Two Truths to Fight off Mom-Guilt

9 Jun path of grace in parenting

mom guilt

Not enough exercise.
Their/They’re/There still stumps my 12 year old.
We move them around too much.
I let their pet bunny roast in the Texas sun accidentally.
In a rush, I threw the bunny’s corpse into the garbage in front of them.
Not enough time spent reading.
Too much yelling.
All their food is either beige or neon orange.

I delegate every request to play pretend.
They never see our other side of the family.
They don’t like team sports.
Too many empty threats.
Allowing too much screen time.
Not allowing enough screen time.
Not enough Easter egg hunts.

You read right.  I cried this past Easter, because we didn’t do an egg hunt.  To be fair, it’s not that much of a thing in the UK…not to mention they don’t have those convenient, plastic, fillable Easter eggs.  But still—the parenting anxiety that I even might have deprived my children of a candy-centric holiday custom brought out liquid tears.  I had to go check my Glow App just to see where I was in my cycle, in order to rationally categorize my Easter-onset distress.

Mom-guilt.  I have taken every trip!  Times five kids, there have been many!  You’d think I would see that guilt-trip train rushing toward me from a mile away and avoid it.  But I still get on board, after all these kids and all these parenting years later.  So many nights I crash-land into bed, ruminating over the coulda-shoulda-wouldas.   

Some of the guilt is warranted–and the conviction leads me to say I am sorry, and restore the relationship.  (Great opportunity to model the art of apology!)

But most guilt is useless and cumbersome.  It’s all self-doubt which throws me sideways and strips away my confidence.  (By the way, tripping on mom-guilt is a huge indicator that I need to rest from social media.)  This luxurious and modern American culture causes us to overthink the definition of success in parenting!  The truth is that parenting is hard, but we don’t need to get cynical or discouraged.   

Here are two thoughts that refocus me when the negative thought train comes barrelling through:   

  1. The path of grace in parenting is very wide.
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  2. The gospel of parenting is this: if they know they are loved they have everything.

First of all, your commitment and desire to raise children well means that you are on the right path.  No matter what side of the aisle you are on, your viewpoint on screen time, whether you stay at home or go to work, breast or bottle feed, homeschool or send them to the brick-and-mortar school.

The path…the right path…is graciously wide enough for everyone! You’re on it.

Secondly, and most importantly.  If you stripped everything away until all they had left is your love: they would have everything.  Strip off everything. Everything you consider good, bad, disappointing or super advantageous in their lives. Take it all off, and imagine their life without any of those conditions and circumstances.

Sit on that for a minute.

If it all went away, and all that remained was a tent, rice, water + your love, they would have EVERYTHING.  Everything they need to become high-functioning adults, contributing members of society, and capable of spreading this love to others.

This is old news, but it’s all we need to parent entirely guilt-free.  You can check off every box, and your children could be a total success on paper.  But if they don’t have love, they are nothing.  This is a simultaneously simple yet somehow monumental challenge!  Maybe it is just me, but I have to continually recenter on this over and over.  In this way, parenting is inherently a spiritual practice. 

Since love is action and not just a feeling–here are a few, off-the-top of my head ways to demonstrate your love to your children on the daily:

  1. Hug and kiss your children as often as they are fed.
  2. Tell them you love them–may as well be when you are giving them that hug.
  3. Listen when they share.  It is possible to disagree with them without voicing it the moment after they share with you. They need to be heard, and this is central to their feeling loved.
  4. Encourage and point out every good thing.  I have even created handwritten lists of the good things.  Because, sadly, I am much much better at keeping track of their shortcomings–such an unloving tendency.  We are not supposed to keep a record of wrongs, but we definitely ought to keep a record of rights!
  5. Discipline from a place of peace.  When it’s time to give correction or consequences, ask them to go to their room and wait for you.  Take five minutes to collect your own emotions, and even say a prayer before you approach discipline.
  6. Be quick to forgive.  We are often much harder on our kids than God is on us!
  7. Find every easy yes.  There will always be so many necessary nos.
  8. Create spaces where they can express themselves in a healthy manner.  This one is hard because we are territorial about our living space.  They want to cook, dance, make messy art, create potions, dig holes in the garden.  The home should be their haven for self expression See #7.

