Posts Tagged ‘children’

The Party’s Over . . .

The house is quiet now. Way too quiet. And way too orderly. Only the ticking away of my Mom’s grandfather clock, reminding me that time moves on. 

For 38 glorious days, our home has been filled with the voices of children. My ten favorite children, to be precise. Shouts and giggles and fun and laughter and crying and bickering and “time outs” and whispered conversations between cousins coming from the “craft closet” (our master bedroom closet, repurposed) and loud games interspersed with “No, it’s my turn!” . . . You get the picture. 38 days of glorious chaos.

And now they’ve all gone home. As I write this, I shiver with remembrance of that unforgettable sentence about Hannah after her annual visits to the temple to see the son she had dedicated to God: “Then they would go home.” (1 Samuel 2:20b) Not quite the same, for sure. But still, the going home.

Our recycling and trash tell the story. Well, part of it anyway. Yes, the party’s over and they’ve all gone home. But I am left with so much more than the after-the-party remnants. I am a different person. More exhausted, to be sure. But so much more. I am a grateful Nana filled with new memories made over the past 5 weeks.

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Games of Candyland and Chutes and Ladders and Sorry and Animal Bingo. Stories read, some by me and some by the children, who range in age from 10 years to ten months. Pirate stories told by “Farfar” (their name for Woody—“father’s father” in Swedish). Trips to splash parks and playgrounds and petting farms and the gorgeous York Beach in Maine—and the Lego Store and Build-a-Bear and the much-loved Superstore of Used Books. Diapers (“nappies” to my Irish crew) changed and tears wiped and grievous wounds cured(!) by Dory or Star Wars bandaids and nights of protest (“But it’s not bedtime yet!”) and disputes of nearly international scope about who got the most wiffle-ball pitches from Farfar. What seems like hundreds of hot dogs and PB&J sandwiches and pizzas and birthday cakes and ginormous ice cream cones consumed. 

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Ah, summer with grandchildren. I really didn’t want it to end.

Yet as I write this, I am reminded of summers long ago when I felt a bit more ambivalent about summer’s end.  The start of school looked pretty good then!   So as I ponder (the end of the annual summer visit) and miss (all of them!) and cherish (such precious memories), I also think of all of you moms out there. Some of you also missing grandkids who’ve gone home. Some counting the days ’til school begins (please Lord, soon!)—or wishing your kids were old enough for school! Others celebrating because school has already begun in your world. And then those moms who’ve made that first long journey (long whether an hour away—or thousands of miles) to college. For all of us, those mixed emotions that come with being a mom/grandmom.

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May we always be grateful. May we always savor the memories. And may we always have the necessary strength that comes only from the Father of us all (and the joy as well). Summer, we salute you . . . it’s been oh, so lovely.      

  

Whatever he’s doing . . . Happy Father’s Day!

A little boy is on the phone in a long-ago kitchen with his best friend, Adam. It’s Saturday morning, and Adam is trying to persuade Bjorn to come over and play. “Not today, Adam,” Bjorn says. “My dad’s off this weekend and that means we get to spend the morning with him.” Adam is insistent: “O come on, Bjorn. What are you going to do this morning anyway?” Bjorn: “I don’t know, Adam. But whatever my dad is doing, I’m doing.”

Woody and his two young sons

“Whatever my dad is doing, I’m doing.” The words have echoed in my heart through the years. So many memories of Woody’s Saturday morning adventures with the kids. Sometimes they’d drive up to the rocky coast north of Boston and climb the rocks and collect sea glass and make up imaginary stories of sea kingdoms and castles and fairies and monsters. Or go to the historic Concord bridge and climb around the banks of the river throwing sticks in the water and just “mucking around.” Or, in the winter, sled down the fearsome hill at Tower Park. Or just hang out in the basement with Dad while he cleaned up down there—probably making a game of it somehow. Or at least drinking root beer in the basement and having (OK, I said it) burping contests!

Three Anderson children at the beach

Later, being with his children meant Woody needed to go where they were—to soccer games near and far; to a college apartment 10 hours away to arrive early on a 21st birthday to take a very surprised daughter to breakfast before turning around and driving back in order to teach Sunday School the next day; to many a college mailbox and computer inbox with hilarious cards and encouraging—or entertaining—emails. 

