Finding God Moments for Frazzled Parents

I absolutely love those perfect family Christmas photos. You know, the ones where the children are clean, smiling and rather angelic looking. Reality is different – even in those families. Parenting can be exhausting and leave you feeling constantly frazzled. Depending upon your circumstances, you may find yourself falling asleep any time you sit down or have moved on to the more subtle emotional and mental exhaustion that often comes with older children.

It seems like your energy is spent trying to make sure you are keeping all of those parenting balls you are juggling up in the air. If you had to be totally honest, you can’t really remember the last time you prayed or read the Bible. Forget reflecting on God’s word or taking a Sabbath type rest. That’s for when your kids are grown and gone. You may even be missing worship services for aany number of reasons.

Part of that exhaustion you are feeling is because you are spiritually exhausted, too. Pouring love into your precious little ones, serving them in hundreds of unnoticed ways, teaching them about who God wants them to be are all wonderful, lovely and godly things you are doing in your ministry to your children and at times their friends.

When we constantly feed others out of our spiritual cup without refilling it though, we are left feeling empty in the deepest parts of our soul. Even Jesus had to take time to separate from everyone and reconnect with God.

I know. You eat on the run and shower with little ones knocking on the door. When are you supposed to find some time to spend with God? You tried getting up before the kids for quiet time and that didn’t work well. So now what?

Instead of looking for large blocks of time, seek moments with God. Pray while you are rocking or feeding the baby. Read your kids a Bible story or a Bible verse as part of your day – often during a meal together works best. Reflect on that verse whenever you can during the day. Sing worship songs to your kids as lullabies or in the car as you go from place to place.

If you give God your moments each day, you will be amazed what He can do with them. There will be seasons where you can have those long extended times with God, but for now make sure to give Him those moments. You may find some of that rest and calm you so badly need in the process.

Your Child Has a Ministry

What? Your child isn’t old enough to work at McDonald’s. In fact he or she is convinced a career as super hero or astronaut is in their future. Yet, God has a ministry plan for your child…if he or she is ready for the challenge.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV) God loves your kids. He wants them to choose to be His child and become a Christian when they are old enough to make that choice. He even has a ministry…good works…specially prepared for them to do.

Those good works are your child’s ministry. They may be big or small. In fact, some of those good deeds might be presented to them while they are still young and living at home.

Our world has us so focused on helping our kids find occupations and jobs, that we forget it is more important for them to find their ministry. Yes, they need to have food on the table and hopefully a roof over their head, but where they will truly grow and become fully who God created them to be is in their personal ministry.

Start now by helping them build strong faith foundations and develop and use their gifts from God. Talk about ways to find those good works God wants them to do. Encourage them to be as content in taking soup to a lonely neighbor as they are in going on a mission trip to Africa. Teach them how to find ways to share their faith and encourage other Christians as they do those good works.

God doesn’t give any of us a list of the good works He has prepared for us so we can check them off as we go. If I had to guess, it’s because that list is possibly based on our reaction to each opportunity as it is presented to us…or in this case your kids. What God has done is told us to be on the look out for those opportunities He gives us to do those good works.

Your child may never be a “professional” minister. His or her good works will most likely take place more in the world than in the church building. Some of them will be based on the gifts God has given your child. This isn’t a competition. It’s about being fully the person God has created your child to be – His child, doing those good works He has prepared for him or her. It’s worth the time and effort to help your child learn how to live that Christian life.

Finding Community in Christian Parenting

I recently was added to one of those online communities where everyone is asked to introduce themselves. Woman after woman seemed to share a heart filled with loneliness. They were different ages and in different life circumstances. They were from all over the world, but they all longed for meaningful Christian community.

Parenting has some tough moments – and that’s when you don’t encounter additional challenges. Christian parenting is even more difficult. You are trying to parent in counter cultural ways because you understand the parenting choices you make can impact your child’s spiritual life. As any teen can tell you, going against the crowd can feel very lonely at times.

Perhaps it seems like your life has been an unending string of lonely parenting moments. It doesn’t have to be that way. God created Christian community to help us through those lonely times – whatever the cause.

At times though, tapping into that community can appear more difficult than climbing Mt. Everest. Perhaps you have been praying that God will bring you the community you so desperately want and need. There are things you can do to scale that metaphorical mountain and find that supportive Christian community. God will be there to guide you, but He may want you to grow in your ability to create connections with others by trying some of these tips.

