Hey “Mean Mum” – this one’s for you…

Hey “Mean Mum” – this one’s for you…

Our last post, “A Mean Mum, Mastitis and Mars Bars” was our most popular post ever.

If you haven’t read it yet, stop reading this right now click the link above first. You’re going to need to get the backstory to see why this post is going to be even better…

There was a villain in the last post, she was called “Mean Mum”.  Get ready to hiss as she enters the stage.

A few people mentioned Mean Mum to me after reading the post. They wanted to express their distaste for her, to tell me what they would have said to her if they’d been there, a few speculated as to what was going on in her life to cause her to overreact in such a way.

You know what? Each of these reactions I’ve had too. With hindsight I’ve wished I’d reacted differently in the situation – stood up for my son a bit. Tried to reason with her to help her see how inappropriate she was being. I’ve speculated as to what wounds she has, to cause her to react in such an angry manner. But you know what? It doesn’t help. It doesn’t help me. And it doesn’t help her.

Because at the end of the day – what has happened has happened. And at the end of the day what she did was wrong. She mistreated me and that had consequences for me (condemnation, fear, anxiety) and it had consequences for her (stress, anger, and I’m guessing/hoping shame and regret). So, what do we even do with that? What do we do when we cause ourselves and other people pain because of our selfishness and yes I’m going to say it, because of our “sin”?

This is where the good news of the gospel changes everything…

So Mean Mum, this post is for you. I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again, and even if I did, I’m not sure I’d even recognise you. I’m not sure if you’d recognise me or even remember the incident that occurred in the park that day back in February. I doubt you’d speak to me, unless my son came too close to your son again (let’s hope and pray that never happens!).

So I doubt we’ll ever have another interaction.

But whether we do or not this is what I want you to know. (And by the way Mean Mum – you need to read right to the end, because while the first bit is really uncomfortable reading – you gotta get through it to hear the best possible news ever – which could make your heart sing and you dance in freedom and joy from now into eternity).

[And as an aside – the comments below are not just about “Mean Mum” as an individual – they are statements about humanity in general. Not just her but me too. Not just me but my son too. The following truths are claims that Jesus makes about all of humanity and about himself].

So here we go Mean Mum – this is what you need to know.

You’re not a good person.

This is more offensive than anything you said to me that day. It flies in the face of everything society teaches us about the nature of humanity. Society says by nature we’re good. Society says that we make mistakes because we are victims of something – parental scaring, or PMT, or sleep deprivation or any other number of things. Society says that when we are under pressure sometimes we make mistakes, but most of the time we can justify them, learn from them, but we should certainly not dwell on them. “No regrets” is our mantra.

So, Mean Mum, society would say that that incident in the park was simply you reacting to my son’s boisterousness in a disproportionate way – not because you were in the wrong, not because your words were a direct result of the anger in your heart. But because there was something external going on in your life making you a victim. It’s not really your fault.

But you know what? That is not satisfying.

Not satisfying for me. You didn’t know me or my circumstances and how they made me especially susceptible to despair and internal condemnation. I didn’t know you or anything about what’s going on in your life. Regardless of externals – your anger was not justified. If we shrug off your yelling as an unfortunate experience then there’s no justice for me. 

But it’s not satisfying for you either. Because when we get the pang of regret because of our actions (and we all carry around remorse, shame and “if I could just relive that moment again I would have done it this way…”) we need to do something with that. I don’t believe you if you say that you don’t experience these emotions about situations in your life.

The reason “no regrets” is a mantra we have to repeat in society is because naturally we do have regrets. We all do. And if we don’t we could actually be defined as a psychopath incapable of empathy. But Mean Mum you do have empathy – plenty of empathy for your son (who faced an injustice at the hands of my son). So because you have the capacity for empathy I’m going to make the educated guess that you do have regrets in life.

So what do we do with regrets? There are three common options I guess.

Firstly, we might feel the pang of regret and then we think of all the reasons why we were justified in our actions. It was the external pressures; we were provoked; everybody does it – it’s normal.

Or secondly, we might despair. We accept our error and our self-talk becomes condemning. We get dragged into a downward spiral of self-hate.

Or thirdly, we could look to escapism. We push the regrets out of our minds by turning on netflix, going out shopping, having a drink. We anesthetise ourselves to our self-inflicted pain. Sometimes we do all three of these – often in quick succession.

What do you do with your regrets?

But here’s the thing Mean Mum…I want you to know that there’s a better way, a much better way of dealing with regret. A way that gets rid of regret, a way that enables us to own up to mistakes, get them removed from our lives and have the ability to change. But it starts with this truth – you are not a good person, and yet – 

You are more loved than you could ever imagine.

There is a God that exists. He knows everything about you. All your dreams, all your hopes, all the beautiful service that you give to your son and husband on a daily basis. He cares about you deeply. He knows what makes you laugh, what makes you feel alive and what causes hope, joy and gratitude to rise up in your heart. He knit you together – creating you to be the exact person that he intended you to be. There has never been anyone else throughout history like you. You are unique and you are made in the image of God – designed to bring him great pleasure and joy. He knows what you’ve good at and the strengths of your personality.

He loves you.

Do you know the way you look at your son with love and pride and joy and amazement? That is how God longs to see you. He wants to be your father and he wants you to live your life as his child. He wants you to be in relationship with him.

He offers you a relationship with him – you can know God personally if you want. Are you interested?

Well there’s a way that can happen – or more accurately there’s a person that can make that happen – Jesus, God’s son.

