Thursday, August 4, 2016


My daddy shouted those words as a little boy as his daddy snatched him out of church service. He'd been 'not minding' as my granny said. His daddy had had enough of his not minding, so as he whisked out my daddy, my daddy yelled, "SOMEBODY BETTER PRAY!" 

The church erupted in laughter. 

I've imagined that happening with our brood. Thankfully, it hasn't. Not yet. And, I hope, not ever. We've come close though. 

With that being said, lately, I've found myself in conversations whether online or in person about kids being in 'Big Church.' 

I've been asked lots of questions.

Can they handle it? How do you make them sit there? Are they learning? Why do we have them sit with us? 

So, I'm going to share what we've learned, what's worked for us, and also note that our kids aren't perfect. They are wiggly. They talk to each other or us. Sometimes someone has to go to the bathroom. (By the way, they are given the chance to go before we go into service and after, so we're talking about a little over an hour from the last time to the next time. Unless it's an EMERGENCY- and they can't use the E-card every week or even every month.)

I'm a firm believer in sharing what we've learned and confess that we haven't gotten it down perfectly. They can be wiggly. And talk-y.

First, can they handle it?

Yup! You better believe it! God's Word is meant for e'rybody-babies, young children, teenagers, young adults, middle aged adults, senior adults- you get the picture. 

They may not understand every concept. That's ok. I'm still learning, too. For example, the idea of grace....just when I think I'm grasping the concept, I realize how much I can't comprehend, how much I don't understand still. 

So, just as we are learning, so are they.

How do you make them sit there?

Let me first say, I regret that we didn't bring ours in 'Big Church' earlier. We did when our oldest was a toddler. We thought it was a miserable disaster. Truthfully, it wasn't. It was par for the course. 

First, we start them before they 'have' to. With our oldest, we started 6 months before he was out of the preschool department. With our others, we've started a bit earlier. (Our two youngest were 2 and 4 when we started bringing them with us regularly.)

We do a lot of coaching before we get to church:
     - When someone says, "Good morning," you say, "Good morning!" and smile. 

     - When it's time to sing, you stand. You don't have to sing, but you do have to stand. (And we have leaners sometimes, so a gentle reminder to STAND is needed for those occasions.Usually just a touch on the shoulder and a subtle hand motion to rise is all that is needed. Repeat offenders get a 'Stand up! We're in church!')

     - When it's the time of the service to greet others, we shake hands and greet others. (A good, firm handshake and looking someone in the eye, that is a biggie in our home. But that's a blog for another day.)

     -Opening the Bible to the appropriate passage for those who can. (We're still working on this; however, the passage is on the screen at the front of our sanctuary. He reads along. Still, it's a work in progress, like I said.)

     - Standing whenever we stand corporately- during the music, greeting others, reading of the passage, and at altar call and any other time it's appropriate. 

     -Once the passage is read and we sit down for the sermon, then and only then are pads of paper and pens allowed. Not before. They are active participants in service. I've learned that my crew listen better when they are allowed to draw, doodle, write. They are listening! They are, in fact, better listeners when they draw and write.)

     -We also have a service-only treat that they enjoy- a soft peppermint. (Sometimes they got two.) Another note- I take them out of the wrapper at home so as not to make a lot of noise for others. 

     -Also, if we think that they aren't ready for 'Big Church' yet, we observe what other families do to glean insight. We also talk it up weeks before. The age is different for each time. There are definitely seasons where having a place for a crawler is definitely a blessing!

     -We also start when bringing a 'newbie' into church by sitting in the back. Particularly if we have a potty training little one. Should we need to take someone out, then we are close to the exit and will disrupt as little as possible. If they've done well, we move up a few rows until we are a few rows back from the front. If it's a rough week, we'll move back or stay in the same place until we can move forward. 

Are they learning? 
You better believe it! 

Questions abound. Sometimes in church. (To which we reply, "We'll discuss it later.") Questions on grace, justification, sanctification, the Trinity.....just to name a few. 

They will pull a quote or paraphrase at the most surprising of times- driving down the road, bath time, swimming, the dinner table, at night when they become philosophers and theologians at bedtime. 

Why do we make them sit with us? 

Well, why not? There is no one who keeps us more honest than our kids. They need spiritual training as much as we do. Although I'm pretty certain, we need it more. No one can hold up a mirror to me like my kids. And they don't even do it on purpose. God is definitely using them to refine me and make me more like His Son. 

I used to feel like it was 'my' time. I got to be with my husband uninterrupted. I was getting fed. 

Truth is, God convicted me of this. My reasoning was selfish. It was all about Me. My needs. My wants. My desires. 

Not theirs. 

I want them to see the adults they love and trust and do life with alongside our family, worshiping the Lord, knowing how to participate in corporate worship, how to sit quietly and listen, how to analyze what the pastor is preaching on in light of Scripture....Is what he's preaching from the Bible or is it his opinion or some other agenda? So that they can stand strong in their faith and claim it as their own. I want them to be grounded in the Word and attend a Bible believing, Bible preaching church as they mature. How better to model this than to give them that as they grow up than the church they grow up in? 

