Thoroughly Equipped: Day In and Day Out

Today’s reading includes Deuteronomy 11:1-12:32, Luke 8:22-39, Psalm 70:1-5, Proverbs 12:4.

In our text today, we come across a beloved passage, which serves as a great guide in parenting.

18 “So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 19 Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 20 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors.

                                                                        Deuteronomy 11:18-20

We tend to read this in the context of a parenting formula.  But if you read this passage closely, it is a way of life.  We are called to teach our children, but how will they learn?

They will learn by living life with us.

By seeing our relationship with Christ day in and day out.

By hearing our conversations with them and with others as we go about our days.

They learn because they listen.  We don’t think they hear us, but they do.  We don’t think they notice, but they do.  So, the trick to passing down our faith to our children is to make sure we have faith.  If we want our children to follow Christ, we must make sure we are following Christ.  We must talk to them about our faith, our love for Christ, our hope in His promises.

A Sunday-only faith does not give a model which our children can follow.  An everyday faith does.  Our investment in our own faith—through studying His Word, through prayer, through worship—is an investment in the souls of our children.

Lord, make me faithful to You.  Give me time and desire to study your Word.  Give me a heart of praise.  May your praise be on my lips and in my heart.  May Your joy give me strength.  And in all of this, may my children see You in me.  And may they be hungry for more of You.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Starts Tomorrow!

Thanks to our good friends at First Presbyterian Church in Corinth, Mississippi, my husband, Mont, and I had the opportunity to teach Sunday school for the month of July.  We loved the fellowship with friends, old and new.  We also loved the fact that it made us study the particular topic we chose to teach.  For the month of September, I will share the content of that study, which we first shared with our Corinthian friends.

Join me tomorrow, September 1, for a month long study entitled, Abundant Life–Gifts of the Good Shepherd.  And please invite your friends!

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Thanks, Friends!

Sara


He Sees

For all you mothers out there:

Yesterday, I traveled to Birmingham to be with Katie, my baby girl, on her birthday. Yes, she is still my baby girl, though we celebrated 22 years together. As most girls would, we thought it fitting to treat ourselves to a pedicure in a nice salon.

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While we soaked our feet and turned up the massage chair, I looked around the salon at the various women of all ages. As usual, I began to wonder what their stories were. I am fascinated by people’s stories. Everyone has one. God is the master author of each and every one. Every story has conflicts and drama. Usually, there is some comedy thrown in for good measure. But the Master Author continues to write our stories every day, and if we trust Him, we can be confident that the story will have a stellar ending—much more than we could imagine.

In this vein of thinking, my eye fell upon a young woman with two children who had just entered the salon. The children, both curly head girls, were beautiful. They had big bows placed strategically to the side to keep back the curls. They had precious matching outfits. They both looked to be similar ages, so, I assumed they were either twins or at least born very close together.

While both children were beautiful, what caught my attention was the one in the wheelchair. The one who had her eyes closed, and would sometimes loose control of her head causing her beautiful blond curls to cover her entire face. My heart squeezed at the sight.

And then my attention turned to the mother. She, too, was beautiful. But she looked worn out, haggard, and a bit overwhelmed. She was dressed in gym shorts and a t-shirt, hair in a ponytail, and no make-up. And did I mention she was beautiful? I thought to myself, “I am so glad she took time out to do something for herself.”

In two seconds, I had walked through the past thirty minutes with her. I could picture the hard work that it took to get there, dressing two little girls, one of whom could not help at all; packing a “diaper” bag, years after a diaper bag should have been unnecessary; loading the girls into car seats; loading the wheelchair. I remembered how exhausting it was to simply get everyone in the car. Only, I struggled with strollers, not wheelchairs.

And since I could imagine what her past minutes had been, I began to imagine what she must be thinking at that moment. Which section has the most room for the wheelchair? I began to look around trying to select a spot for her.   I saw her speak to the receptionist, and then point to the wheelchair. Yes, I thought, they will help her find the right spot so maybe she can relax for just a moment.

My thoughts continued to the next set of issues. How will these little girls keep entertained while their mother gets a manicure? I hoped she had thought through this one. I hoped the bag hanging from the wheelchair was filled with snacks and toys and an Ipad—at least for the girl that could walk. The other precious angel still had not opened her eyes. Her head had fallen two more times, so the mother had titled the wheelchair back to reclining.