You see, God is a God of justice. That means he cannot sweep our sin under the carpet and act like these injustices are unimportant. And believe it or not this is good news. God knows about all the anger, selfishness and shame in your heart. He knows all about your life circumstances. He knows all about the ways in which you’ve been mistreated and he cares about your wounds. He knows you are a victim and his anger rages against the things that cause you harm in your life. He knows that you are also a perpetrator and he holds you to account for that. He’s a God of justice and he hates wrongdoing. But not just your own wrongdoing against others – also that wrong that’s been done against you. He’s the perfect judge who shows no favoritism.

So he did something amazing.

He needed a way to punish sin – to eradicate evil. A way for justice to be satisfied. He wanted to do that without making humanity face that themselves.

So rather than directing his anger at humanity – the cause of injustices – he did something extraordinary, something unlikely, something almost unbelievable.

God became a human being and was punished in the place of broken and sinful humanity.

You may have heard some stuff about Jesus Christ. That he lived 2000 years ago. That he walked around doing some miracles and teaching some stuff about God (even claiming to be God himself). That he died on the cross and came back to life again. You may have heard about it and thought, yes I’ve heard about it – but what does it have to do with me?

Let me tell you Mum From The Park (because you should not be defined as Mean Mum, your sin need not define you) – Jesus has everything to do with you. 

Jesus died so that you can be forgiven by God. And if God forgives you for every bad thing you’ve done in your life – then your debt has been cleared, your innocence has been declared and you can truly live regret free.

Imagine a court room – you are standing in the dock before God – the good and impartial judge. The list of your offences throughout your life are read out before him and you are asked if you have committed these acts and thoughts. You’re under oath and you answer “yes.” You are just about to be taken away to pay for your crimes but someone else steps in – a substitute in your place steps into the dock. He declares that he will accept the punishment for your crimes – he will pay in your place – and the judge accepts his life in place of yours.

That is the gospel.

You can go free – you can be forgiven – you can swap punishment for acceptance and relationship. You can be made right, clean, innocent and beautiful in the sight of God – now and forever.

Something better than “No regrets” can be yours. No guilt. Being declared innocent. That can actually be yours.

That is what’s available for you because of Jesus.

And not just that. When we begin a relationship with God, his Spirit comes to live within us, reassuring us that we are precious to God. Speaking beautiful truth of our worth over our voices of self-condemnation. And crucially – giving us the ability to change. He can heal our wounds, replace anger with peace, soothe our anxious souls with reassurance that God is for us. 

That is good news. And Mum From The Park that’s what I want you to know – now and forever more.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

 

If you liked this post, please consider sharing it, to let others hear about the good news too.

If you like this, please help others to see it by sharing...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someone

A Mean Mum, Mastitis and Mars Bars

A Mean Mum, Mastitis and Mars Bars

I wasn’t sure if I’d ever write this post, I wasn’t sure I could bring myself to, I wasn’t sure if I could bear to be this real… but we claim to believe that “the gospel of grace gloriously speaks into our messy lives” here at Gospel-Centred Parenting. So here we go, warts and all…

I (Cathy) went through a rough patch back in the New Year.

We’d had quite a good run I suppose. For six months the baby and the toddler synced naps for an hour or so every day (glory!!!). In the early days I’d sometimes nap too, but often I’d use that hour to do a job or two, and just rest with a coffee. It was a little respite in an otherwise long and exhausting day of looking after a young baby and a jealous and energetic toddler. I could cope with the days (often enjoy them in fact!) But that little break was really helpful for me to refuel and brace myself for the afternoon.

But suddenly everything changed; within the course of a few weeks…

  • The toddler got chickenpox (we were in quarantine for a week).
  • We went on holiday, and then the baby got chicken pox while we were away (we were in quarantine for another week).
  • I got mastitis (if you’ve never heard of this – think breast duct infection while being a breastfeeding mother – ouch!)
  • The toddler stopped napping but the baby didn’t stop his incessant night-feeding, resulting in sleep-deprivation and exhaustingly LOOONG days.
  • The toddler was 2.5 years old – cue tiny tyrant behaviour and many embarrassing social situations.

Then to top it off –

  • A mean mum yelled at me the park – we’ll get there later on…

Hence –

  • I was exhausted. I was sad. I was exhausted, it was making me sad.
  • I started gorging on Mars Bars  (for you non-Brits, all you need to know is that Mars Bars are basically 100% sugar… with a bit of fat thrown in the mix. Battered Mars Bars are a Glaswegian delicacy: I didn’t go that far).

In the space of a few weeks, my somewhat ordinary life had been turned upside down and I felt totally overwhelmed and like I couldn’t cope.

Let me explain to you what this felt like, because a list does not do the misery justice!

Mastitis is, for me, clear evidence of the fall! How can something as beautiful and natural like feeding your baby be such torture?! That horrendous infection was so debilitating.  I had never experienced feeling so unwell as a mother; how are you meant to look after two tiny dependent children, when you can’t even get down the stairs safely because you feel so faint?

Superhero Daddy flew in to save the day…but still, after he returned to work the exhausted lingered on for another week or so. Recovery was not helped by the fact that…

Just at the very time when I most needed the toddler to nap, he decided enough was enough and he would much rather be awake ALL DAY LONGGGGG. No respite and a grumpy, naughty “terrible two-er”.

But then I finally started to feel well again. “It’s ok”, I thought. “We’re through it”, I thought. “We’ve survived!” We’ve battled the chicken pox, the mastitis, the sleep-deprivation, the nap-loss, and now we’re feeling ready to go on an outing (we hadn’t done one of these for a while – apart from to nursery, to church and to visit family) and so, we decide to venture out to the park; at 4pm in the afternoon; the week that the toddler dropped his afternoon naps. I should have seen a disaster was waiting to happen, but alas…

There I was chatting to some friends as we congregate around the climbing frame, watching our little ones. At the time, my two-year old was going through quite an aggressive stage. Occasional hitting, pushing and “NO”-ing. Not OK behaviour, but age-appropriate I hear. To be expected I hear. They grow out of it I hear. It’s called the “terrible twos” I hear.

