The Santa Push

Santa…I know.  I’m going there, but I promise I’m not going in the direction you think.  I don’t plan on shaming anyone for teaching their kids about Santa or NOT teaching their kids about Santa.  I think it’s a very personal family choice. 

My parents actually taught me that Santa Claus wasn’t real.  I didn’t go blabbing it to other kids and ruin it for them.  We were told that other kids believed and that it was ok, that we shouldn’t ruin that experience for them.  And I turned out relatively normal.  In turn, even though I didn’t want to teach my children about Santa Claus, I got outvoted and Santa became a thing.  (My family used to get a kick out of the cheapest thing being from Santa under the tree, because I wasn’t having a “fake fat guy in a suit taking credit for the cool stuff I bought!”)

I’ve seen parents go to great lengths to promote the Christmas tradition of both Santa Claus and Elf on a Shelf.  Letters written from them.  Footprints of powdered sugar or in the snow.  One parent threw Raisinettes on the ground to look like…you know what.  I’ve heard parents ‘scare’ their children into behavior with the Elf/Santa.  If I had a penny for every time I heard “Don’t make me tell Santa” in a store, I’d have my house and car paid off.

As I was thinking about this dilemma recently of do you or don’t you, I thought about how we teach our children about the Bible.  Here’s my question.  Are we that fervent about making sure our children are equally/more invested in the Truth?

We are to be raising up our children in the knowledge of the Lord.  They should know what the Bible says and what God asks of us in the Word.  And Jesus himself talked about having a child-like faith and didn’t want anyone hindering children from coming to Him.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. –Proverbs 22:6

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. –Deuteronomy 6:6-7

And calling to Him a child, He put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” –Matthew 18:2-4

Children are sponges.  They are alert and ready to learn from you!  I think we need to be just as involved and more in teaching our children about God and His creation as we are about touching the Elf on the Shelf and making his magic disappear. 

This month is a perfect opportunity to leave verses on cards with your Elf to discuss the impending birth of our Savior.  Maybe you read the book about Santa but make sure you’ve got another one that gears them up for the wisemen finding baby Jesus in the stable.  Use your Fisher Price farm set to show them the donkey and cow around the hay as they prepare the arrival of Mary and Joseph.  There are so many ways for a fun approach to learning about what this season truly is.  It doesn’t have to be heavy.  We just have to be doing it!

I pray that as we approach this Christmas, we find the right balance in training our children about who God is and what He has done for us with the sentimental Christmas traditions that bring joy and whimsy to this season!

~Erin

The Syrup-Creamer Difference

Every once in a while, my 9-year-old asks to add a splash of coffee to his hot chocolate in the morning.  And every once in a while I allow him to do so.

This morning, he asked if he could pour some coffee.  In a horrible mothering moment, I assumed he meant pour a small amount into his hot chocolate, as he had done before. Instead, he poured himself a full cup and then proceeded to add “vanilla creamer.” 

A few moments later, he brought me his cup and asked, “Why doesn’t it taste like yours?”

I took a sip and discovered it was pure coffee…with a VERY large helping of vanilla coffee syrup.  Not, creamer.  

Have you ever tried to substitute syrup for creamer?  In my opinion, it was disgusting!  Substitutes may taste slightly the same, but there are distinct differences.  

The same is true with God.  There are seasons of our lives that we make slight adjustments to our walk with God.  

Some adjustments may include the amount of time we spend in prayer, or the time of day we spend in prayer.  Those substitutes may be exchanging time reading a fiction novel for the time to read the Bible.  Perhaps I skip the pedicure and instead go serve at the community center. 

But what about when we substitute our Bible study time for shopping on line? When we sacrifice prayer time for reading a magazine?  When we choose to fiddle with the radio nob rather than take a moment to pray for the homeless person on the side of the road?

Sometimes the substitutes are for the better, sometimes for the worse.  Some are syrup and some are creamer. 

Take a moment this week and assess what is being substituted in your life…is it better or worse for your relationship with God.  I’ll be praying that you have healthy substitutes and grow closer to the Lord.  

~Emily

The Balance In Children’s Salvation

It has been a week since my son came up to me after watering the garden and said, “I’m ready, mama.”

“Ready for what, buddy?” I asked.

To which he said, “Ready to pray the prayer for Jesus.  Will you help me?”