I turned away for a moment to answer a question about what color I wanted my toes painted. When I turned back, I saw both mother and healthy daughter sitting side by side in the manicurist chairs. Only the little girl was the only one with soaking fingers. The little girl was the one getting the manicure. And the mother with tired eyes was watching and beaming with delight. It took a moment for me to comprehend the simple sacrifice playing out before me. A wave of emotion swept over me. I wanted to cry and hug that mother and tell her how amazing she is.

I wanted to shout across the room, to this complete stranger whom I suddenly loved,

“I SEE YOU!”

“I SEE YOU!”

“I see the sacrifices you are making every day.

I see how tired you are.

I see how difficult it is.

I see that you are holding on and making the most of heart-wrenching circumstances.

I see your courage and your strength.

I see your joy, which is so obviously displayed as you give your little girl the manicure you deserve.”

Like a slide show of snapshots my mind traveled back 5 years or so and glimpsed her life. I imagined a beautiful young couple walking the aisle in front of family and friends vowing to stick together in sickness and in health. I guessed they never dreamed they would need to stick together in sickness and health of their children.

I imagined the day they knew something was wrong. Was it during pregnancy this syndrome was discovered? Or was it later, after months of wondering why her baby was not developing like her sister? Whenever it was, I can imagine the horror and grief when she realized that this information totally changed the course of her life.

My Katie saw me looking and without words, I could tell her mind was following the storyline, too. We looked at each other, on the 22nd anniversary of her birth, and she said quietly, “That could have been me.” I nodded as I remembered my own story. Long, hard labor, cord wrapped tightly around her tiny neck, the rush of doctors and the flurry of the emergency team.

Then, the silence. Holding her and rocking her and wondering what the effects of oxygen deprivation may be.

Twenty-two years later, I praised God that we were spared the storyline I saw at the manicure station across the room. I knew God had been faithful to protect Katie, who is about to graduate college with a double major.

And yet, the truth is, God is equally faithful to the beautiful woman with a different story. In fact, she must be very beloved of the Lord to be trusted to handle this difficult and beautiful life she is living.

I believe He, too, wants to shout to her, “I SEE YOU!” And this is what He says to her and to each of us: I will be faithful each and every day.

Together, my friends, let us declare the truth found in His Word:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning;  great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”                                                                                           Lamentations 3:22-24

He Sees photo for blog


Character Lessons in Everyday Living

It is sad to say, but another school year is about to begin.  At our house we are scrambling to finish summer reading, shocked once again that our good intentions of finishing that assignment early did not pan out.

Once I wrap my brain around the fact that my beloved summer is coming to a close, I always get a little bit excited about school starting back.  I like the routine.  It feels like “New Years” much more than January 1.  My teacher genes kick in and I start making mental lists of all the things I want my kids to learn.  Yes, if I am not careful, I can be one of those over-achieving moms who wants to teach her toddlers to recognize famous paintings.  But most of all, I want my kids to have integrity.  I formed a whole company around that desire.  (www.integritytime.com, if your are interested!)  So, character lessons are of upmost importance in my heart.

I remember the day when the high-pitched sound of little girls playing found its way down the stairs and into the living room. Wow! They are having fun! I thought somewhat nervously. A bit later, my almost-four-year-old, Sally, came into the room urgently requesting water. “You have to come now, Mama! We need water.”

A little while later, I walked with my mouth wide open, unable to comprehend what I was seeing. Apparently, the girls had found an extra large bottle of baby powder and had turned the upstairs into a “winter wonderland”. Circles of white were found on every surface of the once-brown hardwood floors, evidence of the fun time of “skating” they had just experienced. Anna and Elsa would be proud.  Puddles of milky-white water were also evidence of their attempts to clean up their mess.

The floor was mopped six times, and it still looked like a winter wonderland, although more like the snow dusting typical in North Mississippi. How can three little girls do so much damage in such a short amount of time? Obviously, we had an opportunity to teach some character lessons to our precious princess.

At a very early age, Sally is learning that just because it is fun, does not mean that it is right. She is learning how to ‘fess up to her mistakes, and how to take responsibility for her choices. She is learning how to clean up her messes, and make right what went wrong. Most importantly, she is learning how to say, “I’m sorry”—not just with words, but also with feeling. She is learning to take “I’m sorry” to the final step, by also asking, “Will you forgive me?” And of course, the answer is a responding yes!

Character lessons start at a very young age. As parents, we are daily confronted with teaching moments. If we see these situations as teaching moments which will help mold our children’s character, we will be less likely to react in anger and more likely to make the most of the situation.

