I Will Not Apologize

I love people who speak their minds with tact and grace.  In a world full of double speak and hidden meanings, bluntness tempered with tact is a gift.  If ever I need a blunt word of truth, my friend Dawn is one of the people I turn to.  We look enough a like to be sisters, and because neither of us have a sister, we’ve adopted each other.

Dawn works in children’s ministry at Cornerstore Church in Saskatoon, and she wrote the following article for the church’s newsletter.  For those of us with young children, I know you’ll be silently (or maybe vocally) adding a “hip, hip, horray” as you read; for those of you without children, please hear Dawn’s heart which beats for children to come to a saving relationship with Jesus.

Why I Will NOT Apologize

           You know what?  I get it.  I do realize that it can be frustrating to sit around my children during church.  I know that they don’t always remember to whisper, they might sit when we stand or stand when we sit, and they will probably be eating during the service.  I promise they will be distracting sometimes and I guarantee they are not going to sit quietly the whole service (although I do promise to take them out when they are melting down… we all have those days, don’t we?).  But here’s the thing…. that’s not my biggest concern right now.  My husband and I are not trying to teach our children to sit and be quiet so the adults can worship God through singing, teaching and responding. We’re not trying to make sure that our children are “seen but not heard” and frankly their noise level is the least of our concern on a Sunday morning.

So what am I trying to teach my children when I get the opportunity to have them with me during the service?

I want my children to know that church is FUN!!  When we come to Cornerstone, my youngest, Norah, who is now 2 years old, runs to the sanctuary doors and starts dancing and clapping.  Even in her young mind, she knows it is a place where we sing with joy, we clap, and we celebrate!  As she gets older she will come to understand that we are singing songs of joy to our Savior, we are clapping in adoration to our Father, and we are celebrating the works of our God!  Our oldest daughter, Libby, has started to understand that more and more each Sunday.  She knows that we go to church to learn about God, to thank Him for all of the incredible things God has done for us and to discover how to live in obedience to God’s will.

Secondly, I want my children to know that our church is a place where all people are valued.  I want my girls to know that they are a part of something bigger RIGHT NOW.  They are not a nuisance, they are a part of something bigger than themselves that God specially designed to carry out His purpose to the world.  They are not a part of the Body to come, but they are an integral part of the Body right now.  Are we perfect? Absolutely not!!  But that’s the beauty of God using His Church to work through us…. He takes us in our weaknesses so that we can see His Spirit working through us.  My children can grow the kingdom of God!  I know many children have come to our mid-week program through the invitation of our Cornerstone kids and I know many children, Libby included, who are excited to be able to talk about Jesus with their classmates.

Lastly, I want my children to learn what God wants to teach them.  There are so many times that Libby has learned the things of God from simply spending time in the service.  She has asked me questions regarding the songs (“What does Hallelujah mean?”), regarding the sermon (“What does obedience mean?”), and she is learning so much from watching what we ALL do (“Why do we stand?”, “Why do some people put up their hands?”, “What’s the bread for?”, “What’s that picture on the screen mean?”, etc, etc).

So what am I asking of you, the Church?  Please understand that my husband and I aren’t perfect but we’re trying to teach our children about something that is bigger than any of us.  It can be exhausting to look for teachable moments, or to keep a toddler engaged (hence the snacks) but a smile from across the room, or a knowing nod can be such an encouragement to a parent’s heart.

To the Body of Christ, please encourage our young families who are trying to teach their children the ways of our God.  Please don’t treat our children like an annoyance, and please don’t judge our parents purely on their children’s behavior.  Kids will be kids and we all have bad days.  Sundays have that special way of getting children completely off routine, causing more meltdowns… maybe it is God’s way of teaching families to rely on Him and His Church!  I am asking that you extend grace to us, as parents, and come alongside us to support and encourage us.  It is hard to raise a family in this age, and families are being attacked at every level, so please pray for us and lift us up to God.

If you take nothing else from this article, please hear me when I say that children watch EVERYTHING that happens on a Sunday.  They are not just looking at the stage, they are looking everywhere.  They are not just watching the leaders, they are watching YOU.  They are not just hearing the words that are being spoken or sung, they are watching your actions and how you are responding to what’s being said.  And they are not only watching you in the pews… they are watching you in the foyer, in the gym, while you drink your coffee and in the parking lot.  I beg of you, as a mother who wholeheartedly wants my children to fall completely in love with Jesus, show my kids what it’s like to be 100% in love with God.  Please extend the love and grace that God has given to you to my children.  How great it would be if by the time the children in our church can first say “Jesus”, they have already experienced His grace and love through the people of the Church thousands of times!  And I’m not just talking about in the nurseries, in the classroom or in the CE wing, but in our pews, foyer and, dare I say, outside of the church… can I hear a “Hallelujah!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I certainly replied with a “Hallelujah”, and I admit that our church is a noisy, child-filled church.  I remember one of the things I noticed when we started at RPC was how much the older people loved the little ones, and how they would smile at the noise they made because it meant they were there and that their parents thought church was important.  I’m sure Dawn would love to hear any comments or thoughts that you have.  I’ll be sure to pass everything on to her.