Let me take a moment to convey the magnitude of that moment.  I literally felt my heart start racing and felt the tears welling up in my eyes.  I wanted to jump up and down inappropriately shouting “Smell My Victory!!!!”  (Although it probably would have been way more appropriate to start singing a gospel song or shouting scripture.)

Since his 2-year-old-self came into my life, I’ve been praying for the moment he would accept Christ as his Savior.  Just before Christmas last year, he started asking questions about salvation and asking Jesus to live in his heart.  Every time I’ve had a conversation with him regarding his questions, I’ve asked if he’d like to take the step to pray for forgiveness and in acknowledgment of this eternal gift of salvation.  Every time, he’s told me he wants to pray, but he was “too nervous” or “not ready.”

And let me tell you something ladies…every single time, my heart stopped. It broke. It took everything in me to casually say, “When you’re ready, buddy, I’ll be here for you.” In reality, I was choking back tears and reigning in the desire to ‘push-push-push’ for salvation.

I have found that the last eight months have been a challenge in patience.  It’s been a delicate balance between telling him the truth (to include urgency in making a declaration for Christ) and trying to create space for him to make this decision fully on his own (not in an effort to please his parents).

Since his decision to accept Christ, I’ve shared my eight-month struggle with a few Moms that have kids about the same age. Repeatedly, I heard the same story of trying to find a balance between encouraging a decision versus pushing for one. Apparently, we’re all trying to teach our children about Christ, but afraid we’ll push them prematurely into a false decision.

Yet no one is talking about it out loud.

I certainly wasn’t.  I thought I was alone with this burden.  I just walked through it and asked God repeatedly to not let me become a stumbling block to my child’s salvation.

So this week, I’d like to encourage all the Mamas, Mommies, Moms, Step-Moms, Grandmas, Mi-Mis, Nanas, Me Maws, Aunties, God-Mothers, Friends…Any woman who is praying for the salvation of a child.  I want you to know you are not praying alone.  You are not alone in walking the balance of push and pull.  You. Are. Not. Alone.

There are several of us on the Iron Porch who are or have recently been walking that balance with you.  And I will be praying for you to have peace on your hearts that your job is to sow the seed…then watch God with the harvest, so that your heart may leap for joy.

Those simple words, “I’m ready mama” brought such happiness to my heart.  While my son made that declaration on our back porch through praying out loud with me, his Dad and Erin, I know all of heaven was rejoicing with us too!

Your turn is coming soon…be patient!

~Emily

Salvation-Kids

 

 

 

 

The Santa Dilemma

I never believed in Santa as a real person.  From the time I was little, my parents taught me Santa was make-believe and a fun game that everyone played around Christmas.  Their explanation was that they wanted me to believe in Jesus, who was intangible and unseen with human eyes.  If I later found out Santa wasn’t real after believing he was, would I also question the existence of Jesus?

It worked for our family and was my game plan for when I had my own children.

Until I was introduced to an adorable 2-year-old who I would later adopt.  The issue?  He already had been told that Santa was real.  He was “all-in” on the fantasy.  He still is as a 3rd grader.  How was I going to strip him of that belief when he’d already had so much turmoil and loss in his short life?

This is probably his last year believing in Santa as a real person. He has started to ask questions about the practicality of delivering gifts around the world. He’s letting us know there are some kids in his class that don’t believe in Santa. He’s paying attention to movies more and is questioning how Buddy the Elf fixes the sleigh or Tim Allen becomes Santa after falling off the roof.

He’s asking about if I believe in Santa.

I’m verbally bobbing and weaving; not lying, but definitely not telling him the truth.  I’m in a grey area that has me super worried about how he’ll take the news that Santa isn’t real.  Will he resent us for letting him believe? Will he accept that it’s a “game” everyone plays?

But most important to me, how will he maintain his belief in Jesus when Santa is no longer a real dude?  I keep coming back to Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (NKJV).  As a Christian parent, I’m doing my very best to raise him up in the way he should go, but frankly, the Santa dilemma has me concerned.

“Belief”

This is the newest word that is front and center on my prayer board.  It’s on the cover of my prayer journal. It’s a post-it on my dashboard.