As we sat on the couch, discussing the situation with our sweet angel, I had an unexpected feeling considering the moment we were experiencing. I felt extreme pride. She sat with her dark hair streaked with white powder, eyes wide and serious. And the first thing out of her mouth was, “I’m sorry. It was my fault.” Bingo! That is a life-long lesson learned. Well worth the bottle of baby powder it required.

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I have often heard, and I whole-heartedly agree, that character is how you act when no one is watching. But I believe it is more than that. Character is how you react when you know you are wrong. Character is admitting you are wrong and taking full responsibility. Character is saying, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” Character is tested and proved in how you react to wrong choices as much as it is choosing what is right.

I am happy to report that Sally is back on the right road of character, at least until the next “teaching moment”.

How do you teach good character to your children?

PS If you want to check out a biblical approach to teaching integrity to your children or grandchildren, check out my program, Integrity Time Bible Lessons!

Integrity Time Bible Lessons


Dear America

This letter recently appeared in North Mississippi Parent magazine.  I thought that this holiday weekend would be the perfect time to share it.  Happy 4th!Dear America logo

Dear America,

First, let me say, you are beautiful. There is no other like you on the face of the earth. You were created by God and for God to be a force of good and righteousness. I love you, America.

I have had the great opportunity to travel to many countries all over the world. And there is no place like home. The feeling of touching down on American soil always brings a smile and a happy sign—Ahhh, I am home! I get the same feeling no matter if I am landing in Miami, New York, Atlanta, or Chicago.

I celebrate you, America. I want you to remember the foundation on which you were created. It was a good foundation, a righteous foundation. It was born in the hearts of men who dared to look ahead to future generations—to us. They were willing to give themselves for our sake.

Last year, I got to see my sweet little Asian in her end of the year preschool program. She sang and danced and jumped up and down. I was a proud mom, and just as every mother there felt about her own child, I secretly thought mine was the cutest.

The program had a patriotic theme and at one point I got a little misty-eyed when they sang This Land Is My Land.

This land is your land, this land is my land

From California, to the New York Island

From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters

This land was made for you and me

 

As I was walking a ribbon of highway

I saw above me an endless skyway

I saw below me a golden valley

This land was made for you and me.

I looked at the huge group of adorable children and saw not only precious American-born babies, but also saw some of Sally’s best friends including Sophie, also from China and Lucy, from Ethiopia. And yet, this land is their land.

Of course they don’t know what that means. They don’t realize how different their birth land is from the land which is now theirs. And maybe I don’t even know what that means for me, or at least I don’t take the time to think about it.

This land is my land, this land is your land. America is ours. We can say that because we have the freedom to say that.

Do we have any idea what it means that we can freely think, live, decide, determine, be what we want to be?

Do we have any idea what it means that we can love, and worship, and share, and speak truth?

Do we have any idea what it means that there are those who have fought and even died for us to be able to say and sing: This land is your land, this land Is my land?

As we celebrate the Fourth of July, let’s really remember this time. Let’s don’t just cook burgers and hot dogs. Let’s don’t just shoot fireworks or enjoy our time with family. Let’s really remember. And let’s thank God for the gift of this land.

So today, America, know you are loved and appreciated. Know that you are prayed for daily by me and countless others. Remember your great heritage and pass it on to the next generation.

God bless you, America.

Sincerely,

Sara Berry

 

PS:

  1. Parents, what are you doing to pass down love for our country, love for freedom? Would your kids say you love America? I think we need to fall in love with our country all over again. And then we need to pass it on to our children, so they can pass it on to theirs ….

Here are some practical ways you can show you love America.

  1. Vote. This is your right and your responsibility. I have known many people who will not vote because none of the candidates fit their exact list of qualifications. But we must realize that someone will win elections. And we can do our part in voting for the candidate that best fits our values, even if it is not a perfect fit.
  2. Always put your hand over your heart during the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. ‘Nuff said.
  3. When you see someone in the military, stop and shake their hand and say thank you. My son, Troy, actually taught me this one. When he was thirteen, we were in a store, in a hurry as usual. He stopped suddenly and turned to go down an aisle. Quite honestly, I felt irritated—didn’t he know we were in a hurry? Then the irritation turned to pride when I saw why he had turned. He walked up to a man in fatigues, held out his hand, and said, “I just want to say thanks for all you do for us.” Sometimes our kids understand better than we do.
  4. Pray for our country. Everyday. Especially now. And pray for yourself and your children–and me and my children–that we all would understand what we have before it is too late.

There is an old adage which states, “Few are privileged to enjoy the shade of the tree that they have planted.” But plant the tree anyway. We must plant the seeds of patriotism in our children and then future generations will enjoy its shade.