I don’t think the other mum had ever heard of it before. But I get ahead of myself.

I was watching the toddler and chatting to my friends (probably bemoaning the fact that I had just had mastitis) when the baby started crying. I took my eyes off the toddler and leaned down to pick up the screaming baby, I straightened back up again and BAM…

Mean mum was there, in my face, raising her voice.

“Your boy pushed my little boy” It started off, innocently enough. Oh I thought, she wants me to get the toddler to apologise. I call him over.

Oh no… I quickly realise. That’s not what she wants.

She just wants to have a go at me. Swear about my child. Humiliate me and try to provoke me to yell back at her. She’s aggressive. She’s intimating. She’s acting completely disproportionately to the situation.  She’s creating a scene – we’re surrounded by the post school-run crowd.

I was shell-shocked.

I have never had someone speak to me or my child like that.

What my toddler did may have been wrong (incidentally I didn’t even see the scuffle, as I was getting the baby out of his pram, although I don’t doubt that mean mum was telling the truth) – but her reaction, unlike my son’s – was not age-appropriate or defensible. It’s never ok to insult a tiny child in their hearing!

Well, I did what I always do in confrontational situations. I fled… I fought back the tears, grabbed my little boy and took him to a quiet corner of the play area to talk to him about his behaviour (and out of earshot of the mean mum).

After a bit more mouthing off, the mother cycled off, with her very embarrassed looking husband behind her.

It was so ridiculous, so disproportionate and so unexpected, that it sounds almost comical!

But the damage was done.

It was at an all-time-low for me as a parent. The whole incident was completely unexpected and mind-boggling to me. Perhaps if it had happened during a period of motherhood when everything had been going swimmingly then I could have coped fine. I would have considered it rude but I would have seen it in perspective – an overprotective mother taking out her anger on me. But the incident occurred right at the time when I was already feeling deflated, overwhelmed and utterly sleep-deprived.

I wasn’t in an emotionally stable place and her accusations really played on my mind and I started to internalise them. What she said about me and my son started to become how I viewed us too. I saw his aggressive behaviour as reflecting on me and my poor parenting (incidentally he is three now and has outgrown that aggressive phase). But at the time, there was no end in sight, and it got me down. I felt like a failure, and I wanted to withdraw from social settings.

It could have easily been a downward spiral.

But here’s what happened instead – God helped me out through different means of grace. God was kind to me and ministered through a number of very ordinary things. These were:

Friends

The incident happened in front of my friends. At first I felt that made the situation worse – how mortifying! But after the incident, they spoke truth to me, gave me perspective, helped me to see that this woman was acting irrationally and her opinion was not to be trusted. I’m so glad they were there – and as I replayed the situation in my head countless times after the incident, I clung to their words of advice and perspective.

Scott

Scott was great. He listened to me recount the scenario lots of times, he comforted me when I cried, he reminded me of all the great things that we cherish about our son, and he gave me perspective. And when I was still anxious and down about it several days after the incident, he patiently went through the whole process again and prayed that God would take my anxiety away.

Church

I didn’t want to go to church, because I didn’t want my son to be around other young children. I was afraid of another aggressive incident and I wanted to isolate us rather than allow us to be in a situation where he could act badly, embarrass me and quite simply cause a great deal of stress! But you can’t really opt out of church if your hubby is in church leadership. So I had no choice – and thank goodness I didn’t. Being in Christian community where you and your children are accepted regardless of your/their bad behaviour is freeing. And being exposed to the gospel is the best possible solution to every problem and every situation. Christian community and gospel exposure were exactly the antidote to my temptation to withdraw.

Mum

My mum lives abroad but had just come back to the UK the week of the incident. Sometimes what you need is a few day outings, a change of scene and a doting grandmother who thinks your children are cute, wonderful little creatures who are simply going through a phase. Compassion, encouraging words and a good giggle is sometimes what’s needed.

Nursery

A few days before the mastitis hit, we learnt that a local primary school  had some subsidized spots for 2-year olds. They were very cheap and the child care was exceptional – so we decided to put Reuben in for 6 hours a week. This was God’s grace to us! The following weeks of challenging behaviour, nap-dropping and my being ill, demonstrated just how much we needed some external support. This support exceeded our expectations. God used these 6 hours a week to help give me rest and crucially to stretch our son socially, behaviourally and academically – his aggressive behaviour diminished very quickly. Secular nursery has been used by God as a means of grace – common grace abounds in secular education – and we are deeply grateful!

Jesus

Of course all these means of grace come from Christ – who gives grace upon grace. It is the Spirit of  Jesus who speaks truth to us through the people around us (notice how in all of the sections above, God has used people to bring healing and truth to me, where circumstances and mean mum were only bringing condemnation).

So let this be my message to you.

Are you feeling alone? Condemned? Overwhelmed? Angry with your kids? Unable to cope? Down and anxious?

Then come to Christ – who is with you in the midst of it all. And expose yourself to his grace, by surrounding yourself by his people. Because we were never meant to do this parenting thing, or this life thing, or this being a Christian thing alone. 

So there we have it: “the gospel of grace gloriously speaks into our messy lives” yes it does… if we let it.