After all this, you have permission to sleep well at night because you gave them everything.
Let that be an encouragement to you.

Leigh

 

 

How to Memorize Long Passages: The 50 Times Method

9 May

Learning how to learn is one of the greatest gifts that home-educating has given our entire family.    

I’m an army brat, so my academics skipped and jumped around.  I was thoroughly peer-oriented, and the minimum standard of effort was good enough for me. Basically translated: I moved constantly, which made me focus on my friend situation relentlessly.  I banged out assignments as fast as I could in order to get back to life’s central focus: the crush of the week.

Sadly, this action plan lasted all the way through college, where my academic motto was “no one will ever care what grades you got in college!”  It did work. But, other than a diploma, my peer-orientation/crush mongering habits left me with little else.

My mantra SHOULD have been: “Grades up or guns up, sister.”  Because that’s what happened. I joined the Army. It was post-9/11 and they were hiring.  Anyone.

Anyone.

A salary, a housing allowance, dental, and a chance to impress my friends and a lot of jocks?  Full circle, baby! I guess it’s true, everything really does work out.


The purpose of that story is to share that even though I scored a “good job” out of college, I was still missing a solid piece of educational development that I am now pursuing in my adulthood: the ability to learn things permanently.  I’ve hated feeling like an empty vessel, and as an adult I have struggled to memorize even one sentence perfectly.  I would start with good intentions only to give up very easily.

When life gets hard, it feels urgent to place our thoughts elsewhere.  On the advice of Beth Moore I attempted Psalm 25, because I wanted to be able to pray it.  It took months. I wrote it out 8 or 10 times.  Read it over and over. Said three verses, the next day saying those three and adding one more.  Using symbols in place of the words, etc.

I finally got it down, but the process was ridiculously long and convoluted.


Then I came across a blog post that changed everything.  The post stated that long passages–even up to 15 minutes long–could be memorized if they were read aloud 50 times.  That’s it.  No pony tricks.  No hieroglyphs. No music or hand motions.

Step one: Get the passage.
Step two: Read the words aloud 50 times.  (Not all in one sitting.  See below.)

I decided to try it with my kids. The results were astounding.  All I can say is, THIS works!  By saying the passages 50 times, we’ve memorized Psalms 25, 51 & 139, Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 13, Matthew 5:1-16, Ephesians 5:1-21, Galatians 5:13-26, James 1, and we are currently learning Ecclesiastes 12 (NLT).

It’s been exhilarating for me to collaborate on these with them.  It’s risen above any of our other family rituals, and without question the most rewarding element of our homeschool.

Some administrative details:

  1. Everyone has their own copy.  We all say it in unison, in its entirety.  Then I make a tally at the bottom of the page.
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  2. I usually go over the passage 2-3 times per sitting. Each of the passages take between 90-120 seconds to read, and so our memory work sessions are about 5-10 minutes total.  This can be done anytime, but mealtimes seem easiest because we are naturally together.
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  3. It takes about three months to get to 50 times.  We work on it 3 times a week on average.
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  4. The first 8-10 recitations feel cumbersome, but don’t lose heart.  The subsequent iterations flow smoothly.
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  5. This method hits upon multiple modalities of learning: visual, aural, and oral.  In a way, also tactile because you feel the words forming a pattern as they come out of the mouth.  It almost feels like muscle memory.
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  6. The New Living Translation communicates beautifully, it’s especially good for being read/recited aloud.  I prefer to use the Bible Gateway website to print off my selected passage.
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  7. For my youngers who cannot yet read, I have them hold their paper and “follow along” by listening. After 5-10 times of hearing it, I’ve asked them to say as much of it as they can with me.  Not surprisingly, they catch on very quickly…even the two year old picks up clusters of phrases!
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  8. Most of the kids have it down by the 30th time…I definitely need all 50.
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  9. After we have it memorized, it goes into our recall rotation…we review previously memorized passages on a consistent basis.
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  10. I don’t assign passages and send the children off to go memorize alone.  I don’t want this kind of thing to feel like a chore for them.
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  11. Whether age 4 or 38, we are all working toward mastery of the same exact thing!
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  12. This is a practical, everyday way to set your mind on things above and think right thoughts.  This will re-center your mind! (Even if it is only re-centered while you are saying the passage!)
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  13. This doesn’t work if you default back into silently reading over the passage.  The words must be audibly spoken…I don’t know why, but that seems to be the hack.  My hubby said the fifty times doesn’t work for him.  When I hazed him about that, he finally admitted he tended to default into just reading it silently over and over. 


