Sixteen Days: Kids' Systems Part 1

Many things can wait.
Children cannot.  Today
their bones are being formed,
their blood is being made,
their senses are being developed.
To them we cannot say "tomorrow."
Their name is today.
-Gabriela Mistral

I am still new at this mom thing.  Although my children are now 15, 14 and 10, they continue to teach me new things as we journey this life together.  Like me, I hope they, too, are learning that sharing life together is about grace....about forgiveness....about unconditional love, and always expecting the best.

Even when everything in you dreads the worst.

Parenting children does not get easier as the years go by, it just changes.  Some days it feels like the stakes are higher.  I don't worry about their safety now as much as the condition of their hearts.

To be honest, it was easier to control their safety.  Or seemed to be.  (Bear in mind, my children are not driving yet.  This reduced safety concern may just be a temporary reprieve.)

One of the many lessons I've learned this last year is the sacred art of silence.  My role, especially with my older two, is shifting from instructor to guide.  The fewer the words, the better.  After living with me their entire lives, my kids know where I stand.  They can tell you my most likely critique on any given movie, how I feel about certain voice tones in our home, what I expect when I outline chores, why I let their dad leave his shoes wherever he wants to, how I feel about electronics, and that my deepest desire is for them to understand the height, width and depth of God's love and to live lives that glorify Him.

They know all this.  They've heard it their whole lives.

Now is the time for me to listen.  To ask clarifying questions.  To let them make hard decisions, even those I would choose differently.  To be present to answer their questions.....when asked.

And every now and then, to intervene if necessary.  But not as often, and certainly not as rigidly as when they were younger.

I am abundantly grateful for those parents who have gone before me, taking (making?) time to write their wisdom and experiences down in book-form.  Parents like Stormie Omartian, Kevin Leman, Gary Chapman, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, James Dobson, Sharon Jaynes, Anne and Jani Ortlund, Jackie Wellwood. I have benefited tremendously from the resources they have offered, and have incorporated many tried-and-true methods for making this parenting journey easier, more peaceful, and ultimately more rewarding.

All this to say, the systems our family uses (and have tweaked over the years) are simply an offering.  Not only an offering to God in taking what I have and offering it back to Him, but also an offering to you.  If there is anything here you can use to make your own parenting journey a bit easier, my heart will be full.

Again and again I have found that when our family gets busy and our systems get sloppy, the peace of our home and the contentment in each of us suffers.  This is why Kids' Systems is one of my Sixteen Days of Getting My House in Order.  Without them, we run a race lacking clarity and focus.

1. Sharing God's Word
One thing I've loved more than any other single parenting task is pouring God's word into my kids.  Even as a new mom, my heart carried a directive for planting the seeds of God's word into my kids' hearts, understanding that I would not always be there for them, but because God's Word is "living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, never returning to Him void but accomplishing the thing for which it was sent" (Hebrews 4:12, Isaiah 55:11), I could give them something more powerful than me to guide and direct them for a lifetime.  Planting, planting, planting those seeds of His living Word....and then trusting Him with the fruit and the harvest.  It was and is, to me, the single-most important thing I can ever offer as a mom. 

We started with Zonderkidz "The Beginners Bible" when my children were preschool age and read it aloud together, cover to cover, year after year at bedtime.  With heartwarming, humorous graphics my kids' loved, this simple compilation of Bible stories offered a foundation of truth, Biblical history, and numerous opportunities for further discussion.

 We "graduated" up to Walter Wangerin's "The Bible for Children," a beautifully crafted rendition of Bible stories told with moving reverence and stirring language that is a delight to both read aloud and to hear.  Although the word "children" is in its title, this rendition is still meaningful and stirring enough for my teenagers, so we will continue reading it aloud together this year as well.  Once the kids started school, we found morning to be the best time to read the Bible together.  As soon as the kids get up, we pile on the couch together and read aloud for 10-15 minutes, then eat breakfast.

 Product Details

When each of my kids was around 3rd grade (8 years of age) we purchased the the Zonderkids Kids' Quest Study Bible, NIrV, for personal reading time.  My teenage boys have now begun using smartphone Bible apps as they feel they've outgrown the verbage of the Kids' Quest version, but my 5th grade girl still loves hers.  The Kids' Quest Bible is chock full of over 500 questions about the Bible that even I find immensely entertaining and informative.

Product Details

Side note:  As my children grow, I sometimes wrestle with my role in their personal journeys of faith.  Reading the Bible is one of those decisions with which I've wrestled; specifically, at what point do I stop reading to them and allow their own personal reading to be their spiritual food.  What I've concluded is that it does not need to be an either/or!) My 15 year old told me this week that he really missed reading the Bible aloud last school year (he was out the door by 6:40am!), so I've given him the option of the two of us reading aloud together before he goes to school, even if this means getting up earlier.  He's still pondering.)  As long as my kids, no matter their age, continue asking to read God's word together, I will continue reading it aloud.  It is my delight.  However, they are also required to complete their own personal Faith time, a discipline to which we will recommit as the school year starts.

