:

“Parents don’t always have to actively chastise their irresponsible children. Often the best thing for us to do is nothing. Sometimes love looks like taking a step back and allowing them to experience the fruit of their choices (Galatians 6:7)… If we continually step in to “protect” our children from the consequences of their wrong choices, we may be guilty of honoring our children above the Lord by standing between them and the chastisement the Lord is bringing upon them… Remember that the Prodigal son only came to his senses when his circumstances were so bad that he longed to eat pig food.”

And I am reminded again of this powerful article in which Abraham Piper and his father John write about the time in which Abraham was excommunicated from his church. It is certainly a powerful testimony of a father who honored God more than his own son and the way God answered his prayers. It is a story that will build up your faith and renew your hope. It is a story like the ones that God loves to write.

This is something that I understand should be dealt with as a couple. I encourage you to talk to your husband about your concerns, read this chapter with him and answer the questions on p.68 together, seek the counsel of wise men in your church, and mostly don’t lose hope.

  Trusting in God with you,

Becky

Because We Never Stop Being Moms -Book Club- Chapter Three

Chapter Three, You Say Good-Bye But He Says Hello, brings to our attention the generation of twixters, those in our age who are trapped between adolescence and adulthood.* Jim Newheiser quotes an article from Desiring God, and writes that this “Peter-Pan” phase is “characterized by identity exploration, instability, focus on self, feeling in limbo, and a sense of limitless possibilities. These characteristics accompanied by transience, confusion, anxiety, obsession with self, melodrama, conflict, and disappointment.” Sadly, this phenomenon is not only happening outside the church; it happens among us too. And it happens because parents allow it to.

This is a good place to stop and consider, especially if we still have teenagers or young adults at home (or college), these questions that I formulated after reading this chapter:

1. Am I always trying to come in between the actions of my children, their choices, and the consequences of these?

2. If I see that my son or daughter is instable, selfish, always confused, filled with anxiety, notable obsessed with self, egocentric, non-reasonable, do I always find myself excusing his/her behavior in one or another way? Do I always find myself giving explanations to cover up her sinful behavior?

3. Does my son or daughter who is still depending from us -the author mentions good reasons for this- have a plan that include a time table and good reasons for this? Do I find myself promoting this economical dependence in order to have always the “right to say so-and-so”?

4. How am I doing to practically teach my daughter or son the dangers of self-gratification?

5. If you are a mom of younger ones (teenagers), do you find yourself constantly contacting your child’s teachers to ask for extensions, for “one more opportunity,” or to try to explain the teacher that “she is a great student” even though the facts are shouting the contrary?

6. What practical steps are you taking to teach your son that we can’t enjoy the fruits of prosperity without having to sacrifice and work hard?

“This self-centered narcissism is at the heart of what drives this lost generation.”

7. When our children complain about hard work, do we teach them what the Bible says about perseverance or are we are prompt to encourage them to look for another job, something more fun and that would bring them pleasure, and help them to their “self-realization”?

“A Christian perspective on labor…must include a profound joy that originates in understanding that our work is for the Lord, who labored and languished on the cross for us. We work out of deep gratitude, whether our job is boring, strenuous, or dull.”

8. Am I encouraging my children to be financial and emotional independent to build their own families or to pursue their own selfish pleasures?

“Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, warns that ‘the delay of marriage will exact an undeniable social toll in terms of delayed parenthood, even smaller families, and even more self-centered parents.”

9. Am I ready to let my children grow? If not, this is the time to seek the Lord and pray earnestly that He will give us the confidence that He has a plan for our children. Trying to hold them back (emotionally or financially) will not only affect us and our children, but also the church.

“Even though it doesn’t feel like it, and even though our hearts want to help and continue to parent our adult children, sometimes the most loving thing you can do is to say good-bye.”

The section at the end of the chapter “Let’s Talk More about It” has very good questions also. I encourage you to go through them.

Remember that I am just like you, learning how to be a good mom in this new stage of life, and so far, I can say that there is one thing I am absolutely sure is essential in parenting our adult children: prayer.

