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My Two Favorite Pieces of Parenting Advice

Now that I’m older, I often find myself in conversations with young mothers who ask for parenting advice. I go back into past and remember two key comments that changed everything about my parenting.

First, wise older parents said, “Don’t teach your children to obey. Teach your children to love to obey.” We talked about robotic obedience as an unworthy goal; teaching the love and pleasure of obedience made the culture of our home different.

Second, a wise mother of much older children said, “Say yes as much as possible. Then, your no really matters.” I was a “no” kind of mother. Everything was no! on instinct, on automatic reaction. That day, I answered yes! as much as I could, and it changed parenting into a joy, a celebration, a challenge towards yes and not always no. It was true: the no truly matter and wasn’t questioned nearly as much.

The love of obedience. The saying yes as much as I can. I love these pieces of parenting advice.

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Overshadowed

I love that God overshadows. He envelops. He takes over a soul, an environment, a circumstance.

He’s the overshadowing presence over Mary; He’s the voice from the overshadowing cloud speaking over Jesus; He’s the overshadowing glory on the mountaintop; He’s the One who enabled Peter to overshadow others and heal them.

He overshadows. In His presence, we don’t worry about personalities, failures, plans, or limitations. Nothing matters but the Overshadowing Presence Who accomplishes what He desires. This overshadowing God creates, declares, reveals, heals, and brings authoritative order.

Overshadow me, Lord. Overshadow my family and all that concerns us. Overshadow my community. Overshadow us. 

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Stillness and Listening

This morning, I learned from an Italian Mama about stillness and listening, especially in those sacred hours of late evening and early morning. We don’t stop and listen to God. We don’t stay still long enough.

Last night, I saw a hummingbird eat at the feeder and then fly upwards to perch on a branch of the Winterberry Bush. She stopped. Her wings stopped. Her movement stopped.

I had always wondered about this possibility of stillness. I never imagined hummingbirds ever stopping.

But here she is. Still. It seems like she’s listening to something. 

I wonder if she sat to cool off in the shade of the leaves. I wonder if, for once, she felt the raindrops beneath her tiny body on the shiny black limb. I watched her for a full minute. Her marvelous emerald feathers radiated even in the dusk.

Was she reorienting? Was she catching her breath to make a decision?

It was the most peaceful thing in the world for that minute.

Then she flew away.

 

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At Some Point, You’re Ready

Today I notice the way the baby robins claw and clamor over one another.

It’s nearly time. The nest is too small for their spirit, for their soaring, for their size.

Maybe you can relate. 

At some point, it’s time. Where you are isn’t quite enough. Maybe the people around you stifle you. Maybe you always feel like you’re clawing for space. You look out from where you are, wide-eyed and ready.

Tomorrow, you’ll do it. You’ll break away from something that makes your life too small–a habit, a lifestyle, a way of thinking–and you’ll tumble into the bright sunlight.

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The Numbers of These Days

I live my summer Pennsylvania life in certain numbers:

  • The baby robins take 13 days to fledge.
  • They will leave the nest, therefore, in 3 days. 
  • They will train in the garden for 3 weeks with their parents nearby to teach proper feeding, flying, and general Robin living.
  • I will replace the hummingbird feeder nectar every 3 days. 
  • I have seen 3 kinds of hummingbirds at my feeder (only 3 have have been reported in Pennsylvania!): the Ruby-throated Hummingbird–the male boasts that ruby-red throat, a white collar, an emerald green back and a forked tail while the female wears an emerald green coat with white, black, and green tail feathers; the Rufous Hummingbird, and what I think is the rare Calliope (a very small hummingbird with pink stripes around his neck).
  • In 72 days, I will have grown a watermelon.

I love waking up to numbers like these.

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A Spiritual Lesson from Sleeping Baby Robins

I notice something so odd. The baby robins sleep with their mouths open. It’s funny; their beaks hang out of the nest, open to the wind, as they close their eyes in rest.

I watch their soft feathers move up and down in the rhythms of sleep. It’s so peaceful and cozy. It’s so restful. 