My Take on Best of the Blogosphere

I have had a few people ask me what blogs I frequent and that lead me to thinking which blogs I enjoy the most, and which have had the most impact on me.  I have a variety of blogs come through my RSS feed each day that deal with a variety of topics.  Some are decorating blogs, some are frugal living blogs, some are spirituality blogs, some are family living blogs.  I thought I would highlight my six favourite blogs in this post, and as I find really good new ones I’ll add to the list.  Here we go (in no particular order)…

1) No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane

I love Rachel’s forthright and transparent writing style.  She tackles faith, family, life, and just about everything else in between in her posts.  I often find myself challenged as a result of her willingness to be honest about her own struggles and thoughts.  I also love how she hosts a weekly prayer request forum where people worldwide submit their prayer requests for others to pray for them.

2) I Can Teach My Child

I Can Teach My Child

I feel like Jenae and I should be friends.  We both were teachers before choosing to stay at home with our children, we both have two little boys (roughly the same ages) and we are both striving to daily teach our children mentally and spiritually.  Too bad she lives in the States. Her blog is jam packed with interesting ideas on early childhood learning activities (the high school teacher in me is so thankful for these tips! I can teach Shakespeare, but teaching a four year old to do his phonics is beyond my training) and ideas on how to incorporate spiritual themes into daily life.  Well worth the read!

3) Pocket Full of Whimsy

Monique was my university roommate and we have reconnected years later over a love of DIY, crafting, and parenting.  Monique has such an adventurous spirit (that is especially seen in her and her hubby’s summer overhaul of their 1970s era camper trailer, Elsie) that following her blog is a treat and a challenge at the same time.  She is also a very talented photographer; I just love seeing her pictures.  You have seen Monique guest blog here, on In the Shadow of Grace, and I have guest blogged for her.  It’s amazing the friendships that can develop using the internet!

4) The Nesting Place

Nesting Place

The Nestor, who blogs anonymously, writes a home decor blog with the tag line of “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful”.  I love her candid writing that interweaves decorating with family with faith.  Right now Nestor is writing a 31 day challenge on Lovely Limitations in relation to decorating your house.  She’s already convinced me to make some of my ideas into reality.  The pictures of her house make any trip to her blog worth it- I do believe I plan to steal most of her paint colours for when we redecorate our main floor.

5) When You Rise This blog is written by two moms who are dedicated to teaching their children to incorporate Scripture into their daily lives.  Lots of fun age appropriate activities on how to teach Scriptural truths which are broken down into Old and New Testament categories.  They also have resources for parents that are well worth looking at.  Sometimes it’s just nice to know that there are other parents out there who value the Bible as much as we do.

6) Young House Love
I absolutely love reading John and Sherry’s posts! Two former marketing execs who turned their love of DIY into full time jobs writing their blog about updating their home, they are very talented writers.  They chronicle their experiences of updating their second home as well as parenting their one year old daughter.  Their style is very reflective of ours (minus Sherry’s fascination with ceramic animals- those I can live without) so I glean fabulous ideas from their pictures.

And I was going to end with just six…but then I missed my absolutely favourite blog..so I’ve upped the ante to seven.  Monique introduced me to Ashley from Under the Sycamore, and I am so thankful.

Ashley is a pastor’s wife in Oklahoma, and she chronicles her family of six’s (soon to be seven as they are in the process of adopting) adventures.  Ashley is also a DIY/crafting guru-  I have been inspired by many of her projects.  If you visit no other blog on this list, visit Ashley’s for nothing more than her photography.  You will go away smiling- I promise.

These are my top six…okay-seven… blogs right now.  Each one is different but all are spectacular.  I hope you will go check each of them out and maybe find a new favourite.  Any blogs you would recommend I add to my RSS feed?

Excellence vs. Minimalism

I read this quote in my devotions recently:

“…God values excellence… (but) the maximum-load mentality of our culture could potentially turn us into minimalists.  We’re growing too exhausted to go the extra mile.  Sometimes we do only what we must to get by on a project because we have 15 other projects nipping at our heels.  We’re pushed too hard and too fast to go the extra distance excellence demands.  Even in church work we are often thrown into so many activities and responsibilities that we don’t take the time to allow the Holy Spirit to develop our spiritual gifts” (Beth Moore, The Patriarchs workbook, pg. 88)

And it got me thinking: do I value excellence in everything I do? Be that raising my boys, leading bible studies, being a friend/daughter/mother/wife/etc, even~ gasp~ laundry. I don’t know if I do.  I would like to believe that I do, but I don’t always.  I excuse myself from pursuing excellence by telling myself I’m too tired, too busy, too something.

I Corinthians 10:31- “…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”

Whatever- even that stuff that I don’t enjoy, like cooking, cleaning, bathrooms, and laundry.  I want to teach my boys to pursue excellence, and that just doing good enough, isn’t actually good enough.  God wants our best, and I want to give my best to those I do life with, be that my family, friends, or strangers on the street.

With this in mind, I also need to be aware that I walk a fine line between striving for excellence and feeling awash in guilt for not always being able to do everything.  Maybe the difference is a change in my perspective of what excellence means.  I don’t believe that it means do everything or be everything to all people, but that it means to do that tasks God has given me today to the best of my ability.  So if I run out of time to wash the kitchen floors, that’s okay.  I still did what I was able to do today with excellence.

Does anyone else struggle with this?