2. Memorization
Memorization has been another enormous delight with my children.  We've memorized The Gettysburg Address, Shakespeare sonnets and passages from plays, Walt Whitman poetry, Romans 12, Psalm 91, Psalm 100, Robert Frost poems, The Preamble to the Constitution, States and Capitals, and many other famous works.  This year, I have my heart set on Theodore Roosevelt's The Man In the Arena.  Although memorization may seem difficult, it's really not at all.  I simply print off whatever work we have decided to memorize on a plain sheet of paper and tuck it into whichever Bible we are currently reading together.  Then, after our Bible reading each morning, we work on a few lines together.  With daily practice, you will be amazed how many lines you can remember and recite!  My kids blow me away with their ability to memorize.  In my extended family, Thanksgiving is traditionally set aside as a time for kids and adults to "perform" their memory work. We all find great joy in this tradition.  Just yesterday, the kids and I discovered a catchy tune on YouTube which recites historical facts (I can't be too specific as I want to surprise our extended family members) and the kids decided we will learn and perform it for Thanksgiving.

3. Prayer
I taught my kids to pray using the acronym ACTS which I learned from my grandmother.

A = Adoration
C = Confession
T = Thanksgiving
S = Supplication

Using this simple system prepares one's heart by focusing on the Lord's goodness and person first, creates a clean heart within His presence, focuses on His faithfulness by thanking Him, and then lastly requests ~ or makes supplication.  It also includes all the elements depicted in the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, commonly referred to as The Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). I've found in my personal prayer life, ACTS is a helpful tool to quietly and meditatively prepare my heart and mind before God prior to my requesting.  My 14-year old told me the other day he sometimes feels like praying this way can seem impersonal, like he's checking things off a list instead of engaging in a conversation.  I understand his point.  However, as I explained to him, this tool is not a requirement but merely a resource to use as needed, and that often ACTS is a natural progression of an authentic conversation with God.  He agreed with this, and I appreciated his honesty.

The kids are recommitting to Prayer Journals this year.  We've used them off and on since they could write as I am a firm believer in their value.  I personally have journaled my prayers for years and love to have these records of God's promises, answered prayers, and my own musings of faith over the years.  I do not expect my kids to write much, maybe a dated line or two of specific requests or heart concerns as they feel comfortable and inspired.  I will not read these unless the kids ask me to.

These journals are not fancy at all.  Matter of fact, we resurrected their simple notebooks from awhile back, put mustache stickers over the old dates, and the kids will pick up where they left off on their last prayer entry.

Following Glenn Bland's 30 Golden Minutes method, we Scotch-taped ( fancy are we?) a meditation and Psalm 91 in the front of the journals to help quiet the kids' minds and speak life over their days.  As they grow and mature in the Lord, I expect they will adopt their own quotes, Scriptures, or readings which speak personally to them. 

At this stage of parenting, my goal is to guide them in the discipline of a personal Faith Period (Bible reading and prayer time) rather than get too hung up on the specifics during that time.  My daughter will be following a personal Bible reading schedule through her girls' program at church, and my boys will be adopting reading schedules using the apps on the smartphones.

The two years I homeschooled all three of my kids, we followed a Weekly Prayer Focus schedule that helped us remember to pray over several different areas throughout the week.  This last year got just plain crazy.  Crazy, I tell you.  We simply didn't make it a priority to pray together over these areas regularly.  I missed it greatly.  Part of Getting Our House in Order is making this Focus schedule a priority once again. We still need to determine the best time for this, but I'm thinking around the dinner table would be ideal.

MONDAY: Our church, church staff, and ministries
TUESDAY: Missions, world
WEDNESDAY: Family (there are so many of us!)
THURSDAY: Community (city, state, nation)
FRIDAY: Our schools

And with that, I will stop for today.  Although a longer post than planned, it didn't feel right to skim over particulars.  I, for one,  have always been intensely curious about how other families "do life," and I wanted to offer details in case you, too, are curious and wanting to make some changes in your own home.  I hope I never lose my willingness to learn a new system or try something different!  And remember, as my wise sister-in-law observed (love ya, Kathy): "You probably already have systems in place; they just need to be tweaked."  So very true, and I'm sure that is true for your family as well.

Next post I will finish up my Kids' Systems to include our newly posted family rules, the kids' daily/weekly chores, our allowance plan, and a note on my personal philosophy of self-discipline. 

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