What words are worth having on the tip of your tongue for the rest of your life?  I do scripture because it is the Word of the Living God. But there are countless other passages worthy of committing to permanent memory.  MLK’s
I Have a Dream…the preamble of the Constitution…the Gettysburg Address…Shakespeare…Ozymandias…  I would love to hear your suggestions.

Memory work is not dead, it is a fantastic way to put creativity back into your life.

Don’t take my word for it!  Here are three of my friends’ reviews of this “50 times method”.  

 

–HS, age 22

–TB age 18

–JC, mom of 5

Have fun with this, please share your results!
Leigh G

 



Post Script:

I have wanted to write about this for years.  But I feared that it would come off as a huge public momblog brag: “My kiddos and I can recite multiple chapters of the Bible from memory!!”  I finally found the courage to hit “publish.” It is my desire that you would not consider it to be boasting…but rather see the 50-times method as a life-hack.

Secondly, the kids’ memorized scriptures do not make them Christians.  (It simply means their parents did everything in their power to instill in them our worldview.)  Head knowledge does not equal heart knowledge.

Finally, I have been consistently convicted that it is more important to demonstrate to them the love of God, than to simply tell them about God.  For me that means lots of mercy, listening, cuddling, and making my disciplinary decisions from a place of peace.  Parenting with a soft heart confirms God’s character to them in a tangible way. Frequently that means I must close the book, and just demonstrate.

 

Leading a Child’s Heart Away From Porn: A 10-point Discussion Guide

25 Mar kids on media

I am utterly gutted over the pandemic of pornography in our society.  It can’t be overstated.  Porn is on Instagram. Porn is on Pinterest.  It’s also on Facebook (via shared “gifts” in the messenger app.) On WhatsApp, kids are texting each other gifs and links.  Web browsers are attached to most apps and video gaming equipment.

They have access to it everywhere, and it is coming to them whether they seek it or not.  We are at a point in time where we must deliberately avoid it rather than deliberately seek it out.

As a parent you cannot be too vigilant in protecting your kids.  We are mental about their sleeping on their backs, and wearing seatbelts and helmets.  We ensure they avoid stranger danger, processed food and soda, even sunburns.  Maybe we oughtta tack porn onto that list.

But that one’s hard.  To fully protect them, we’d have to micromanage every click and image that passes their eyes.  Not possible.  Screens are going nowhere. They will see porn, it is here to stay.  It’s our responsibility to eliminate every possible source of it.  And that’s not enough.  We have to talk to the kids about what they are going to see without shaming them.  What do we say besides, “Hey guys, don’t look at porn, it’s bad for you?”

After doing a ton of research, it’s clear that victory comes down to a common denominator:  It’s a heart issue. They’ll exchange their healthy hearts for fleshly, lurid temptations, or they will rightly turn away from worthless things.

kids on media

Recently, it dawned on me that we might actually have to teach them the qualities of a healthy heart.  My middle-schoolers, bobbing around in their deep blue sea of emotions, probably have no idea what their heart **should** be feeling.  We can lead children to recognize exactly what they should be feeling when they come across it.