And that beak stays open. It’s like the chicks say, “I’m just gonna sleep right here. You go on and bring me my food whenever. I’m ready for food, but I’m also sleeping.”

When one normally thinks of hungry robins with their mouths wide open, the dominant image is one of a straining, squalling, chick whose beak opens in desperation. It’s a begging sort of picture that feels frantic and urgent. It’s a picture of starvation and fear.

But the correct picture–since baby robins sleep so much of the day and the parents return over 100 times in that day with food–is one of rest.

The mouths stay open in rest, and I imagine they sleep securely in anticipation of sure nourishment coming. For most of the day, they don’t strain or beg.

They sleep with an open mouth. It’s a posture of gentle rest that knows food will come. It must. That’s the way of things with robins.

I want to rest with an open heart to the Lord’s provision. I want to take on the true rest of Jesus and stay snug and cozy in the boundaries of this nested life. I want to live most of my day in light of sure provision.

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The Consecration of June

This morning I read EM Bounds’ essay on consecration. This part spoke to me most of all:

Prayer is the one thing prominent in a consecrated life. Consecration is much more than a life of so-called service. It is a life of personal holiness, first of all. It is that which brings spiritual power into the heart and enlivens the entire inner man. It is a life which ever recognizes God, and a life given up to true prayer. Full consecration is the highest type of a Christian life. It is the one Divine standard of experience, of living and of service. It is the one thing at which the believer should aim. Nothing short of entire consecration must satisfy him. Never is he to be contented till he is fully, entirely the Lord’s by his own consent. His praying naturally and involuntarily leads up to this one act of his. Consecration is the voluntary set dedication of one’s self to God, an offering definitely made, and made without any reservation whatever. It is the setting apart of all we are, all we have, and all we expect to have or be, to God first of all.

I find myself praying prayers of consecration, and my heart stirs to think of myself as someone living a life that might one day be given up to prayer, that I would become a woman who belongs completely to God without any reservation whatsoever.

As I turn to the Psalms, I think of living differently in this new month of June. I want to meditate “day and night” on God’s word (Psalm 1) and, in my bed at night, to “search [my] heart and be silent” (Psalm 4).

As I’m thinking of consecration, I find Hannah Whitall Smith’s own prayer of consecration, published in her journal, written May 31, 1869, the night before her own June began. Maybe she wanted to consecrate a new month like me. She writes:

“Lord, I am yours, yours wholly, and yours forever! I am yours by the purchase of your blood, and I present myself to you now as a living sacrifice, body, soul, and spirit to be as clay in your hands. I give you my heart, Lord, to love only what you love; to hate what you hate; to endure all things, to suffer long and be kind, to be not easily provoked; to think no evil, not to seek my own. Help me, oh my God! I give you my intellect to be wholly devoted to your service, and perfectly under your control to think only whose thoughts that will please you, to devise only such plans as you suggest, to yield the management of all its affairs to you! I give it to you that you may fulfill the purposes of your grace by casting down in me imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. Help me, oh my God. I give you my body to be used by you. My eyes to see only what you would have them see, my ears to hear only what you would have them hear; my feet to go only where you lead, my hands to do only what can be done in fellowship with you, my tongue to speak only words that please you. I give you any appetite to be under thy control and regulation. I give my time to you, Lord, to be all employed for you. I leave my reputation in your hands. I give you my children, my husband, and everyone whom I love to be disposed of according to your will. I leave to you the ordering of my whole life, and with your help will follow you wherever you lead. I will give you the control of my feelings and of my prejudices. I submit, in short, my whole being and life all that I am and have and will be to your complete control and only ask that your will may be perfectly done in me, through me and by me! Take me and keep me oh my God!”

Let us consecrate ourselves to God. May June become a special month for us all.

Smith, H. W. (1997). The Christian’s secret of a holy life : The unpublished personal writings of Hannah Whitall Smith (May 13). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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When the Roses Bloom

It’s a new morning, with new mercies, new joys, and new hope. I see the first pop of color on the trellis covered in climbing roses.

Each new day, gifts arrive.

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