Looking out over the years we have been a family, I can see how, at times, God has taken us by the hand and led us into times of great learning, and then times of living out what we have learned, and then due to our human/sinful nature we slide into "the easy life" and go with the flow, usually backwards/downwards.
Our biggest time of learning and growing in the past was just before and the first years after we moved onto this property. We learned that our home was intended to be the center of our life, cultivating a love for God and His word, and learning to be frugal, depending less and less on materialism and worldly living. We homeschooled in earnest, we learned to bake bread and can nearly everything, raise animals, care for chickens all year long (not as easy as it sounds) and enjoy the goodness of fresh eggs, eating a healthy, balanced diet, and read books and magazines almost constantly as we learned how to function as a family in a way that was pleasing to our Lord.
We began to see that our world has lost the vision for families - dating is recreational intimacy until you finally decide that is is time to get married, "shacking up" is the best way to find out if you are compatible for marriage, marriages are not meant to last a lifetime (dating has trained us that when the going get tough, you get out), children are an accessory while they are babies, and then an inconvenience once they are toddlers and not so cute anymore, and the sooner you can get them in preschool/daycare the better, men are useless so women need to take command of their homes (and if they are useless, why keep them around once they have served their purpose and given us our children), religion is something that is there when you need it - holidays and funerals, and our sole purpose here on earth is to live for ourselves ("you deserve a break today") and so much more.
We began to see that being a Christian was a relationship with God Almighty, and that out of our love for Him we were to seek how best to live our lives in a manner that would please Him, bring glory to His name, and allow us to enjoy Him forever. When we began to question everything the world had taught us, and went to the Bible and wise counselors/writers we found that, as most of Jesus' teaching, the way we had been taught to view our world was backwards! It is not about us, it is about God and others. That the years God gives us before marriage are to be purposeful - serving God, learning the skills necessary to be godly husbands/wives and godly fathers/mothers! That God is very involved in marriage, and that He will lead and guide us to the one He has designed as our perfect counterpart, and that we should never enter into a relationship without guidance and commitment to find out if the other person is that one that God has for us! Marriage is sacred - so sacred that God says it is a view of the relationship of the body of Christ to Christ Himself! So sacred, that we are to remain pure, both physically and emotionally, so that when we enter the covenant of marriage we come with no baggage! That children are a blessing,that God never makes mistakes and that we should rest in His sovereignty as to the children He wants to place in our family, and that they are to be taught at home by their parents every day and in all activities - God holds parents accountable for their upbringing and if we delegate that to the schools, that does not remove our accountability. That men have the God given responsibility to lead their family, to desciple their wives and children in the way of the Lord, to protect their sons and daughters from the evil in our world, and to train their sons to be great men of God, ready to make a difference in their world for Christ. That women have been given the responsibility to raise their daughters (and other younger women) to be godly women who understand that their roles as a wife and mother are sacred and a high calling, to be taken very seriously, not as a part time job, but as a lifetime of service for their Lord.
Over the last 16 years, we have tried to follow what the Lord has taught us, but at times the busy-ness of a growing family can wear you down, especially if you are not in a network of other believers who have made similar commitments in their lives. I went through a severe time of loneliness and discouragement for a couple of years, and then, seven years ago, we were led by the Lord to change churches, and we have been so blessed there. We have sat under solid, Bible based, teaching, found in others examples of what we were hoping to have in our homes, new books to read that encouraged us in our walk with the Lord and so much more. But, then our home business started, and it seemed to take over my life and that of our family. We were being taught at church, but our family and personal growth was stagnating and we began to lose our focus and zeal.
Then the Lord blessed us with Esther, and our lives were pushed out of our comfort zone. We, once again, had to remind ourselves what we believed about God, our family, our mission in life and find out what God wanted us to do. I committed myself to daily time in God's word, and praying faithfully for my husband, my children and others. It's taken a couple of years, but the Lord is once again holding our hands and leading us in paths of learning and growing, and it feels so good and inspiring! It's exciting!
The past two years I have read so many books that have helped me to solidify my purpose in this life - to bring glory to God, to serve and support my husband (especially in prayer), to raise my children to glorify God and prepare them for lives that are transformed by grace, and to minister to younger women, encouraging them to serve the Lord in their homes.