Always, the theme verse in Woody’s head was Deuteronomy 33:12: “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders.” When the kids were little, he loved carrying them everywhere in a backpack. Of course they quickly outgrew the backpack. But he continued to pursue creative ways to let them know they were beloved and secure. It was meant to be a picture of their Heavenly Father and how HE carries them from here to eternity “between his shoulders.”

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“Whatever he’s doing . . .” Being present with our kids, and being a model of a Godly man (not perfect, you understand—but God-directed) with Godly values, and loving God in ways they watched—all the greatest gifts Woody could give our kids.  All the more important in these parenting days. A much-needed contrast to the “20 minutes of action” philosophy!

And now the next generation is passing it on, living out Deuteronomy 6, each in their own way with their own kids. My greatest joy in this world is watching this happen. So, as Father’s Day approaches, I want to give a shout-out to the dads in my family—Woody, Bjorn, Lars, and Richie. They all do it in such different ways, but each of these dads is living life with his kids in such a way that my grandchildren are getting to know their Father’s love through the love of a human father.

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Another very important shout-out: I feel huge gratitude when I see Christian dads reaching out to those around them who don’t have a “present dad” in their lives.  For a host of different reasons (so many of them heart-wrenching), many kids in our world do not have a dad who is able to be with them and model their Heavenly Father’s love. I also want to give a shout-out to moms who are marvelous conduits of God’s love to their children; many single moms I know are Jesus-in-the-flesh to their children with a grace and power that astounds me. But it is a gift to us all when Christian dads come alongside these kids to do fun “guy things” and model the love of our Father in masculine ways. We need reminders of the stunning love of the Father we all have through Jesus. No matter what. The real reason I can wish every one of you a Happy Father’s Day!

One little bonus: As I was writing this, our son Lars posted this on Instagram: 

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 A great idea for celebrating with the dads in your lives!     

  

The Cross and the Lily

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In the midst of Lent and as Easter approaches, a brief reflection from the past. And for the present. And the future.

I was a craft-challenged mama. Sort of the anti-Martha Stewart. The very words “Next week we’re going to do a simple craft” struck terror in my soul. When it came to “making things,” my fingers just didn’t seem to work. The fingers that could play the piano and write essays and turn book pages by the hour simply froze when the popsicle sticks and glue came out. My heart just wasn’t in it. It’s a good thing Pinterest wasn’t around when my kids were small. I can’t imagine how I would have beat down the false-failure-as-a-mom (please note the word “false”) feelings. 

I was also a tradition-oriented mama. I loved creating family traditions that would make memories for our kids and help them remember the things that really mattered. I believed deeply that children often remember feelings more than facts. I also knew my three children had very different learning styles. One remembered every word ever read to him. Another wanted to build things and take things apart (and put them back together—the only one in our family who could do that!). Our third loved—and remembered–anything you could sing and dance to.

So what do our kids remember about Easter? A cross and a lily. Every Easter morning (well, most Easter mornings), they awoke to something special for breakfast (the kind of “special” that you can manage when running off to teach Sunday School classes before church). And Easter baskets accompanied by an “Easter book” which was a Bible story of some kind. But also—and maybe especially—an Easter lily with a simple white cross in it. I even made the cross—very simply cut out of cardboard and planted in the midst of the lily.

Why am I telling you this? Two reasons. First: Because of Mom to Mom, I know—and love—scores of young moms. Very dedicated moms. Very gifted moms. Very busy moms. They want desperately to make memories for their children. To help them know and treasure in their hearts the things that really matter. They have tons of great ideas for ways to do all that. They do, after all, live with Facebook and Pinterest. And, those glossy magazines illustrating all-you-can-do-with-your-kids are still there at the checkout. And most of them are probably not craft-challenged like me. But these moms also have children. And, as you may have noticed, children can be very time-consuming. And they tend to get sick at holiday seasons.