So there we go…. I actually wrote it… and I think I’ll probably publish it…

I can tell this story now. Now the baby sleeps through (some nights) and I feel refreshed. Now the two-year old is a three-year old and we’ve left that aggressive stage behind us. Now that I’m purging the mars bars from my diet. But you know what? I share this with you so that you know, whether you’re reading this while knee-deep in the messes and stresses of parenthood or whether you’re in a relatively easy/enjoyable stage – Jesus is enough. He’s always enough. He loves you when you feel strong. He loves you when you’re a mess – a leaky-boobed, leaky-eyed, barely-thinking-straight mess. He’s not phased. In fact, he’s compassionate. And he’s not going anywhere.

If you like this, please help others to see it by sharing...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someone

Our New Initiative…

Our New Initiative…

Something exciting is on the cards for Gospel-Centred Parenting.

We’ve thought for a long time that we’d like to do something more for the Gospel-Centred Parenting community than just write blog posts (though we hope you find them helpful!).

Ideas have buzzed around our heads – you might remember us talking about this back in our First Birthday Post.

Well for several months now, behind the scenes, we’ve been beavering away to try to make just one of these things a reality… and we’re getting close.

Our new product will be launching in the next month or so, and we couldn’t be more excited about it. Check out the picture below of Cathy and our designer meeting on the floor of our living room to work on it (Scott’s behind the camera!).

If you’d like to be kept in the loop, then check out our new page by clicking here, or sign up below to receive updates on how things are progressing.

We can’t wait to reveal more (but we’ll have to, because it’s not quite ready yet!).

If you like this, please help others to see it by sharing...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someone

5 Parenting Mistakes to Avoid | #5 Fearing the Worst

5 Parenting Mistakes to Avoid | #5 Fearing the Worst

I wonder what it is for you?

Is it when you hear about parents dropping their children from the windows of a burning tower block? Is it when you hear of an 8-year old dying in a terrorist attack at a music concert? Is it when you think about Brexit negotiations, expensive university tuition fees, a housing shortage and your inability to get on the housing ladder?

What is it that brings you fear as a parent?

The above examples are all current issues occupying the headlines and, to be frank, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, scared and saddened for the world that our children will grow up in.

No matter your personality type, your life experience, or the strength of your faith, as soon as you get that positive pregnancy test, fear creeps into your life. Because now you are not only concerned about your own needs but also for those of your children.

This is the fifth and final part in our “Parenting Mistakes to Avoid” series where we explore how the gospel is the answer to the mistakes that we often make as parents. This isn’t about the “Oops! We’ve given the baby too much salt” kind of mistakes. Rather it’s the mistake of forgetting the gospel in all the different ways we do: the deep-rooted-heart-issue-mistakes like feeling excessive guilt, feeling like our identity is bound up with that of our children, discontentment, competitiveness and others…

So today we are exploring mistake number 5: fearing the worst.

For us personally, we are fearful about the teenage years and our boy’s experience of secondary school. We hear radio documentaries about the bullying epidemic, or we watch TED talks about teenage mental health, or we learn that the only secondary school that we are keen on, has just this week, been put into “special measures” by Ofsted – and we fret. We’re afraid of the many damaging influences outside of the home and we start to feel fearful about their wellbeing and spiritual development. It may a decade away, but already we can be fearful at times.

Fear can lead us to react in all sorts of ways. Let’s explore some of them:

1. Disengage and retreat

The world can be a sad and scary place. Unfortunately this has always been the way ever since the Fall – when humanity turned it’s back on God. Ever since that moment when human beings decided to reject a relationship with their loving creator, the world has been broken and relationships fractured.

It can be tempting to think that we should just turn off the news, stop being aware of the suffering of huge swathes of humanity and get on with living our own little lives. As ordinary citizens we feel disenfranchised, and so we disengage and retreat. We withdraw ourselves and our children from the mess of other people’s lives and society. Rather than being a light on a hill we let our light be snuffed out by the overwhelming darkness. We become about self-preservation rather than self-sacrifice. So rather than exposing our children to the brokenness of the world in a safe environment, we wrap them up in cotton wool.

2. Anxiety and overprotection

Or perhaps we don’t disengage. We engage. We are aware. But this leads to anxiety and to being overprotective parents. It can be in the little things – we watch our child’s every move on the climbing frame, hovering over them and intervening in every dispute. Or perhaps we don’t let them go on that school trip because we’re afraid of them getting hurt. We are paranoid about them, we often glance at their smartphones, we don’t allow them to spend much time with peers, we watch the clock with nervousness and contemplate the worst possible scenario in our head.

But there is another way… It’s not easy – it’s not always simple. And at times we we will get it wrong and make the wrong judgement call.

We should aim to engage with the world we live in, inform our children about the brokenness in age-appropriate ways and crucially, offer gospel hope and action.

Because in the end… without the hope of the gospel, the darkness of fear and dread can engulf us. But we are not without the gospel! 

The Gospel is true and it’s wonderfully Good News

So here’s the alternative: Gospel hope, leading to courage, prayer and action.

Do you know that we are told over 100 times in the Bible to “Fear not”, “Do not fear” and “be not afraid”? Why would this be the case? God knows our predisposition towards fear, but he knows that it need not be our reaction. We have a God who is loving and in control. Not a single atom in this universe can move even a fraction without his permission. What’s more, we’ve been told the outcome of all things ahead of time. We know the future before it will happen – the Bible tells us.

God will not allow the suffering, pain and sadness to last forever, he will bring an end to it, and remake the world in perfection. There will be a day when God will come back to judge the world, and on that day justice will be done, and those sheltered by the grace of Jesus Christ will live forever in the perfect New Creation.

Whether our fears are founded or not, whether we fret about hypothetical situations or real troubles, we can be sure of this, in the end, Jesus wins.