  • Find a church home. It’s hard to find Christian community when you don’t stay in one place for very long. No church is perfect – even the ones that seem that way at first. Find one that teaches the Bible as accurately as possible and make a home there.
  • Make yourself at home in your church. Attend regularly, introduce yourself, engage in conversations with people whose names you can’t seem to remember yet. Attend classes and small groups. Volunteer to serve in a ministry. All of these will give you opportunities to connect to fellow Christians.
  • Look outside the box. Don’t just look for friends who are exactly like you. Sometimes the most supportive, helpful friendships are with people different from us. They bring a unique perspective to our experiences. People just like us tend to get stuck in the same places we get stuck. We often learn more from people who are older and have gotten to the other side of those things with which we are currently struggling. Younger friends can often bring a bit of carefree joy back to our lives. People from other places may have tips we would never hear from people who have been in the same place for decades.
  • Be brave and ask. If you see someone you think is interesting or wise, ask her to lunch or coffee. Most adults are in their own routines. They don’t think about looking for new friends, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want new friends. It is rare to have someone approach anyone they barely know and seek a chance to fellowship and get to know one another. So don’t wait – initiate.
  • Don’t take rejection personally. Since these are often people we don’t know very well, you probably don’t know their responsibilities and struggles. They may be overwhelmed and need help themselves. It is not a reflection on you or your value. Try again later or move on to the next person.
  • Give it time. Occasionally you will bond with someone you just met as if you have been best friends for years. Most of the time, it takes time spent together and sharing experiences and hearts to build a friendship.
  • Be okay with different levels of relationship. You may have one woman who is your advice person. For many reasons, you will never be best friends, but she is available when you need advice and gives godly advice. That’s okay. You can have acquaintances, friends, activity friends, best friends and a host of other types of relationships. All will ease your loneliness and give you some of the Christian community you need.
  • Accept disagreements and practice forgiveness. It’s rare that even the best of friends agree on everything. People who spend a lot of time together can get on each other’s nerves at times. Disagreements are not a reason to end a friendship. Forgiveness is crucial. Yes, there are rare instances when a friendship becomes toxic and you may have to spend less time with that person. In general though, think of your friendships as a way to improve in showing others agape love and practicing forgiveness.

God doesn’t want His people to be lonely. Remember how He created Eve so Adam wouldn’t be lonely? Escaping loneliness will probably take some effort on your part. Having those godly friends who encourage you in your Christian parenting journey makes any work seem worth it. Don’t let Satan continue to discourage you with loneliness.

The Importance of 13 in Christian Parenting

For many years, those who wrote or taught about Christian parenting had to rely on personal experience and patterns they observed in the families they knew to help explain how God’s commands and principles worked in day to day parenting. Over the last several years, the Barna Group has focused on conducting a lot of actual research about Christians.

Their focus most recently has been on Christian parents and their children. They are trying to quantify what the difference is between parents who raise children to be faithful, productive Christians and those whose kids are not as faithful or reject God entirely as adults.

They are finding what many of us had noticed anecdotally. There are definite, specific things parents can do to improve the chances their kids will be faithful, productive Christians as adults.

We try to share as many of these specifics as we can with you. One of the most important findings is key for parents and churches to understand. The bulk of a person’s worldview is in place by age 13. This means if parents and the church they attend have not invested enough time and effort in helping kids develop a biblical worldview by age 13, they are leaving those young people extremely vulnerable.

Yes, there are things you can do after age 13 to help young people strengthen or develop a biblical worldview. As many parents of teens can tell you though, trying to change directions by beginning in the teen years can be difficult. It is much easier if you start when your kids are really young.

If your kids are under age 13, it’s time to get serious about helping them develop strong faith foundations and grow towards their godly potential. It’s time to encourage your church leaders to make the spiritual education of children one of their top priorities. Not by giving it lip service or throwing money at it, but by really auditing everything they are doing to make sure it is as effective as possible.

If your kids are teens or adults, don’t give up. Your job may be more difficult, but with God’s help, nothing is impossible. If necessary, apologize to your kids for the mistakes you have made. Explain why you want to make their spiritual health and growth your top priority. Engage them in working together to help them become the people God wants them to be.

Impactful Christian parenting is also intentional. Understanding the number 13 will help you remember your kids are never too young for their spiritual education to be your top priority. Because the earlier you start, the more successful your efforts will probably be.