And, Sisters, it cannot get more practical than this. Prayer is where we start and where we end. “Always prayer before action,” as one of my dear friends reminded me lately.

 

 

Thank you for all your comments, they are rich, thoughtful, and are definitely making the reading of this book a more profitable endeavor. Thank you so much.

Next week: Chapter Four: Saying Hello to Pleasing God
Optional “Homework”: Read the articles and listen to the sermons under More Resources (there are six links, maybe one per day?).

Becky

* Twixters as defined by Wikipedia

More Resources:

A Church-Based Hope for “Adultolescents.”

Sermon: Get a Holy Ambition and Skip Adultolsecence.

An excellent article by Douglas Wilson: A Childish Life.

“We have entered the era where every self manufactures his or her own ethical system and hangs it from his or her very own hook in the sky. One might say the closets of our generation have a whole lot of “self space.”” D. Wilson

Sermon by Al Mohler: The Generation that Won’t Grow Up.

“Adulthood is meant for adult responsibilities, and for the vast majority of young people that will mean marriage and parenthood.” Al Mohler here: The Delay of Marriage and the Decline of Church Atendance.

 

“How do you live as a mature Christian in a culture that celebrates adolescence? How do you maintain the gravity of the Gospel in an era when the most immature person in any given room is likely to be the most celebrated?” Al Mohler (Oh, Grow up!)

Another excellent article by Matt Walsh: Adolescence: A Modern Plague, but there is a Cure.

“So, yes, adolescence can last until 25. It can last until 55. It can follow you right into your casket. We created it, and we can abolish it. And we can do that simply by expecting more out of people.”

When your Adult Child is not Walking with the Lord

 

The Return of the Prodigal Son, Rembrandt

Such an encouraging post from John Piper and his son Abraham. Please, read here.

 

“The only ultimate reason to pray for them, welcome them, plead with them, eat with them, or take an interest in their interests is so that their eyes will be opened to Jesus Christ.
And not only is He the only point, but He’s the only hope. When they see the wonder of Jesus, satisfaction will be redefined. He Himself will replace the money, or the praise of man, or the high, or the sex that they are staking their eternities on right now. Only His grace can draw them from their perilous pursuits and bind them safely to Him—captive, but satisfied.

God will do this for many. Be faithful and don’t give up.”

May God renew your hope today as you continue to persevere in prayer, 

Becky

Because We Never Stop Being Moms- Book Club- Chapter Two

This week’s chapter is one that kind of brings us back to the early years. Back to when we were just starting to read books about parenting; in chapter two, Newheiser gives us some means God may use to help us achieve two main goals that we must have in mind as we raise our children; principles which are the core foundation that our children will, God willing,  take with them before they walk out of our home’s door.

But before I continue, I would like to take a minute to encourage those moms who are reading along, and know that they have failed to instill these truths in their children’s heart. Maybe you came to an understanding of what true parenting means too late in life, or maybe you were just too busy doing other things that you left aside the essence of a true education in the Lord. It is today the time to repent, to find forgiveness before God, and move on. Move on, to seek restoration with your children and to pray fervently for them. God is full of grace and Grace meets us when and where we need it most. It is never too late, as the authors of this book say, to “Show them Jesus.”

And now a word for moms with younger children, read this and make it your priority to install, by the grace of God, these truths in your child’s heart.

Book Talk

Chapter Two: Before You Walk Out That Door…

Newheiser, starts this chapter clearly stating that respect must always be present in our relationship with our children. It is one of the key factors he says, that enables us to shape their hearts as they mature. When I respect my children’s point of view, when I learn how to listen patiently (as we read in Ch.1), I can build a relationship in which my advice can be taken. How important it is to take note of these words to avoid falling in the trap of thinking that we know best and we never fail to have the perfect advice:

“They [their children] trusted our counsel because we respected them and only spoke absolutes when we could prove our point clearly from the Bible.” (emphasis mine)

Now, the author points out two main goals we must have as we raise our children into maturity (same goals that Paul had for those he was discipling): 1) that they will love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1Tim.1:5 NASB), 2) and they will come to know and to believe the love that God has for us (1 John 4:16). To reach these goals, Newheiser suggests these means:

1. Teach your children the love of God in Jesus Christ. This is, Newheiser asserts,  our primary calling: to show our children Jesus.  And how is it that we are going to show them Jesus now that they are adults? The only way to do this is to live in such a way that we may invite them to see our manner of life and imitate us.