We may have some cause to be afraid in this world, but we can take comfort from Jesus, who before facing the most terrifying experience in this world – the cross and judgement of God – selflessly looked to the needs of his fearful disciples.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

John 14:1-3

You see, there was nothing more terrifying to the disciples then their leader, Jesus, being killed. What would they do without him? How long would it be before the religious authorities would come after them too? They had good reason to fear. And yet it was unnecessary. Why? Because Jesus would be victorious over death, and he promises eternal life for all who follow him.

Jesus doesn’t sugar coat what it’s like to live in this broken world, “In this world you will have trouble” but he does offer hope in the midst of it, “Take heart! I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33)

So where does that leave us?

There are many things that can cause both us and our children to fear. Some of them are justified and real threats. Some of them are just in our heads and imaginations (I’m thinking about our toddlers recent nightmares about “the scary owl!”). But whether true threats or imaginary, Christ is victorious over them all. We need not fear because we believe in the one who looked fear itself in the eye and overcame it.

This is the gospel. This is what gives us hope. And it is knowing this God which enables us lift our heads, to pray into the situations around us, and practically give, serve, act to bring light into dark places.

We as Christians should be the biggest activists for good. We should be the most generous. Most fearless. Most hopeful. Yes the world is a scary place, but anytime that we feel that dread creep into our hearts we need to look to Jesus – our hope and our refuge.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!”

(Jesus Christ, in John 16:33)

“How sweet the name of Jesus sounds, in a believer’s ear! It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, and drives away his fear.”

John Newton

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

That’s the end of our series “5 Parenting Mistakes To Avoid” – we hope you enjoyed it! If you did, we’d love it if you would share it with others.

If you missed any of the previous posts, check out the related posts below and go back and read through some of them.

 

If you like this, please help others to see it by sharing...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someone

Are you ready for Father’s Day?

Are you ready for Father’s Day?

Tomorrow it’s Father’s Day.

Father’s day is an annual event – it’s a day set aside to celebrate and honour Fathers. It’s a day that is celebrated in many countries across the world (mainly on the third Sunday in June, though this does vary), and it seems that in some places it has been celebrated since as far back as the Middle Ages.

The origins of the day vary from country to country… apparently in France it came about because in 1949 a company selling lighters wanted to increase their sales – father’s who were most deserving of winning a lighter were to be put forward, and the winner was decided on la Fête des Pères (Father’s Day), the third Sunday in June. This date officially became Father’s day in France 3 years later.

There are various traditions associated with the day, but in most cultures it includes children spending time with their father, and giving gifts. In Germany, it’s traditional for groups of men, on Father’s day, to go on a hike pulling small wagons with wine or beer. It’s often used as an opportunity to get drunk. This tradition may find its roots in the 18th century, where Christians performed ascension day processions in farmlands. Men would be seated in a wooden cart and carried in to the village plaza where the mayor would be waiting to award a large piece of ham to the father with the most children!

So why are we telling you these things about Father’s Day here on Gospel-Centred Parenting (other than the fact that it’s mildly interesting)?

Well we thought it would be good for us to think about three ways that we can help our children engage with the gospel on the occasion of Father’s day.

  1. The reality of fatherhood should serve as a picture for us, pointing to and telling us something about what our God is like. Isn’t it incredible that our God chooses to identify himself as a father – as Father of Jesus, and (through adoption) as our father too! Father’s Day must be his day too then – why not develop a tradition with your children that will help you to remember that Father’s day is His day first? Be creative with what that could be…
  •  Maybe pray to him over breakfast, giving thanks for your adoption?
  • Or make it a tradition to bake a cake and decorate it with the words “Happy Father’s day, God!”.
  • Perhaps you could always give a small financial gift to a charity working in something close to our Father God’s heart – mission work, or something working with widows and orphans?
  • Or maybe you could just make sure you always buy a Father’s Day card for God too, and get your children to write in it something that they’re grateful to their Father God for from the past year?
  1. Help your children be grateful for fathers. If the father is still present in your children’s life, that is a kind gift of God and you shouldn’t take it for granted, and nor should your children. Broken marriages are tragic and prevalent in our society, and other families have lost fathers through death. Help your child to be grateful for their father, if he’s still present. in their lives. 
  2. The gospel should work out into our lives to give us compassion like our heavenly Father. So if your children are old enough, help them to pray for children who are without a father. Similarly, if there are couples you know who have been unable to have children, pray for them. Or pray for single men in your circle of relationships – in your church or neighbourhood or friendship group – for some of them who long for children of their own Father’s Day may be a hard day as it highlights to them the lack of their own children. Maybe you could make it a tradition for your family to include some of these people in your day somehow? Have them round for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Organise an annual walk and make sure to invite some of those who might be struggling with Father’s day.

Father’s day is something that will come around every year. Why not try to help the gospel shape the day and thus make it a day that will help you and your children grow in your appreciation of the gospel, and in their gospel-heartedness.

Do you have any more ideas for a gospel-centred Father’s Day? Why don’t you let us know what you’re getting up to tomorrow, by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

 

If you like this, please help others to see it by sharing...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someone

An open letter to our three year old child…

An open letter to our three year old child…

Little man,

It’s been three years since you made us parents.

Three years since you made the switch from the inside of mummy’s tummy to the outside of it… where they lay you.

You were pretty blue and slimey and you had a loud cry. But then you settled.

Mummy and Daddy were a bit terrified too… but then we settled.

You were ok. Mummy was ok. It was all going to be ok.

And Daddy wanted to cry because he was so relieved.

And once the medical staff had done their stuff, and the visitors had come and gone, it was just the three of us.