Last weekend was like getting an energy drink and new glasses at the same time! We went to the Christian Heritage Homeschool Conference for the first time, and oh, how I wish we had attended past ones, but God knew what we needed and when we needed it, and oh, how we needed this! Here are some of the things I have taken home and am working to put into action in our home now:
Deuteronomy 6: 4 - 7 is the pattern for homes - teaching God's word at all times, in all circumstances, and it is done by the parents. This is discipleship! No where in the Bible does it talk about "education". While being "educated" is important to be a functional part of our society, it is second to a working knowledge of God's word and a relationship with God the Father through the blood of Jesus Christ. If we pack our children's heads with "knowledge" yet fail to bring them to the throne of grace, we have failed indeed. All "education" should be saturated with the Word of God, in the context of a God who created this world for us, who loved us enough to make our world amazing and beautiful, that He created us with great minds that can be used to bring Him glory, or to serve the god of this world. Knowledge without wisdom is folly.
Romans 12:2 teaches us not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed with the renewing of our minds - we are also told to take very thought captive, to think on things that are true, pure, lovely and the like. It is so easy to let our thoughts be filled with what we have been taught in our childhood. But we must think on what is true - compare every thought to God's word. How has the world's philosophy, attitudes and beliefs crept into our thoughts. Are we passing on false teachings? Are we using the worlds methods of child rearing - behavior modification verses Godly instruction and rebuke.
Do we model a life of gratitude to God, do we handle the Word of God with reverence? Going to God's Word in times of confusion and trials, or do we "pull ourselves up by our bootstraps"?
It was also shared at the conference that it does not matter what we bring to the table - God is more than able to use us as we are! He just wants us to do what He has called us to do and He will equip us and His grace will "fill in the gaps"! He has given us all that we have and we are just presenting it back to Him as an offering. And in James God promises that if we lack wisdom, all we have to do is ask and He will give to us abundantly! Without reproach (with God there are no "stupid questions!" - don't you love that!)!
So, what changes are we trying to make in our home, now that we have become aware of how much more we could be doing in our homes to bring glory to God?
We are putting the reading and memorizing of scripture first and foremost in our day. We are going to be studying the lives of great Christians in history. We are going to try to apply scripture to our lives day in and day out. We are going to equip our children to think through the filter of God's word, not worldly knowledge. We are placing our family worship as the most important thing that we do each day - studying proverbs and the shorter catechism. We are reading Pilgrims Progress together as a family in the evenings instead of watching movies. And every morning the first activity for everyone is reading God's word and taking time in prayer, individually and together after breakfast.
I am excited to see what God will be doing in our family in the years to come. I am excited to see what God will be doing in my heart and through our home as well. I pray that we will not lose our fervor, that we will continue to strive towards further growth in grace, and that we will continue to become Christ-like in our lives and that through us and other families like ours, many more will see God's great design for families.
For further information:
Kevin Swanson was the keynote speaker and has a weekly radio broadcast, he also has created curriculum based on great autobiographies of Christians throughout history, and study guides/devotionals on Proverbs, psalms and some new testament books! - http://www.generationswithvision.com/Broadcasts/
Christian Heritage was the sponsor of the conference, and you can purchase CD of past classes and soon you'll be able to purchase ones from this one, they also host regional picnics in the fall:
And I'd like to leave you with the hymn we sang at the end (well, others sang while I cried)
A Christian Home
O give us homes built firm upon the Saviour,
Where Christ is Head, and Counsellor and Guide;
Where ev'ry child is taught His love and favor
And gives his heart to Christ, the crucified:
How sweet to know that tho' his footsteps waver
His faithful Lord is walking by his side!
O give us homes with godly fathers, mothers,
Who always place their hope and trust in Him;
Whose tender patience turmoil never bothers,
Whose calm and courage trouble cannot dim;
A home where each finds joy in serving others,
And love still shines, tho' days be dark and grim.
O give us homes where Christ is Lord and Master,
The Bible read, the precious hymns still sung;
Where prayer comes first in peace or in disaster,
And praise is natural speech to ev'ry tongue;
Where mountains move before a faith that's vaster,
And Christ sufficient is for old and young.
O Lord, our God, our homes are Thine forever!
We trust to Thee their problems, toil, and care;
Their bonds of love no enemy can sever
If Thou art always Lord and Master there:
Be Thou the center of our least endeavor:
Be Thou our Guest, our hearts and homes to share