2. Teach your children to fear God and live for His glory.  True, “we cannot make our children wise.” But we can continually pray for them; “pray that the Holy Spirit will use our meager, faltering attempts as means to speak to our children’s hearts.”

3. Show your children how to put others ahead of themselves. How much we need this in the body of Christ!  Men and women who are willing to live putting others first -in all possible practical way- is, without a doubt, a need in the church and in our communities. And there is no other way to teach them how to live like this without first pointing them to Jesus and setting an example ourselves.

4. Help your children how to communicate with wisdom and humility. This is teaching them “the art of avoiding unnecessary offenses though quarreling, and careless or angry speech.” It means also, teaching them how to listen actively and carefully to build each other up, to solve conflicts biblically, and to confront sin with all gentleness.

5. Teach your children God’s design for sex and marriage. This is not trivial, in this age there are many false teachers -especially among our young adults- spreading the lies of egalitarianism.What a gift to teach them from the Bible the different roles God gave men and women.

6. Teach your children to choose their friends carefully. This point reminded me of something Douglas Wilson posted this week: As you choose your friends, remember this — you are choosing what you will be praised for. Amen to that.

7. Let your children practice making the choices of adulthood. By doing this we encourage them into maturity and dependence on God. We want them to take firm steps, not to be crippled.

8. Teach your children the true value of hard work and money. To work hard to earn a living, but not to live to make money is, in my opinion, a perfect way to explain this.

The author finishes this chapter by encouraging us to keep praying and seeking God’s wisdom to be able to discern and to have our hearts enlightened “to correctly say either ‘good-bye’ or ‘please stay.'”

As I finished reading this chapter, I kept thinking that the only way to truly be at peace about our children leaving our home is to trust their are the Lord’s and that He will finish His work in their lives. Trials will come, difficult circumstances will arise, but to know that they have been raised in a covenant home must help strengthen our confidence. When we have raised our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord; when we trust wholeheartedly that our Lord wants to save them and sanctify them, then we can continue to pray and persevere in building a relationship with them in hope. It is Grace, the Grace of God, that draws our children to Him, it is His loving-kindness that leads them to repentance, and His Mercy that welcomes them. Now they are adults, maybe they are not living at home anymore, but we can approach them as brothers and sisters in Christ understanding that we belong one to another because of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Now, Friends, I would love to hear your thoughts on this chapter, join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Have a blessed day, sisters!

Becky

Because We Never Stop Being Moms -Book Club- Introduction and Chapter One

Thanks for coming!  I am very excited to start this online book club with you; and even though nothing substitutes a face to face discussion, I am confident that this will be a blessing to all of us. Isn’t technology a blessing?

Book Talk

Introduction

Jim Newheiser in the introduction of the book tells us that one of the reasons why he decided to write this book was because he couldn’t find books to help him and his wife learn how to deal with the challenges they were encountering in the new season in their lives: “challenges that confronted both [them] as parents and [their] sons as adult children”.

Newheiser asks, on page twelve, some questions that well-intentioned parents have asked when the time to let go of their adult children arrives; and this one, in my opinion, is the hardest one to answer, “What should parents do if their children make choices with which they disagree?” As we’ll continue to read on, we’ll find many of our questions answered.

I appreciate on page thirteen that the author makes it clear that this book is “based on the assumption that Scripture is sufficient, not only to tell us how to gain salvation, but also to help us establish wise, godly relationships with our own adult kids.” Yes, the Scriptures are the key and the door; the map and the road that will help us be better parents, better spouses. Sometimes, however,  we need the advice from a friend, a counselor, or a book to help us see with more clarity and to understand better the things that are not evident to us right in the midst of the circumstances we are going through. So let’s continue considering this book with a grateful heart for books like this one, and friends like *you,* who recognize that it is only when we rely on God that we can bless our children no matter what age they are.