So I want to commend to you the simple lily and the cross. Not elaborate. Very simple. But they remember it. Also the reading of the Easter story. Again and again. From different age-appropriate Bible story books with different styles and illustrations. Act it out. I still remember our 4-year-old on our back porch instructing his mystified (but learning!) friend in his role in their self-directed little Easter play. (“No, Mark. You are the angel. You say “He is not here. He is risen, just as He said.”) Build the story with blocks. Use some of their action figures to represent the major players.  Sing it. With “He’s alive!” hand motions if possible. Or maybe dancing.

Because here’s the second reason I’m telling you this. The cross and the lily are, in the end, what matters most about Easter. In any season of life. In the good times and the bad. When you have a houseful of kids or grandkids. And when you don’t. Jesus died. He rose. He lives. All for the love of you and me. And when you “get” that love (and help your kids to), it makes all the difference. As one physically-challenged young mom told me years ago, “Linda, here at Mom to Mom I have understood, for the first time, how much God loves me. And when you get that—really get it—it makes all the difference.”

Yes it does, sweet mom-friend. The cross and the lily. They make all the difference. From here to eternity.

Happy Easter!

    

  

Planet Nana . . . and Back

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Oh, the joys of “Planet Nana.”  We had all our family under one roof for a few fleeting hours (actually, it was a couple of days, but they flew like hours).  All 18 (!) of us crammed in our little condo.  Ten grandkids aged 3 months through 10 years, four of them in diapers.  Four in Pack’n Plays, six sleeping on our bedroom floor in sleeping bags.  Glorious chaos.

Overlapping visits with various family combinations spanned a period of 2 ½ weeks.  We celebrated Jesus’ birthday with Bengt reading The Story, and we had a birthday cake for Jesus.  Olaf the Swedish Surprise Bear mysteriously dropped off presents.  Once again nobody saw him, but there were those footprints in the snow.  We wished for more snow, but the kids made noble attempts to build snowmen out of mostly ice.    

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We read stories and played Sorry and Candyland and Chutes and Ladders and Christmas Bingo.  Amazing Lego sets were constructed, admired, and deconstructed for travel home.  We ate and laughed and sang and changed countless diapers. The washer and dryer and dishwasher provided constant white noise.  We played trucks and trains and dinosaurs and store and told spooky flashlight stories in the dark closet. 

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We found children in all kinds of places. 

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Two of them go home with a new game: “Hey Evey, you wanna sneak?” was a prelude to finding children in remote spots with guilty little smiles eating marshmallows or cookies or unwrapping candy wrappers.  I still find candy kiss wrappers under the bed, and I smile.

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Gabriella summed it up: “Nana, this was the best Christmas ever.”  Yes, Gabriella, it was.

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And now it is January.  They’ve all gone home—to their homes in Ireland and Virginia and New Hampshire.  The house is cleaner.  And way too quiet.

Yet there is a quiet joy.  A January kind of joy.  I have precious memories.  More than ever.  Many moments stored up to keep and ponder in my heart.  Mary was on to something there (Luke 2:19)  I feel blessed.  Very very blessed.

But there’s more.  I come back from “Planet Nana” to my Real Life, my real January life, with something more.  December was a refresher course on what it takes to be a mom with four kids.  What it takes to be a mom no matter how many kids you have . . . even one will do it.  It’s exhausting.  Completely exhausting.   Also exasperating and hilarious and rewarding (there is the occasional “I love you so much, mommy” or the huge unexpected hug) and lonely and completely chaotic. 

So I come back from Planet Nana with renewed resolve to love and encourage moms.  Any moms.  Especially Mom to Mom moms.  As heroic and amazing the moms I know are, they need our love, support, encouragement and, above all, our prayers.

My January challenge to you:  Love on a mom in your life. Whether you’re in Mom to Mom or not, there is a mom in your life you can reach out to.  Do it.  She’s waiting.

Random Tips on Summer Fun (thanks to my grandkids!)

Playdough_0377#1 Playdough in PJ’s is a super way to start the day.

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#2  A closet makes a great craft and coloring room.

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#3  Even Chuck E. Cheese can be a bonding experience.

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#4  Kids of all ages love stories.