It has become my single word prayer over the last week.  I’m praying with all my might that this little guy will have true and wholehearted belief in Jesus Christ as his Savior.  That the news of Santa will not de-rail that child-like faith he possesses.  I pray that he holds fast to his belief.

If you have time this week, please join me on the porch praying for all the littles of the world to know Jesus…to have belief in Christ…to balance faith with earthly knowledge.

~Emily

Father God, we are so very grateful for the gift of your Son as our Savior.  Please let the children of the world have an opportunity to accept this gift and to know your love.  Let their belief in you be bigger and bolder than the beliefs in worldly concepts, like Santa.  We pray these things in your holy name. Amen.

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“I Know”

“Make sure you wash your hair in the shower.” ~Mom-Me

“I know.” ~My 8-year-old

“Today’s the day you need to turn in your globe project at school.” ~Mom-Me

“I know.” ~My 8-year-old.

If I said, “Neil Armstrong did Michael Jackson’s moon-walk while defending Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and discussing Thomas Edison’s impact on the death penalty in 2019, my son would say ‘I know.’”

It’s enough to drive a mother crazy!

How many of us ask God for guidance and then tell Him “I know”?  I’d venture to guess that most of us have told our Heavenly Father “I know” on several occasions. In fact, I’d argue there are two different types of “I know” that we tell God.

The first is similar to what our children say.  “I know” implies, I already have that information and you aren’t sharing anything new with me.  Often in human form, it is accompanied by an eye roll or heavy sigh.  An example of this is when God gives us a nudge, usually in regards to something we are doing that is displeasing to Him, and we reply with the “I know.”  For example, you are harboring unforgiveness towards someone for a perceived slight.  You feel convicted, as though you should reach out to that person.  You respond with the “I know, I know.  I should speak to this person and offer forgiveness. But….

This type of “I Know” does not always include action.  In fact, sometimes, this “I know” isn’t really acknowledging knowledge at all.  Rather, it’s a phrase to make the other person feel like you agree with them.  News flash: God knows you don’t really know…just like a mother knows that about her child.

The second “I know” comes with an exclamation point and often a bit of emphasis that indicates that we’ve just figured out the solution to a perplexing issue.  Essentially it’s the EUREKA of the “I know” world. An example of this is when we ask God’s guidance on a situation but then we implement our own solution with an “I know…I’ll do this or that.”

This type of “I Know!” often includes making a bigger mess.  We haven’t waited on God, but rather try to solve issues on our own. News flash: We tend to mess things up more with our tracts of solutions.

Whether we are answering “I know” to something He’s asked of us, or we say “I know!” like we’ve come up with our own answer to prayer requests, we are not honoring God or our parents with our know-it-all attitude.

A look at Scripture reveals that one of the best ways to determine if God is telling us to do something is to see if it is consistent with God’s teachings.  John 16:13 teaches, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” In other words, God’s Spirit will only guide you to do things that are consistent with what God has already taught as truth.

Another way to know when God is telling you to do something is through prayer.   James 1:5 states, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” If we are uncertain, we are to pray and ask for wisdom from God.

Rather than thinking you know, seek the Lord through scripture or through prayer.  If God’s Word is consistent with where you are being led and your prayers appear to confirm that leading, then maybe God is revealing a course of action for you…one that you don’t know about.

~Emily

I know copy

 

 

 

 

Spiritual Gifts

My husband and I were recently sitting around a campfire while camping on the beach when our 8-year-old son side-swiped us both with a deep faith-related question.

“Can your spiritual gifts change throughout your life?”

Imagine our surprise that this was a question from our 3rdgrader! Neither of us could recall ever talking about spiritual gifts around him.

After much discussion, we assured him that his spiritual gifts could change throughout his life depending on how he grew in his relationship with God.  He asked some follow-up questions about if some spiritual gifts were better than others, which launched another discussion about God using everyone’s gifts to win hearts for Christ.

This conversation got me thinking about adult perceptions of spiritual gifts.   Does the average adult Christian know what their spiritual gift is? Do you know? How many times have you taken the spiritual gifts test?  Have your own gifts morphed throughout the years?  Are you utilizing your gifts to bring glory to God?