Chapter One: Is It That Time Already?

So true! All our stories are complex because we are complex people. The relationships among us “are often a tangled web, woven over decades. For this reason, none of [our] stories is black-and- white, and each requires wisdom from the Lord.”  This made me think that we will need, as we read on, to be able to distinguish principles from methods.* The principles apply to every case, the methods may vary. As we read on, let’s pray that God will help us understand which are the principles and discern which methods are the best for us to approach in our relationship with each one of our children.

The fact that the brevity of the season of parenting our children is God’s design, is a comfort to every  momma who thinks she will never be ready to let them go. If it is God’s design that children must leave their parents, and it is, it is then a very good thing: good for them and good for us.

God’s design is perfect and perfect are all His ways. If we believe this, it will be easier for us to start preparing our hearts for the day our children leave. God’s design is perfect and it will do us good to trust Him on this.  I love the author’s input on this matter, because really, we all have heard so much about the “empty nest,” that without even giving much thought to it, we are dreadfully expecting its coming (like we were once having nightmares about the “terrible-two-years” or “the-impossible-teen-age-years”), and making room for it in our hearts. Yes, we don’t necessarily like change, “particularly when the change means that our identity and relationships must be reshaped,” but doesn’t this make you think on how important it is for us, in the first place -and pass this to younger moms-, to strive daily to have our identity well grounded in Christ? Who we are in Christ should be the anchor of our lives in any kind of waters.  

“We’ve come to realize that the term  empty nest is misleading. When the kids leave, the nest is not empty because you are both still there. Furthermore, as your marriage relationship grows and becomes even stronger, your home can become a very special, warm place to which your adult children will want to return for special family events and holidays. And it can be a place where they can seek refuge in times of trouble. Empty nest? Hardly.”

Besides the challenge of the idea of the “empty-nest”, do you agree with me, that maybe one of the hardest things to do in this new season of our lives is to understand the changing of our attitude toward our children? To remember that “we are not to fight to maintain control, but to strive to change our relationship from in-control parents to respected friends” is not easy. It takes practice and intentionality as well as time and many conversations.

Openness, mutual respect, and love (p.21-22) are key elements, the author says, that should be present in our relationship with each one of our children.  One of the most important ways to show that we are pursuing these three is by being good listeners. I totally agree with that one answer a parent gave to the author,  “The greatest challenge has been not giving my opinion about things. I often have the urge to offer advice in order to help my children keep from making mistakes or poor choices.” What about you? Is this a hard thing for you too?

Do you remember how we used to repeat over and over -and over- again the same instruction to our little ones? I am sure we all, at a certain point, said the ugly phrase in an ugly tone, “How many times do I have to repeat to you not to do that!” Well, maybe now it is the time to repeat over and over -and over again,  to ourselves how much we need to listen with love, patience, and attentively to each one of our children. Moms, let’s be intentional: “No Interruptions Allowed Here” might be a good sign in the kitchen.

“If we can patiently learn to listen rather than always demanding to be heard, as James 1:19 teaches, our child will know that we respect his opinion and his right to differ with our views.”

Where to look now that our children are becoming independent?  Now as always, we must look to Jesus. Jesus was, and the author reminds us through different examples, the perfect son to Mary and Joseph. Jesus was an independent adult who never failed to honor his parents. But wait, let’s linger a little bit more in the story plot. What about Mary? She never tried to pull him back, to restrain him, or to manipulate him. Oh, she was indeed full of grace! That God may fill our lives with such grace and wisdom!

“It is a sad reality that some parents sinfully abuse their position of authority.”

This abuse not only happens when mom and dad are bigger than their child and misuse the rod. We don’t have a rod anymore, but we have words, and they sting and hurt even more. All the cases we read about on page twenty-six are not that extreme, they do happen. Can we think of a case in which I have tried to use my authority to push my adult child into a certain decision? Am I falsely accusing him for not being submissive and for not honoring me when his only fault is that he has a different opinion than mine?

“[O]ur young adults are responsible before God to make their own choices. They are responsible to choose their vocation, marriage, partner, and place of residence.”

