Monday, August 24, 2015

Don't Tell Me I'm a Good Mom

I'm a bad mom. I sleep too late. I don't cherish every moment. I complain when my daughter wakes up in the middle of date night. I leave her on the floor so I can get on Facebook. I let her cry. I leave her diaper on too long. I get impatient when she cries. I don't do these things all the time, but I do them enough. I'm a bad mom.

When you compare me to some moms, maybe I'm not too bad. I may make mistakes sometimes, or have a bad day every now and then, but in general, I'm a pretty good mom. I don't abuse my Bumblebee. I breastfeed, cloth diaper, play with her, read to her, don't let her watch TV.... By a lot of standards, I'm good enough.

Here's the thing, though. I don't want you to tell me I'm good enough. I'm not! I am a bad mom. I'm also a bad wife, a bad sister, a bad daughter, a bad friend. Why is that? Because I'm a bad person. I'm a bad person because I'm part of a fallen world. I'm a sinner. I will never be a perfect mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend. I can try and try, but I am incapable of being good.

When you tell me I'm a good mom, I know you're lying. You may think I am, but a truly good mom wouldn't do those things. She wouldn't ever let her daughter cry. She wouldn't ignore her baby. She would never become unreasonably upset with her child. When you tell me I'm a good mom, and then I do one of those things, I feel guilty. I feel like I've failed. The weight of being a bad mom gets heavier and heavier, and the more I feel like a bad mom, the more likely I am to do bad mom things.

When you tell me I'm a bad mom, but I've been redeemed, I feel relieved. I know I don't have to carry the weight of being a bad mom around any longer. I can try again. I will try again. And I will fail again. I will never be a good mom, because as a sinner, I can't stop sinning. But as a redeemed child of God, I am a good mom.

So the next time you hear me say, "I'm a bad mom," don't jump to correct me. Agree with me. Say, "Yes, you're a bad mom. But that's okay, because Someone died to redeem that bad mom. You're now a good mom, not because of your power, but because you've been washed by the blood of Jesus Christ!"

On this earth, I am simul iustus et peccator; I am simultaneously good mom and bad mom. One day I will leave this body behind and no longer carry the weight of being a bad mom, but until that day, I will acknowledge that I am a bad mom, because a mom who's good on her own doesn't need Christ. A bad mom does. And I need Christ.

I'm a bad mom.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Raising a Woman Proud in Her Femininity

We live in a culture that has destroyed what it means to be a woman. We applaud men living as women, celebrate gay marriage, and fill our vision with distorted images of beauty. As a mother, I am terrified of trying to raise godly men and women surrounded by images like these. I know I need to start early to counteract the culture, so I have begun to think about what I will do to raise my daughter to be proud of her femininity. These are just a few of the things I intend to do throughout my life to help my daughter become a godly woman.

Celebrate feminine milestones. Being a woman is a beautiful thing, but she will never learn to recognize that beauty if I ignore the feminine milestones in her life. When I started my first period, for example, my mom took me to get a manicure with her, just me and her, as a celebration of my entrance into womanhood, and I intend to do something similar with my Bumblebee every time she reaches a new stage in life as a woman.

Teach her to treasure her body. There is a ridiculous amount of body-shaming in both Christian and non-Christian circles. Some parts of the purity movement teach girls to cover their bodies out of fear of the reaction of the men around them. Some parts of the secular culture teach girls to show their entire bodies to assert their freedom and independence, or to attract a man. Neither of these teachings is correct. I need to teach her that her body, God's unique creation, has value, and as such, it is only for herself, and one day, if God wills it, for the man who becomes her husband.

Show her what a good marriage is. It is my responsibility to show my daughter what the vocations of wife and mother entail, as my mother showed me. By loving me in his words and actions, my husband will be setting standards for our daughter's future husband (if God wills that she has one), and by loving my husband with my words and actions, I will be setting standards for how my daughter should live out her vocation of wife.

Teach her appropriate standards for sexuality. A mother's responsibility to her daughter regarding her sexuality goes beyond teaching her about the mechanics and to abstain from intercourse marriage. I will teach my daughter that, like her body, her sexuality is a gift, to be used in marriage within the boundaries God has established. As my mother taught me, I will teach her to safeguard it as a young single, and to generously gift it to her husband as a married woman.

This will not be an easy undertaking. From the moment she was first conceived, my husband and I received a lifelong challenge, given to us by God, to raise her to the best of our abilities to live as His creation, and I pray that He will guide us to live out this vocation of parents well.

Mothers, fathers, what would you add to this list? How do you (or did you) raise your daughters to be godly women?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

God Will Provide...but How?

First, I'd like to apologize for my extended absence. For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you will know that eight weeks ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, and that since then, I've been in the process of preparing to move. While my intentions post-baby were to maintain the blog, as a first time mom I had no idea what was in store for me, and parenting is a much bigger task than I realized.