Here are 10 points, or “heart ambitions” we explained to our middle-schoolers, both of whom have already been in contact with pornography.  My heart hurts just typing that.


 

1.  The cornerstone of protection is prayer.

God will strengthen those who seek rightly-ordered hearts.

I pray for my children’s heart purity as often as I think of it, and I have taught them they must pray it for themselves.  Nothing long–just a one-sentence aspiration as often as they brush their teeth: “Lord, please strengthen me to stand up to the temptation of pornography.”

It doesn’t have to be a lengthy epistle for God to hear.  It’s a penny in the jar—and over time, this adds up to a substantial volume of prayer equity.

Prayer is the bedrock.  Along with that, there are ambitions that their hearts will (hopefully) internalize.  

 

 


2.  Heart Ambition: Sympathy

With every click, you are virtually voting “yes” to victimizing the individuals in these images/videos.  The people shown in these media are victims, *even if they seemingly chose to participate.*

If you had a conversation with a performer, you would find that they abhor their role, that they feel trapped there.  Viewing these images/gifs/videos is parallel to giving a standing ovation to their victimization.

Don’t vote yes to victimizing.  Your heart should feel tremendous sympathy for their situation as victims.

 


 

3.  Heart Ambition: Righteous Indignation

When you click that link, you contribute to the human-trafficking industry as a whole.  Generally, porn use is a risk to yourself; however, in this respect you are effectively putting others at risk. 

The more clicks a site receives, the more money they make.  What do they do with that money?  Get rich on exploiting and selling women and girls.  (side note–How can this be happening in a feminist culture?)  

Porn is kerosene on society’s forest fire of sexual assault, abuse and slavery.  Human trafficking is tremendously lucrative because its clientele have no brakes on their disoriented urges.  Lust-fuelled porn users compulsively click to engage and ultimately act on human prey.

Porn is a propellant for modern slave trade.  Your heart should feel outraged that this is the fuel that enslaves thousands.

 


4. Heart Ambition: Tenderheartedness

After continual use of explicit material, you will see the actors as nothing more than a collection of body parts.  If they are just a collection of body parts, they are not human to you. 

Think about the qualities that make someone human.  These are people with hopes and dreams.  They have souls.  They crave love. 

History has shown that the worst human atrocities happen when one party sees the other party as not human.  Taking it a step further, over time, your own compassion for humanity in general will deplete. I want your heart to remain soft toward them.

Porn desensitizes the user and dehumanizes the actors.  Your heart should feel tender compassion toward all human kind.

 


 

5.  Heart Ambition: Grateful Appreciation

It feels awful now.  But, actually it is a grace to get caught.  We care very much about defending you from harmful, addictive behaviors.  There really is no such thing as getting away with anything, anyway.  God sees it all.  Getting caught means we can lovingly show you how to get back on the right track before anything gets out of hand. 

Our home is a soft place to practice walking among the hazards of the world.  We create boundaries for you now, but in few short years, our boundaries will be removed.  At that point, you’re expected uphold your own boundaries.  Our margins are for your good, the joy of others, and God’s glory.

You should feel thankful to be cushioned with loving boundaries meant to protect you from addiction.  These margins also pad your world with truth, beauty and goodness.

 


6.  Heart Ambition: Self-assurance

When looking at sexual material, the feelings of curiosity and pleasure mean that you are wired properly!  Don’t be overwhelmed or overthink your sexual desires.  They are normal.  Those feelings are meant to be freely expressed with your future spouse. 

Even though they are quite strong, don’t be afraid of them, they are healthy and have a purpose.  The strength of all those sexual feelings enable you to form the strongest possible bonds.

You should feel assured in your feelings of sexual desire.  This means you are perfectly equipped to be bonded in marriage for life!

 


 

7.  Heart Ambition: Noble Excellence

Excellence in your sexuality is central to your enjoyment of adulthood. So many people experience unrelenting torment and agony when it’s been misused, or worse…used as a weapon. 

Sex is supremely beautiful and sacred. 