It had been quite an exhausting day – the day you journeyed to your life on the outside – and you were breathing heavily and fast asleep; wearing your little hat and swaddled in blankets like a miniature mummy. Your face was perfect. Like a little cherub. And we couldn’t help but kiss your cheeks – soft like a peach.

Mummy was desperate to be fast asleep too – but Daddy was too excited. He said, “Before we go to sleep let’s pray.” And he thanked God for your precious life and for bringing you safely into the world.

That was three years ago.

How was that three years ago?

Sometimes we wish that you would stop growing. But with each stage of your development we get to see more of the awesome person that God has created you to be.

Little man, you have a thirst for life that we’ve never seen before. You are enthusiastic and throw yourself (sometimes literally!) into everything you do.

You love people, like really love people. You come alive when other people are around, and you have an amazing confidence to make new people feel welcome and wanted – often kissing and cuddling guests who come to our home. And you’re thoughtful in a way we didn’t think possible from a three year old – today you exclaimed as Nanny came through the door, “It’s Nanny!!! – Do you want a coffee Nanny?” We didn’t teach you that… that thoughtfulness came from you. We wish we had that same hospitable instinct; we’ve got lots to learn from you little chap.

At the moment you love super heroes, imaginary play and toilet humour. And because we are pretty keen on you son…we’re into them too.

We are infinitely grateful to God for his grace – giving us countless blessings through the pleasure of knowing you and sharing our lives with you. Being your parents has taught us so much about God’s Father-heart towards us his children, and about his willingness to give grace to undeserving people who ask him for his help.

And now Son, we want to pray this for you; entrusting you into the hands of your heavenly Father – who is a much better parent than we are.

Loving Father,

Thank you sooooo much (This is how little chap starts his prayers) for blessing us with our son.

We thank you for all the joy, giggles, snuggles and fun times we have with him. Thank you for his personality – that he’s lively and happy and loves people.

Thank you for how you have been at work in him by answering our prayers. Thank you for how he is growing in his interest and love of you. Thank you for how he is feeling sadness over his sin. Thank you that Jesus’ sacrifice in his place means that he if offered full and free forgiveness – and may he grow more and more in his love and understanding of this gospel truth everyday.

And Father we ask, that our boy will grow up to do more for you than we ever could.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

We love you to the moon and back little chap,

With love,

Daddy and Mummy xxx

 

 

 

 

If you like this, please help others to see it by sharing...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someone

Chasing “Likes” – Children, Photos and Social Media

Chasing “Likes” – Children, Photos and Social Media

Social media is, in and of itself, neutral. It’s a human invention enabling us to connect with other human beings. It can be used for immense good. It can be used for immense evil. And pretty much everything in between.

As a species we are still trying to get our heads round the impact that social media is having on our relationships, our leisure time and on our mental well being. The impact of social media will no doubt be the topic of many a PhD paper in the years to come – it’s probably already begun.

We are still playing catch up, but inevitably it will be our children who are most up-to-date with the apps, trends and technology of the day. They are the ones acutely exposed to online dangers such as cyber bullying, graphic pornography, online predators, and websites promoting anorexia, self-harm and suicide. Even more tame uses of social media like scrolling through Instagram can have a detrimental impact on mental health, studies have found.

It’s a complex topic, and it’s an area where we as parents need to be vigilant, informed and keep the lines of communication open with our children.

So we’ve made a decision.

Our children are only tiny. We have a baby and a pre-schooler. They don’t use social media yet and they have no control over what is posted on social media. A lot of the complex issues discussed above don’t actually have any bearing on their lives yet.

But…

We’ve made a decision on their behalf…

We’re removing all the photos of our boys faces and their names from our Gospel-Centred Parenting website and from our social media accounts. (On the date of publication of this post, we’ve started the process and will hopefully get it finished in the next couple of weeks)

It’s a costly decision in a way, because we think they are super cute! We think they are (probably) the cutest children alive (we may be somewhat biased!) and we like other people to think so too.

Not only do we like other people’s approval of our children but there’s also external pressure.

Lots of parent-bloggers include pictures and the names of their children on social media – and you know what? They are usually the most successful bloggers. People like looking at cute kids, especially parents, it sort of goes with the “audience” you are trying to reach. It helps people feel more personally connected to us as bloggers, and will help our “audience” feel more loyal to us (or so those-who-know say).

But we’ve been reflecting on why we started our blog in the first place, and we realized that it was to help us reflect on our parenting in light of the gospel, so that we would do the best possible job of raising our boys. That was our objective then, and we still want that to be our objective now.

So – we want to strive to honour our children in the way that we blog. We love to keep it real, so we will share anecdotes about our kids – but always in a way which honours them as people deserving respect and privacy.

Are we saying that everyone who posts pictures of their children on their blogs and social media are making a terrible choice? Absolutely not! If you love showing off your children to your friends and family then that’s totally cool (and in fact we will do the same on our personal social media accounts). But in the end, when it comes to our blog, we don’t want our sons growing up and resenting us for oversharing their childhood in such a way that a simple google search will give their school peers plenty of ammunition for banter or bullying. We’re sure others do it in a way that avoids that, but for us, we don’t even want to entertain the possibility.

Because, in the end, our kids are too awesome and valuable for that.

Their long-term good is more important than our short-term self-gratification of a few likes, followers and nice comments.

This will be a provocative post in a way – we imagine that people will either love it or hate it depending on what their own stance is.

What we don’t want is for people to feel condemned!

As we mentioned above, we are removing these images from the website (hence we previously had them up for the world to see!) because we’ve had a change of heart and we’ve felt convicted to change our approach. And yet we will continue to post pictures that don’t show their faces on here, and we’ll continue to share more personal photos on our private accounts.