1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) tells us “each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

I’d venture to guess that your gift is one that is already apparent in your life, even if you haven’t acknowledged it as your gift. Those who are naturally content to host and feed guests are likely gifted with hospitality.  If you have this gift, you may love having people over to your home. Perhaps it’s time to host a small group for your church, which would meet in your home.  Those who are in the education field are likely gifted with teaching.   If you have this gift, you may be a teacher as a profession.  Perhaps it’s time to consider teaching a Sunday school class.

This week I’d like to encourage you to reflect on your spiritual gifts.  Do you know what gifts you’ve been given? Are you using them for God’s glory?  Are you willing to stretch yourself a little to try something new with your gifts?

Come to the porch and let us know how your gifts are evolving.

~Emily

Spiritual Gifts

Kid Questions

“Do you have cancer?”

This was the question I heard a 5-year-old boy ask a balding gentleman, as I went into the aftercare building to pick up my son.

The adult responded with a chuckle and said, “No, I’ve just lost all my hair.”

My initial internal response was “what has this child seen or heard to make them instantly think bald equals cancer?”

My next response was “Thank you, Jesus, for the innocent questions of our little ones.”

Children have very few inhibitions when it comes to questioning the world around them.  They ask simply because they need understanding. They aren’t intimidated by politically correct wording or the emotions that questions may bring up.

Jesus asked a lot of questions too.  His weren’t always simple or designed for His own understanding. Most of His questions were crafted to get His followers thinking about God’s promises, about salvation, and about deliverance.  One of my favorite questions Jesus asked the disciples is “Who do you say I am?”

In several books of the Gospel, we read that Peter responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus could have easily said, “I am the Christ.”  Instead, He challenged the disciples to answer the questions of their own heart.

Jesus taught using a questioning method of presentation. It creates a learning atmosphere where the disciples (and subsequently us) are able to interpret and deliver our own answers to questions.  This often lends itself to a longer retention of information…and a stronger belief in the answers that we declare ourselves.

Like small children asking strangers about lost hair and cancer treatments, we as Christians must ask about and interpret the world around us.  Lucky for us, if we’re in the Word, we’ll find answers!

What questions are on your mind this week?  Come to the Porch and share!

~Emily

Kid Questions

 

Praying for Kiddos

My little guy woke me up at 4 am to tell me that his head hurt.

“Mama, can I please have some Tylenol? My head hurts really bad.”

Some of you know the mommy-adrenaline that has you upright, out of bed, and functioning before you even truly process what is going on.

This was the beginning of my Mother’s Day weekend. A vigil over my 8-year-old who had horrible headaches, a raging fever, and a lethargic-achy body. He literally slept most of Saturday away.

But it wasn’t restful sleep. He mumbled in his sleep. He moaned.  He asked for more water. He furrowed his brow in pain as he turned over trying to get comfortable.

All this momma could do is sit near him and pray that the fever would break and the headaches would depart.  I specifically inserted my son’s name into a paraphrased prayer focused on Proverbs 3:5-6.

Heavenly Father–Please help me trust you with all my heart – not just part of it. I acknowledge that everything in the heavens and earth – everything that is precious to me including Kambell – belongs to you. Amen.

I spent a lot of time sitting over Kambell this weekend.  Wondering what he will be like as an adult.  Wondering what type of husband and father he will become. Wondering what type of prayer warrior, he will be.  It made me think about how often I pray with him.  How often I pray for him.

When we’re entrusted with little ones, we spend a ton of time helping with homework, carpooling to sports, kissing boo-boos, coloring in the lines, or tucking them in at night.

In the midst of these busy lives, are we praying enough over them?  I mean, are we really praying specific, promise-laced, prophetic, hope-filled prayers? Are we praying God’s promises through His Word over their little lives?

The enemy is alive and well. He would love nothing more than to destroy our children and our families.  He’s attacking when we’re not on guard and he’ll do anything to lure our children towards him.  The counter-attack, the defensive and offensive plays against this enemy is prayer.

On the Monday morning after a sick-kid vigil, I’d argue that we need to increase our prayers over the children of the world. It’s the essential ingredient over our kids and entire families. Prayer will help us stay alert, as well as hearing the whispers of the Holy Spirit against attacks of Satan.

Do not underestimate the importance of prayer over our children.

Whether they need spiritual covering, intercession with a math test, encouragement in a friendship, or because they have a fever…our prayers are necessary and the Lord is faithful to answer.

~Emily

Sick Kid