Because we all are sinners, “every human relationship requires grace to survive.” How true this is! And how true that “we are tempted to think that our own way is the only way. We’re really convinced that we really do know best.” We should know best, of course! But when we are in the midst of a conflict, hearing the clashing of opinions, it is pretty hard to take a deep breath and say, “I will think more about what you are saying. I will give it a thought, pray about it, and we can talk more about it later.”(Note: Don’t just say these words to appease the moment, actually go and give a thought to what she thinks, pray about it, and pursue a follow-up conversation)

And there is no better way to end this chapter, and to enter this new stage in which there are so many practical applications, than with “the power of forgiveness and grace we have been given in the gospel.”

Being Intentional:

The three questions at the end of the chapter are meant to make us think, to draw us to the Word, to prayer… and most likely to converse with our own husbands and, in some cases, we will be drawn towards our own children to ask them forgiveness.

A note on question number three: This question talks about our marriages and asks us what kind of concrete actions we should take to make our marriages “sing again.” Please, Friends, let’s resist the temptation to think that we have nothing to do to make our marriage better (that all the problems in our marriage are our “husband’s fault”. We need to be intentional about putting in practice all that we are learning, all that we are called to do.)

Now it’s your turn. What challenges did you find in these pages? Any particular quote that struck you hard, or one that gave you hope? Or, perhaps you have been walking through this road longer than the rest of us, if so, do you have a piece of advice, a word of encouragement for us? Share your thoughts here, in the comments.

Again, thanks for joining me in this book club.

Next Wednesday: Chapter Two: Before You Walk Out That Door…

Becky

*I learned about the importance of differentiating principles from methods from Pastor Douglas and Nancy Wilson’s talks and books (you can read a good article about this here).

***Feel free to grab and share the image with the bible verse/ quote.

From Diapers to Adulthood -Why Every Struggle Counts-

Screen Shot 2019-03-22 at 7.24.06 PMGod has brought me close to three beautiful mommas of young children, three wonderful friends with whom I enjoy sharing prayers, laughs, meals, coffee, deserts that involve chocolate and berries, and messes that only 3-10 yo children can make.  Yesterday we had a conversation about the difference between the battles and struggles mommas of young children have to deal, with those that mommas of adult children face.

And you know what, momma of little ones? That conversation made think of you. Don’t feel bad when older women come to you, give you that particular look, a pat on the back, and say somehow sarcastically, “Oh, don’t fret over potty training, or school choices, those are nothing compared to what you will be dealing with in a few years.” or “Seriously? That tantrum will be nothing in a few years from now. Just wait, one day you will be wishing it all were about little things like this one…

The seemingly small battles are not small battles at all. The problem is that sometimes we are not used to see the big picture, the whole story; we are so tangled up in our daily duties and to-do lists, that we forget what we are actually doing with those little ones we have at our table every morning spilling milk on the floor. Keep this in mind, every decision we face, everyno,” everyyes,” every step we take (or not take) is important because day after day, over and over, we are building character in our children’s lives. The over-looked tantrums of a two year old boy, will eventually turn into the slamming of a door of a teenager, and then into a husband who yells at his wife. With every decision, with every moment of discipline, with every hug, with every book we read aloud, and with every prayer we are building an adult’s character.

And if you are the mom of adult children, please, don’t despise the struggles of younger mommas. Encourage them instead to persevere, to keep pressing on. Remember that you were once changing diapers and asked in every single online forum help on how to choose the best how-to-read curriculum; remember that you didn’t know how to teach your little one how to be polite and look in the eye of the elderly woman at church; remember that every time you asked your child to turn off his game-boy when having company (iPods were not in the market yet) was a big thing.

Each struggle, each decision that my husband and I have made in the last 20 years has brought us to where we are now with our young adult children. There were no short-cuts; it has been a day after day race.

So be encouraged; what you do today is important, is your vocation, is what God has appointed for you to do in this season. You are not just doing ordinary things. You are building lives. Read that again: You are building lives. Your words and example, your time and prayers, your hugs and the correction you firmly give in love, all are needed in the process. Don’t be weary of doing what is good. God has promised that in due season you will reap, if you don’t give up.

Becky