Parenting Goals That Work

New Year’s Day is full of hope. It’s a fresh start. A new year. In this case, a new decade. We haven’t made any resolutions yet, so we haven’t broken them either.

The temptation is to make a long list of everything you want to change about yourself. All of those parenting things you’ve wanted to do better, but haven’t had the time. So you begin by listing things you want to add to your family’s schedule, like family devotionals.

Then you add other things to your list of parenting goals. Perhaps you want to behave differently towards your kids or work on being a better example. Then you remember, you need to spend more time with your kids helping them improve on a few character and attitude issues of their own.

Your list is now becoming quite long. Many of your goals are actually rather difficult and time consuming to achieve. No wonder most of us give up on our new goals within a week or two.

There are some things you can do this year to change the normal pattern. Doing these things could help you follow through and actually accomplish your goals.

  • Make your normal list of goals. Make it as long as you would like. Put everything you would want to accomplish this year as if it is going to be a perfect year.
  • Whenever possible, make your goals specific and measurable. “Have family devotionals” won’t work as well as “Spend ten minutes each day having a family devotional.” If you make the goal even more specific, it will be even easier to know when you have actually accomplished the goal.
  • Prioritize your goals. If you could only accomplish one thing on the list this year, what is the most important goal? Continue deciding which goal is the next most important until you have them all ranked.
  • Write you the goal that is your top priority on a different sheet of paper. Save the list of your other goals, because you will need to refer to it later.
  • Break down the goal with a task analysis. What are the steps you will have to accomplish to successfully complete the goal? For example, if I want to wake up a few minutes earlier every day to spend time reading my Bible and praying, I would include steps like “set the alarm fifteen minutes earlier before going to bed”.
  • Instead of the entire goal, you may need to focus on only one step at a time. I am naturally a morning person. Getting up early might not be a challenge for me. Perhaps I get stuck because I can’t decide what to read in my Bible. My husband would struggle with getting up earlier than usual. He may need to spend a couple of weeks just learning how to wake up earlier. I may need to spend a couple of days finding a Bible reading plan that is realistic and helpful to me. Trying to accomplish every step of a goal can seem overwhelming if each of those steps is normally difficult for you. Focusing on one step at a time allows you to slowly build on your success.
  • Continue adding or completing tasks until you have accomplished the goal. This may take a day, a week or the entire year. That largely depends upon how complex or difficult the original goal was. As long as you are making forward progress towards your goal, you are succeeding.
  • Give yourself time to adapt. Estimates vary, but I have found it can take up to a month or more to be consistent in a new habit. It may take longer if the habit is something with which you struggle. Don’t move on to the next task or step until you are confident the one on which you are currently working has become more natural to you.
  • Give yourself grace. I am firmly convinced Satan knows when we are trying to become more godly and throws distractions in our path. We have all fallen into that trap. If it happens and you fall back into old habits for a day or even a week or a month, don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t quit trying. As soon as you realize you have stopped working on your goal, start back where you left off or start from the beginning again if that is necessary.
  • Don’t try too many new things at once. It’s too much to remember and honestly, a lot of stress. Focus on achieving that first goal well. When you believe you are accomplishing it or have completed the goal, then you can return to your original list of goals. Choose the next one on your list of prioritized goals. Repeat the process you just used to accomplish that first goal. Continue adding one new goal as soon as you are consistently accomplishing or have completed the previous one. Over the course of a year, you can often accomplish more by focusing on one goal at a time, than by trying to accomplish ten new things at the same time.
  • Don’t be afraid to dream godly dreams when creating your goals. God can help you accomplish many things for His Kingdom using your gifts and talents…if you are open to where He sends you. Don’t be afraid to write down those goals on your heart that seem too farfetched. You won’t know if the Holy Spirit put them on your heart or they were your own wild idea until you start moving towards that goal.
  • Don’t forget to tap into God’s wisdom, power and strength as you work towards your goals. God wants to help you be more godly and the best Christian parent you can be. We just forget sometimes that we need to ask for His help. Prayer, Bible study and other spiritual disciplines can keep us in touch with God and give us the strength and wisdom we need to accomplish our goals.

This method of accomplishing goals is a little more difficult than that most people use for New Year’s resolutions. Taking the time to do the extra steps though, can make achieving your goals more realistic. It really is worth your time and effort.