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#5  Everyone needs a little glam in their life.

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#6  Touching the nose is a good way to get acquainted.

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#7  There’s nothing like Oreo cream-filled donuts to cheer you up.

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#8  Cousins play hard and stick together.

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#9 Ice cream is essential.

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#10  Silly families are the best.

Thankful for a July of “glorious chaos” at our house.  Here’s wishing all of you a Happy Summer!

A Lenten Lesson from a Four-Year-Old

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It’s a dark and stormy Friday night.  We’re driving through thunderstorms and heavy traffic to visit The Boston Children’s Museum with our two grandsons, Soren (7) and Nils (4).  It’s taking a lo-o-ong time, and the boys remind us of this regularly.  We make conversation about all manner of things, some of it focusing on the recent Olympics and how amazing some of those athletes are.

Out of the blue (as is the way of children), Nils pipes up: “But when I grow up, I want to be Jesus!”  There is silence in the car as we ponder this stunning statement.  Four adults—two parents and two grandparents—process the theology.  We are at a temporary loss for words.

But not Soren.  Soren, you see, is never at a loss for words.  He feels a sense of responsibility, as the older, very grounded-in-reality big brother, to help Nils stay better connected with reality. Nils has a wonderfully wild imagination, complete with “camo-friends” who attend the University of New Hampshire, live underground, and camouflage themselves when adults approach but reveal themselves only to Nils.   You see the situation.

“But Nils,” Soren corrects emphatically, “ you can’t actually BE Jesus.  You know that, right?  You can’t really BE Jesus!”

I’m still processing the conversation.  (Nana minds are slower than 7-year-old minds.}   An interesting theological dilemma.  Of course we know the uniqueness of Jesus, the One and Only Son of God. But aren’t we supposed to be in the process of becoming more and more like Him?  What is that verse about being more and more “conformed to the likeness of His Son”? (Romans 8:29 NIV) There seems to be an “already in process” and a “not yet” aspect here.  I’m grateful for the future promise: “But we know that.when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3:2)

In the meantime, we are called, are we not, to become more and more like Him. How does this happen? A question far beyond this humble blog post. But a question I think it’s good to ask during this Lenten season.

As I ponder the challenge, two observations:

  1. We become like the people we hang out with.  Becoming more and more like Jesus is, at least for me, a lifetime challenge.  But odds are that more progress is made as I spend more time with Him.
  2. Becoming more like Jesus seems to have a lot to do with seeing Him—actually seeing Him.  I think of  Mary’s dazzling cry on Easter morning: “I’ve seen the Lord!” (John 20:18)

My prayer for us all as Holy week approaches is that we may we see Him with new eyes, bask in the reality of His presence in our everyday ordinary lives, and live with this future hope:

As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.  (Psalm 17:15 NKJV)

 

What Do Your Kids Hear Mommy Say This Thanksgiving?

A little girl was helping her mother as she bustled around in a frenzy getting ready to serve dinner to a large group of guests.  When they finally sat down to eat, the mother asked the little girl to say grace.

“But I don’t know what to say,” the child protested.

“Oh, honey, just say what you hear Mommy say.”

“OK. Mommy: Dear God, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?”

Sounds like me—or you, perhaps?—in that moment of total exhaustion when we drop into our seats after preparing a big meal.  And all the more so if you’ve cooked Thanksgiving dinner!

At this super-busy time of year, it’s all too easy for November to pass us by on the way to December.  Even our kids pick up on the November-December craziness (read my recent guest post at “Pass the Bread, Mom”).  Yet November offers us an opportunity we don’t want to miss: to cultivate gratitude—in ourselves and in our kids.

Thankful hearts do not come naturally in this “all about me” culture.  An “attitude of gratitude” needs to be both taught—and caught.  Of course that’s true all year round,  but making November your “thankful month” is a great way to start.

How often do your kids hear you express thanks throughout the day?  In one of our kids’ homes, they set a timer on their phones several times a day.  When the timer goes off, everyone stops a moment to name one thing they’re thankful for.

