See this gorgeous cross? It is one of my favorites hanging in my home, yet every time I look at it I tell myself I need to “better” it. You see, although it is beautiful, it is not securely fastened to the wall. It was never positioned or measured perfectly. No time was taken to evaluate its aesthetic location. I simply hung it up. In fact, it is hanging on a leftover nail that the previous owners pounded in the wall to hang their wall ornament. If the door next to this wall slams, the cross rattles and can shift to hang crooked. It has never fallen down, but I know I need to rehang it on a stronger bigger nail. I need to secure it for myself…not using someone else’s ideal.
This past weekend I attended a Mom’s Heart conference in Dallas with speaker and author, Sally Clarkson. INCREDIBLE!! In one session, her 20 year old daughter spoke to us moms, offering advice to make our children S.T.R.O.N.G. as they head out into the world on their own. Here is a peek into her insights:
S = SKILLS
Teach your children skills and basic training to survive in CONFIDENCE. Besides the basics of laundry, cooking, car maintenance, cleaning, first aid, etc…teach them to SERVE others. And in doing so, they grow their conversation skills, see various perspectives of life and learn to operate in unfamiliar territories. They also discover what they enjoy, what they are good at, and what they need to relinquish to others. They become the hands and feet of Jesus and this enhances their faith and all that God has called us to do.
T = CHARACTER TRAINING
Do you know what your children believe and the choices they will make under chaotic situations? Having a strong heart of character prevents them from caving in and having the ability to stand up and say, “No!” – which is learned from parents saying “No” and explaining how consequences occur. We need to teach our children how to live life with integrity. Discuss topics such as drinking, telling white lies, having sex, driving fast, establishing bed times, going to church, spending money… You may THINK you know their perspectives, but are they based on your ideals or based on what your children actually feel? And why? Teach them early that “right is always right even when you are standing alone” and “wrong is always wrong even if the world chooses to do so.” Play the “what then?” game: Ok, if you choose this option, then what could happen? Then what? Then what? Let them play out the scenario to the fullest so they see all the effects that COULD happen to not only themselves, but others around them. And in the process, they will stretch their thinking/evaluating and you may discover a new side of your children and a few new methods to get from A-Z.
R = RELATIONAL HELP
Hebrews 12 reminds us to “forget what lies behind and press forward.” Whether you as a family or individual have experienced abuse, negativity, oppression or any kind of consequences, teach your children to strive forward and claim hope. Do not let YOUR past transfer onto your children as they run their own race and start their lives fresh. Do not taint their decisions based on what happened to you or your fears. Surround yourself with supportive friends, wise counsel, medical help is needed…and move forward with excitement in all the Lord has planned for you! Memorize Jeremiah 29:11 with passion!
O = OWNERSHIP
In a world full of “I have rights!” and “I’m offended!” make sure your children realize that their actions have consequences, both negative and positive. Everything they say and do WILL affect others, so make sure grace and kindness lead the way. Also teach your children that they were made by God very uniquely; each person has a specific personality laced with individual quirks FOR A REASON. God needs them to BE that way in order to reach certain others for Him. Their talents and thoughts will be different; their ways of learning will be varied. IT IS OKAY! Allow your children to EMBRACE how God made them and use it for His plan and purpose. As a parent, instead of trying to curb them and make them fit into “normal” boxes, let them see/do differently as they are designed so they excel and are confident about themselves.
N = NURTURE
When planting a garden, we need to understand the soil content, amount of water needed, weather conditions and timing. All of these learned factors change when we move locations and/or meet new people. Same goes for our children; they will not be in the same “soil” for their whole lives. Teach them now to adapt to various situations/people. Visit homeless shelters, other churches, friends’ homes, museums, cities vs small towns, etc…widen their COMFORT ZONES. Introduce them to various degrees of everything to grow their emotional, relational, communal and spiritual sides so when they enter the world by themselves, they are not hindered, shocked or uncomfortable. Let them see how the world works together (or needs to) to accomplish unity, progress and peace.
G = GOD
- A) Give your children God; teach them morals and scripture. Apply Jesus to everyday life and not just Sundays. Give them inspiration to help them realize that God is MUCH bigger than our human sight. Live out your faith before them so they can see how to do it themselves. The Proverbs are FULL of one-liners and wisdom for all situations in life. Read one chapter a day every month and see God in your home/school/job. What lessons can you learn now to help as you branch out?
- B) Give God your children; He loves them more than you do and He has AMAZING plans for them! If God is big enough for you/helping you through your problems, realize that He is big enough for them as well. He is the same God yesterday, today and tomorrow. We messed up and He brought us around; He will do the same for them. Encourage your children to keep working through their problems and when they question their faith – IT IS OKAY. Researching makes us stronger, discovering WHY we believe what we do.
Empower your children by reminding them of His faithfulness, His plans and their learned skills. Settle their questions and fears by VALIDATING them and not ignoring them. Share stories of your own past fears and how God answered. We all have testimonies – USE THEM!
My oldest child used to be a toddler, now she is spreading her wings and heading off to college in five months. Because she is so excited, I am also. But there are times when my chest cramps with panic and I cannot breathe; I cannot imagine her NOT being downstairs every morning at the breakfast table. I cannot imagine her not sharing her day as we snuggle on my bed with two puppies. I cannot imagine strangers taking my private listening spot as she shares exciting discoveries and insights about her new life. Since the day she was born, I have whispered the prayer, “Oh Jesus, let her grow to love You even more that I do!” Soon I will see the fruits of my prayer in new ways. I will see her meet new people, learn new concepts, test her integrity, share her kindness and breathe in every new day that God gives her. And in doing so, she will have to stand on her own and live out her faith without me around. She will take her life and her faith and move into a new home; she will establish her own secure dwelling based on her perspective and choices. Her choices may be good at first, then become better as pressures hit and she grows into her adult life. Her faith may reflect mine, but she will need to choose her own path, her own beliefs and her own positions. Unlike my cross on the wall, in order to stand firm and be grounded, she will need to rest on the strongest nail…her One and Only.
“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him. Let your roots grow deep down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7)