I don't want my kids to have religion.I don't want them to lean on my faith. Or my husband's. 

 I want them to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Also, we like having them with us so that we can worship as a family. There are times they are not in service with us. Our son's Sunday School meets at the hour we attend worship, so there are Sundays he goes to his class. Fortunately, our church records the service, so many times he is able to catch what he missed in service when I re-listen to the message later in the week as I cook supper or fold laundry. 

And, we like their company. 

There's that, too. 

***Disclaimer: The man who gave me his name and I have not got this parenting thing figured out. Every day is new. Every child is different. Just when we get something figured out it either doesn't work suddenly one day, or we are faced with totally new challenges. We are on our knees constantly before a holy God asking His guidance as we love and disciple our children.***

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Not Sure What to Say?


I love them. I always have. 

Yet, as much as I love the way words are composed on the page or in a poem or song or a blog or my very favorite- a handwritten note, sometimes, ok, often I get tongue tied. 

In my life, I've experienced the death of loved ones- grandparents, my biological dad, friends. We've walked through grief with our people- death of parents, siblings, grandparents, and various other family members. 

We here UTRTR often talk about the hope of heaven with our children. Not 'hope' as a synonym for 'wish.' But 'hope' as in the 'promise of something yet to come.' In this case, heaven. 

So, here we are, a month after walking through the most devastating loss we've ever known. The loss of a child we wanted so much, a child my husband knew about before I did. In fact, these were his words, "I looked at you last night, and I knew you were pregnant. You were glowing." The only child he experienced the same moment I did discovering his observations were correct. This child we fell in love with as soon as the first faint line appeared and grew as quickly as the faint line darkened. 

We had five glorious days of joy. I wouldn't trade the reaction of our people, particularly our fr-amily, for anything. 

The whoops. The laughter. The hugs. The squeals of delight. Oh my! As I type, I am smiling. 

One week after we'd told them about our newest blessing, we were being hugged, cried for, prayed over by those very same people who'd shared in the joy of a 4th baby for us as they mourned with us that we wouldn't meet this baby this side of heaven.

Time and again, we were hugged tightly, both of us, and told "I'm sorry," or "I'm sorry. I'm praying for you." 

And those were the perfect words. 

A few times, people told us, "I don't know what to say....I'm sorry." 

Like not having words was wrong. It wasn't. We didn't either. Those last two words were all we needed. To know that folks mourned for and with us. 

So, when you're not sure what to say, particularly after a loss like this, the perfect words are "I'm sorry." 

And it's ok to say, "I don't know what to say" (because the hearer probably doesn't have any words either but "Thank you"), but don't just say, "I don't know what to say." 

For lack of a better word, that's lame. 

 Tell them that you are sorry.  

If you want to say something like, " We are grieving with you" or "Our hearts ache with yours," that's ok, too.

Truly, nothing besides "I'm sorry" is necessary. 

And pray for those precious people in their loss.

And tell them that, too. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Reclaiming the Beauty of Learning and My Sanity

So, six years ago last month we began our homeschooling journey. 

And while I nodded my head that our school wouldn't look like 'real' school, it kinda did. 

And, sometimes, it kinda does. 

I can't help it. I do like things like worksheets for math. It saves my sanity. Mine. It is a barometer for where we are, where we've been, where we need to revisit, where we can move on to..... 

I remember thinking of the insanity of me holding a flash card of crayons with our oldest, working on colors. 


I remember thinking, "What?!? Why am I doing this?" 

So, after a time or two of questioning that part of the purchased from the curriculum company lesson plan, I skipped it. 

Instead of quizzing him as part of the plan, I decided I'd just be more intentional in using the words in conversation. (He was four, it was the color orange, a color not allowed in our house, so there were plenty of reasons for him NOT knowing this. Go DAWGS!)

Instead of waving the number flash cards at him, I decided we'd practice using the phone. So, he got the practice of numbers by dialing grands and great-grands to say "hello." 

Lots of scores on this front..... He learned his numbers. He learned important phone numbers should he need them. He learned telephone etiquette. 

Here's another one....days of the week and how to read a calendar...... I stressed out over this for about five seconds.... After all, we conquered letters and numbers....So, I did what any child of the 70's and 80's would do.

I taught him the days of the week teaching him the Happy Days theme song. 

And I bought a big, laminated calendar and hung it on our fridge. I update it with our family events, birthdays, holidays, special reminders. 

Score, again! 

Now, I'm finishing kindergarten with our second, and I'm much more relaxed. 

Instead of flash cards for simple addition math facts, I've taught her to draw dots. Wouldn't you know it? She remembers 3+4=7! And I didn't sweat it as much as I did with her big brother. 


It's not because I'm some ah-mazing teacher or mom. I'm a hot mess just like everyone else. 

Here's the difference: I've learned and am still learning to rely on a God Who is much bigger than me, Who loves these kids more than their daddy and I do or ever could, and Who is teaching me to stop stressing, trust Him, and enjoy these kids He's blessed us with.