Two of our grandkids have a “thankful tree,” (described in my guest post at “Pass the Bread”).   Last weekend when Woody and I were with them, we got to add some of our own leaves.  And I noticed that just walking by the tree throughout the day became a constant reminder to me: Give thanks, Linda!

What am I most thankful for this Thanksgiving?  First: Our Great God, Who in His mercy, love, and grace has given us all the reason in the world to give thanks.  What did G.K. Chesterton say?   “The worst moment for an atheist is when he feels a profound sense of gratitude and has no one to thank.”

And second: The gift of watching parents cultivate in their kids (especially when they’re our grandkids!) a thankful heart.

Happy Giving-of-Thanks to all of you!

Gratitude, Grace, and Giving

I love learning from kids—and their moms.  Yesterday I heard and saw a “mom-talk” in action.  And I just can’t get the picture out of my mind.

Recently when I spoke at a local Mom to Mom group, I mentioned that we are excitedly awaiting the arrival of our daughter Erika and her family (including her husband, Richie, and their children, 3-year-old Gabriella and 9-month-old Judah).  They will soon be flying here from Dublin, Ireland, and spending over 6 weeks with us this summer.  YAY!!!   We can’t wait!!!

I also mentioned that I was looking to buy or borrow a few things for their use while they are here: things like a small bike with training wheels or a wagon or other outdoor/indoor toys.  One sweet mom came up to me afterwards and said she might have some things for us.  She followed up via email with a very generous offer.

So yesterday, Woody and I went over to her house.  There we had the privilege of meeting her three charming children: Taylor, 8;  Max, 6; and Samuel, 5 months.  We began to discuss some of the things she had put aside to offer us.  Such generosity!  She had all kind of “indoor toys” as well as a couple of small bikes to choose from, and a great wagon.   These were all available for loan, she explained, because of the age gap between her 6-year-old and her baby.

Every mom knows how hard it is for kids to part with treasured toys—often even those they’ve grown beyond.  One of the kids—naturally the in-between one who had most recently used some of these things—began to protest mildly.  Some of these things had been his favorites.   Even though he wasn’t currently using them, obviously he had good memories and wondered if they’d be returned for his brother—and be well taken care of.

Then came the moment of not only mama grace and mama-modeling, but also of mama-teaching.  Gently this mom reminded her kids of all they had and of how great it is to give and to share.  And I remembered the email she had sent me.  She had written of how God had been teaching her lessons in gratitude, and in giving, and how He had been working in her life to encourage her to be more giving and less grasping of blessings she was able to provide for her kids that many kids don’t have.

And so as I stood in her yard watching this mom teach her kids lessons of grace and gratitude, I saw her attitude become contagious.  Isn’t that how it often works?

It made my heart grateful—not only for the generous loans, but even more for the picture I saw before me: As He teaches us, the lessons overflow to our children.

Thank you, Heather—and Taylor and Max and Samuel.  And thank you, God!

What lessons is God currently teaching you that you can pass along to your kids?

Lessons Learned from Little Ones


Do you learn a lot from your kids?  I know I did.  And now I’m learning just as much—or more!—from my grandchildren.   Here are two of the latest examples:

“You’re Mrs. Beaver.  You make the decisions.” That’s what my 4-year-old grandson told me when we were “playing Narnia” last week.  Soren’s parents had been reading him one chapter each night from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis.  The child was completely entranced by the story.  While I was visiting them, his favorite game was “Let’s play Narnia,” and we each had assigned character parts.   We were to call each other by our Narnia names—even his little 1-year-old brother whom he had named, interestingly, Aslan.

One morning when Soren (Peter) and I were playing in the basement, his “Kangaroo Climber” was serving as the beaver den.  Trying to figure out what toys (plastic food, etc) we could use to serve “breakfast,” I asked him, “Peter, what do you think we should have for breakfast?”  That’s when I got his response: “Well, you’re Mrs. Beaver. You make the decisions.”

Hmmm…food for thought (no pun intended!).  I wonder if that’s not what a lot of kids are thinking when struggling parents may be being having difficulty “being the parent.”  Kids need to know who’s in charge, don’t they?  Actually, they instinctively know who’s supposed to be in charge.   All the more reason to step up and, as we say at Mom to Mom, “be the parent”!