The only safe way to handle its sanctity is within the promises of marriage.  Only after making those covenant promises should you share the most holy portion of yourself.  It displays nobility to revere sexuality as consecrated and sacred.

You get to feel valorous and heroic by defending the holiness of your (and your future spouse’s) sexuality.

 


 

8.  Heart Ambition: Empowerment

The more you stand against the temptation of pornography, the stronger you will stand in the face of all the other temptations of life.  Childhood is the ideal arena to perfect the life-skill of denying your wayward temptations.  We need to be good at it before beginning adulthood, where all the temptations will burgeon exponentially. 

Saying no is spiritual bodybuilding, it cultivates spiritual muscle memory.   This is another proverbial penny jar…bit by bit you build proficiency.  It gets easier to see the lure coming, and you’ll be sturdy enough to avoid it without a lot of fuss.

You should feel empowered: your cumulative “no’s” will breed a stronger mind and heart.

 


9.  Heart Ambition: Personal Triumph

Be willing to gouge out an eye if it causes you to fail.  This means cut off any source of addiction.  This metaphor implies pain, and truthfully, it will be an uncomfortable reality at first.  An unpleasant part of parenting is that we have to do the gouging and the cutting off…out of love and concern for your well-being!

Think through what might need to be gouged out.  This might mean cutting out the smart phone and using a dumb phone…definitely an ouch.  Or cutting off the “right hand” of Instagram/Pinterest/Social Media.  Whatever the source, discard it.  Take action, now. 

Don’t just cross your fingers hoping not to do it again!  Eliminate or make it VERY DIFFICULT for yourself to get access to that thing. There is no hope for long-term victory without eliminating the source.

Look to feel a sense of personal accomplishment in crafting a strategy for long-term success.

 


 

10.  Heart Ambition: Freedom

I know the real you.  The real you loves to laugh, be outside, enjoy friendship, conversations, games and sports.  You love drawing and animals, the Rat Pack, and football.  That is the real you. 

When you are engaging in porn, it is like pouring vinegar on soda—the images, feelings, urges, the guilt…it just sizzles away at the real you.  The addictive nature of porn will change your affections. 

Rather than having increasingly corrupted interests overtake what you really love, focus on your first loves.  The real you wants to be fully known, and find pure joy in life’s truest pleasures.

Enjoy feeling absolute freedom in having nothing to hide from anyone.  Experience true liberty in pursuing what makes you authentically happy.

 


There is never an auto-pilot.

None of us will ever get away from the assault of pornography.  It is not a once-and-done issue.  The resolve to turn away must be deliberate and continual.  But, be encouraged!  We don’t wake up having to face an entire lifetime of temptation every morning.  You only need to be ready for today’s temptation.  Some days there will be more, other days, less.

As I have said before, the power of prayer can NOT be underestimated in this area of your life.  It is a spiritual battle that must be fought with spiritual weapons.  While 2 one-sentence aspirations a day may seem flippant or ritual, they matter.  That prayer is said from a place of strength and clear-mindedness.  It confirms a heart of surrender to God.

He will take that small mustard seed and it will uproot the mulberry bush.

Be encouraged, my friends.  Sleep well knowing you’re doing everything in your power to set the conditions for your children’s mental, physical and spiritual health.

Talk about a prime pursuit!
Leigh

 

 

 


Resources:

Good Pictures Bad Pictures
The Story of Me Series

Don’t Mom Alone Podcast: Parenting in the Digital Age with Ashley Januszewski (Ep 207).

Heidi St. John’s The Busy Mom Podcast #728, interview with Jasmine Grace: Tracked. Recovered. Redeemed.  #728

Heidi St. John’s The Busy Mom Podcast #689 interview with Kirk Cameron: Parenting in the Internet Age.

Psalm 101: 1-7—meditation passage


porn::sugarcane

*In the plantation economy, sugarcane was a primary cash crop.  Plantation owners used forced slave labor to get rich off of peoples’ addiction to its byproducts: refined sugar and rum.

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