There’s no-one-size-fits-all to how you represent your children on social media, but here are a few questions you could ask yourself when you next go to share something with the cyber-world.

  • How will my child feel about this image being on the internet in the future?
  • Why am I posting this image/anecdote? Is it for their benefit or my own?
  • Is there any personal information here which could put my child in danger?
  • Where do I get my source of approval, love, acceptance and joy from? Answer: The Gospel of Jesus!

So there you have it… our personal opinion about safeguarding our children on social media.

What is your approach? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below.

 

 

If you like this, please help others to see it by sharing...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someone

Weaponizing your children

Weaponizing your children

Some people use their children as weapons.

They use them as a way to hurt others, or as a way defend themselves. You’ve probably met a parent like that. Maybe you’ve been tempted that way yourself?

Here’s the thing. There’s a sense in which the Bible says that our children are to be used a bit like weapons.

Intrigued? Then read on.

Take a look at these verses:

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.
 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.

We’ve been struck at the imagery of children being “like arrows”. It’s an interesting choice of simile.

An arrow isn’t designed to stay in the quiver. It’s good to have a quiver full, but only so that they can be sent out.

Arrows are meant to fly away from the quiver as the bow sends them out.

It’s interesting that the verses don’t say “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like trophies on your shelf” or “Like money inside your wallet”.

Why would this be this case?

Because children are not meant to remain dependent and cloistered up in our possession. They are not designed to be cooped up forever – they are designed to fly from the nest. The ideal is that they become independent, responsible and purposeful (an arrow is sent out of the quiver for a purpose, and noticeably sent out by another – “the warrior”).

Or to reflect on another metaphor…we all know that the nurturing of the mother-bird and safety of her nest are essential for the chicks to grow and develop. But we also know that it would be unnatural for the mother bird to try and sit on her growing chicks and prevent their efforts to fly from the nest. It would be unnatural – it would be unhealthy for the chick and for the mother-bird. It could result in the chick’s death. No, the healthy and natural way of things is for the chick to find their wings and with the mother’s encouragement to have the courage to step out of the nest and fly into the sky of opportunity.

So, if the end goal is independent, responsible and purposeful adults who will fly our nests – how do we begin to see our children in that way now?

If the goal is that we send our children out with a purpose, like a warrior sends out his arrows, then how do we prepare ourselves and them starting now?

Perhaps a change of mindset is needed for you – perhaps you’re tempted to treat your children as your trophies. Perhaps they are there to show off your achievement as a parent.

Perhaps you’re tempted to treat your children like a coin in your wallet – you see that they are precious and that makes you want to cling onto them.

Well the beginning of this Scripture can help us with that:

“Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.”

Ultimately our children are from God. He created them and he gave us the immense privilege of caring for them, but they don’t belong to us, they’re not our property to treat as we see fit.

Our children are from him. Our purpose in raising them is to get them ready to live independently for the Lord. When they have left our care we want them to be living with purpose for God – loving his church, reaching the lost, serving the poor. That’s what we are designed for – that’s what they are designed for.

In the end, while children can bring us great personal joy and pleasure, they are not given to us simply for that purpose – they are to be given back to God for his service. Arrows in his quiver to be sent out for his kingdom.

Perhaps this sounds hard and counter-intuitive. Well we can take great comfort that God is more of a loving parent than we ever could be. We can know that the God who calls us to send our children out, is the God who sent his Son out. He’s the God who did not spare his Son, but gave him up for us. He is the God who so loved the world he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

And as we send our children out to independence and adulthood we know that the indwelling Spirit of God goes with our children protecting and providing for them all the way.

So don’t be afraid to weaponize your children… just make sure you do it in the right way.

If you like this, please help others to see it by sharing...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someone

The Secret to Great Parenting

The Secret to Great Parenting

What’s the secret to great parenting?

It may surprise you.

We recently went to some parenting seminars by Julian and Debbie Hardyman.

We sat in our seats waiting in anticipation for what they were going to say… What approach would they take? What new kernels of wisdom could we glean from these seasoned parents?

Their intro took us by surprise!

They said something which was pretty liberating, surprising and well…obvious!

They said that there’s no silver bullet for parenting, no secret formula which needs to be found for success, they said that they weren’t going to say anything new.

This is what they said.

Are you ready for it?

They said…

Parenting is really pretty simple but very hard to actually do!

Simple but hard.

The Bible says provide for your kids, love them, discipline them and tell them about Jesus.

It’s not rocket science.

It’s not a secret at all.

But it’s hard.

It’s hard to do consistently. It’s hard to die a thousand deaths to yourself in order to serve your children. It’s hard to sacrifice your own comfort for the sake of your little ones. It takes energy. It takes effort. It takes time.

We found this a really liberating truth to hear.

In a media-saturated culture, envy and comparison in our parenting styles can be so pervasive. It’s easy (in the midst of all the parenting fads that come and go) to be fearful. It’s easy to panic that we must discover the perfect approach to parenting and that if we don’t, we’ll mess up our children. How wonderful that this isn’t the case!

We already know what to do – the Bible tells us.

Provide for our kids, love them, discipline them and point them to Jesus.

That will look different in each family and that’s also wonderfully liberating.

What works in your family, with your personalities and lifestyle will look very different to how we do it our family. But you can be sure of this, in every family, parenting sinful kids will require following simple principles which are actually very hard to do.

We as human parents follow in the footsteps of our heavenly Father God. You would imagine that it would be a simple thing for the all powerful creator of the universe to parent the children that he made. He knows how to provide, to love and to discipline – perfectly. For God, parenting is simple.