“Time out!  Time out!  Time out!” This story came to me from “Gigi,” the grandmother with whom I share grandchildren Bengt (5) and Hannah (21 months).   Once when she was visiting and watching the kids, Hannah ventured over to grab a lamp cord she wasn’t supposed to touch.  “No, Hannah, you can’t touch that,” reminded her big brother.  Looking him straight in the eye, she turned around and grabbed hold of the cord, exclaiming in her powerful (I’m not kidding!) voice: “MINE!!!!”  Enter Gigi.  As her grandmother approached the scene of the crime, Hannah immediately began shouting “Time out, time out, time out,” and took herself right over to the time-out chair.   Her mom tells me she doesn’t always do that, but it was an instructive moment.

And sometimes we wonder if they really “get it” when we tell them no, or follow through with discipline.   Think again!  As I was often reminded as a mom, our kids are always smarter than we are!

My Family an Idol?

Recently I’ve been reading a great book by Tim Keller called Counterfeit Gods.  I highly recommend it.

It’s gotten me thinking about all kinds of idols that we manage to make for ourselves.    Money can become an idol.  Or success.  Or a political ideology.  Or romantic love.  But the book got me thinking especially about one idol Keller doesn’t talk about all that much: our families—or maybe specifically our kids.

Our kids?!!  How can that be?  Well, Keller defines an idol as “anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” (Counterfeit Gods, p. xvii)  Hmm . . .

It’s food for thought, you must admit.  Of course none of us would say out loud that we love our kids more than God.  But what do our lives say?  What do our thoughts say?  Our worries?  Our obsessions?  Our preoccupations?  Our discipline?

A terrifying verse from Scripture comes to mind.  When the Old Testament priest Eli was confronted about his tragic negligence regarding the raising and conduct of his sons, God said to Eli, “ Why do you honor your sons more than me . . . ?” (I Samuel 2:29b)

“Why do you honor your sons more than me?”  It’s a haunting question.  A question that has pierced my parental heart over the years.  I would think of it from time to time when grappling with a particular discipline problem.   I didn’t like seeing my kids in pain of any kind—or sad, or disappointed, or mad as could be at me.  But sometimes honoring God by disciplining them in a loving, Godly way meant that my kids wouldn’t be all that happy, for the moment anyway.

And how about my priorities?  My choices about activities, about sports, about how we spend our time or our money?

Wait a minute, you may be thinking.  Doesn’t God give us our kids?  Doesn’t He want us to love them with everything we are and have?   Well, yes, to a point.  But let’s not get confused.  It’s the Lord our God we are told to love with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  And after that, our neighbor.  Starting at home, I would say.  But let’s not confuse our kids with God!

It’s really a question of what—or Who—comes first, isn’t it?   Naturally when you’re raising babies and toddlers, your mom-job with them will absorb huge chunks of your time—much, if not most, of your life, in fact.  But will those kids become your life?  In the big picture (not just a snapshot of one moment or another of your day), will they absorb so much of you that there is nothing left for your husband?  Or for God?  Will they become your ultimate source of worth and value, so that you feel personally responsible (and perhaps guilty) for every choice or decision they make even as adults?

“Idols are good things turned into ultimate things,” Keller reminds us (p. 148).  It’s a question of alignment.  Of what (or Whom) we worship.   When God is truly first in our lives, our other relationships fall into much healthier alignment.  Children raised in a home where God is first and their parents’ marriage second tend to be much healthier children (for those of you who are married—but this in no way discounts the potential effectiveness of Godly single moms).  Children who themselves become objects of their mother’s worship grow up with a distorted view of themselves, of others—and most tragically, of God.

One last thought from Keller:  Borrowing from Alexis de Tocqueville’s long-ago observations on Americans’ “strange melancholy,” I believe—Keller says that idolatry involves taking some “incomplete joy of this world” and building your life on it.

Oh, what joy our children can bring us (sometimes . . . see previous blog post).  But even at best it’s an incomplete joy.  Only God brings ultimate Joy.   Building our lives on Him will make for much stronger family-building in the end!

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