But you know what? Parenting is hard for him too. You see his children (a.k.a us)  are pretty troublesome and stubborn.

As a good parent, God provides for us. He loves us, and he gives us boundaries to live our lives by and consequences when we stray outside of those boundaries. But we resist his kind parenting of us at every point. This is called sin.

Like a good Father, God decided not to abandon his children but to do everything within his power to change their hearts and to eradicate sin. It was an easy decision – he loves us, he was committed to winning us back.

But it was hard. It was costly. It required sacrifice, effort and commitment. In fact it was harder than we can imagine.

God decided to send his only begotten son Jesus to take the consequence of sin upon himself. Jesus died in the place of sinful human beings, as their substitute. He did this so that sinful human beings could be forgiven and brought back into relationship with their Heavenly Father. Now God’s children are reunited with their Father, through faith in Jesus.

So there we have it. The secret to great parenting? There isn’t one. Do the things that the Bible calls us to in whatever way works best in your situation.

Knowing what we need to do is simple. Actually doing it can be very hard.

But we model ourselves on the best parent – our Father in heaven. As creator of all, knowing how to parent us was simple. But actually doing it was very hard. The cost was bigger than we could ever imagine. So let’s parent our children empowered by his Spirit, reliant on him in the difficult times.

Parenting: simple but hard.

If you like this, please help others to see it by sharing...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someone

Gospel in the Everyday | Tears

Gospel in the Everyday | Tears

If you’re a parent you’ll be acquainted with tears.

Tears of joy when the two lines appear on the test. Tears when the hormones surge and you feel overwhelmed at all the changes that are happening to your body. Tears of gratitude when you see the vertebrae of your baby’s spine on the scan. Tears when they wiggle and kick inside you just as you were afraid of the worst. Tears when the contractions get stronger. Tears when the pushing gets tougher. Tears when the baby gulps down their first breath and screams at the top of their lungs. Tears when they lie peacefully in their cot next to you and you think, “They’re actually here, I’ve never seen anything more beautiful in my life.”

Tears. Tears. Tears.

Tears when the social worker asks intrusive questions and makes you doubt your suitability for adoption. Tears of fear before your interview with the panel. Tears after an argument because the pressure and uncertainty is straining your marriage. Tears when weeks roll into months and you still haven’t had the phone call of the perfect match. Tears when you meet your child for the first time. Tears when you take them home and show them their bedroom, and introduce them to the dog, and tell them where their toys are. Tears of relief when you get the court ruling that you are the legal parent.

Tears. Tears. Tears.

Tears of frustration when they defy you for the millionth time because “no” they do not want to eat their cereal and would much rather scream at the top of their lungs. Tears of fear when they have disappeared and you can’t find them and you know there’s a busy road outside… and tears of relief when you find them hiding in the food cupboard! Tears of sadness when they are left out and rejected by their peers. Tears of joy when they sing in the school play. Tears of pride when they finally learn to ride their bike without stabilisers.

Tears of disappointment when they lie to you. Tears of worry when they retreat into themselves and keep you locked out of their heart and room. Tears of anger when they treat you appallingly. Tears of fear when they don’t come home when you are expecting them and they don’t answer their phone. Tears of pride when they pass their driving test. Tears of joy when they are wearing their gown and hat and you’re not entirely sure how it’s happened but your baby is a (somewhat!) responsible adult who can live independently and who has just graduated with a degree. Tears of sorrow and joy as they say their wedding vows.

Tears. Tears. Tears.

The life of the parent is a life marked by tears.

The life of a child is a life marked by tears.

Tears express lots of things for a child.

Hungry tummy, scared to be alone, teething pain, scraped knees, hurtful words, losing a game, disappointment, sickness bug, being disciplined, failing, being left out, nightmares, chicken pox, braking an arm, having to share, injections, facing exams… so many reasons to cry. Life is hard. Kids learn that pretty quickly.

Tears. Tears. Tears.

The other day that familiar sound rang through our house. Running feet, head impacting wood and an almighty scream! Our pre-schooler picked himself up and started running again, this time to me. He buried his face in my neck. Between sobs he exclaimed  “kiss me better!” So I did what any parent would. I kissed his head. I held him until his body stopped shaking. I told him I was here with him. And I waited for the sobbing to subside. Then when he had quietened down I looked at his face. Red. Blotchy. Wet. I wiped away his tears and kissed his cheeks. The salty taste lingered on my lips and in my mind I was transported to a future moment.

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

Revelation 21

You see our parental instinct to kiss away the pain and wipe away the salty tears is just a tiny reflection of the Father-heart of God. God collects our tears in a bottle and keeps track of our sorrows (Psalm 56:8). And one day he will wipe away every tear from the eyes of his children – forever. He can wipe them away forever because he is recreating this world into a world where all the sad things will end. Where, as Samwise Gamgee wonderfully puts it, all sad things will come untrue.

There are some lovely things in life that bring tears of happiness. But many tears of pain are shed too. It’s a sad reality of life.

For now.

But one day that will no longer be the case.

So next time you wipe away your child’s tears (or even one of your own), let it be a gentle yet wonderful reminder to you of the gospel. Let it remind you that God sees your tears. Let it remind you that God sympathises with you as the one who knows our suffering and has been there with us. And let it remind you that God will one day wipe away the final tear of sadness from your eyes, and then tears will be no more.

Come Lord Jesus.

This is part of our “Gospel In The Everyday” series where we explore how everyday, ordinary moments point us to the comfort, hope and joy of the good news of Jesus. Click here to read the introduction to this series. 

If you like this, please help others to see it by sharing...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someone