Be that as it may, I've finally got the little Bumblebee on a semi-decent sleeping schedule, and I believe I can start blogging again during naptimes. Here's hoping.

Photo Credit:

Between the birth of my daughter, our income situation, and my husband's job change, it's been a stressful year. I've struggled a lot with worry. I've never been afraid that we would miss a rent payment or be unable to afford groceries, but I have worried about paying loans, hospital bills, or taxes. I've worried about having a job or having insurance. I've been afraid we won't be able to afford to visit family, or buy the new clothes we needed.

When I face worry, people like to remind me of Matthew 6. "Do not be anxious about your life....all these things will be added to you." They remind me not to worry, because God will provide. "God promises us in Jeremiah 29:11 that 'I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,'" they would say.

I agree wholeheartedly. God has wonderful plans for my family. My daughter, my husband, and I will be taken care of. God has promised, and I trust His promises. God will provide.

What does that mean, though? "God will provide." The promises of Matthew 6 and Jeremiah 29 applied to the martyrs, as well, didn't they? If Stephen was more valuable than the birds of the air, why was he stoned? If Peter was equally valued, why was he crucified? All those children of God, for whom God has plans "to prosper...and not to harm", why did He not provide food, clothing, shelter, protection for them? "Some were tortured...suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated...wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth." (Hebrews 11) Did God renege on His promises to them? When my husband and I have financial difficulties, has God abandoned us?

By no means! Rather, those promises are for something even better than earthly provision. Yes, when we receive good things on earth, those are from God, certainly. But the ultimate fulfillment of Matthew 6, of Jeremiah 29, of all the promises in Scripture, comes in the person of Jesus Christ. The "hope and a future" given to us is the life and salvation given to us by the death and resurrection of Jesus. We receive them through Word and Sacraments, through the life-giving waters of Holy Baptism, and through the body and blood of Christ in the bread and wine of Holy Communion.

So when my husband and I don't know how we'll afford to cover the gas to get to a job interview and a friend gives us a gas card without being asked, we know that God is providing. When we don't how we'll cover our student loans and we get accepted for income-based repayment, we know that God is providing. And we know that even if He doesn't provide for our earthly financial needs, even if we are homeless, naked, starving, persecuted, God has promised to provide something we need far more than food, clothing, shelter, and protection. He has given us forgiveness, life, and salvation. When we leave this world, we will be free from all our needs. There is no need for us to worry.

I sin continually. I worry that we won't be able to pay back our loans. I worry that we won't have a place to live. I worry that we won't have insurance. So far, God has provided for all those earthly needs despite my worries. And like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said to King Nebuchadnezzar, when I face trials, even through my worry I can say with confidence, "our God whom we serve is able to deliver us...and He will deliver us out of your hand. But if not, be it known to you...that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." (Daniel 3). By God's grace, He will provide for my family here on earth, but if He will not, we will not worship the golden image of materialism or serve the gods of fear and worry. I know that He has given us a heavenly kingdom, and I know that He will always provide for our spiritual needs.

One day, I will be free from these struggles and fears. Until that day, I pray, "come, Lord Jesus."

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Additional Resources: Bread and Wine Event

For the past few weeks, I have been sharing tips for planning family events on the Means of Grace. For the next few weeks, I'd like to share some additional resources for those events. Today's post goes along with the post Bread and Wine Means of Grace Event.

One of the suggested games and activities for the Bread and Wine family event was bread and wine trivia. I have compiled a series of trivia questions you could use for this activity. Feel free to borrow the whole thing, take select questions, rewrite the rules, or use it however you feel is best.

Pastor Jonathan Fisk of Worldview Everlasting is also an excellent resource for teaching on the Means of Grace (as well as other points of doctrine). This video on the Lord's Supper would be a good opener or conclusion for the lesson, it could be used to set up for the event, or it could open or close the event for you. Other videos and resources can be found on or on the Worldview Everlasting YouTube channel.

I hope these resources help make your event successful, fun, and filled with learning! As always, I would love to hear how it turned out. Contact me here or on the Families of Faith Facebook page. God's blessings!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Words! Means of Grace Event

Adaptable for the whole family, this event is part 3 of my Means of Grace planning series! The final topic: Words!

Objective: To teach the concept that the words of Holy Scripture are a means of grace through an intergenerational event themed around words

Advertising: Use the same tips as in event 1, Just Water? Promotion for this event could say, "When are words more than just words? Why do we believe words are a way God offers His grace to us? What's with that big Book of His, anyway? Join us to find out these answers and more!"

Games and Activities: As with the other two events, any games or activities based around the theme will do. These are some of my favorites. Choose activities based on your congregational demographics.

  • Scrabble/Bananagrams competition
  • Bible verse scramble relay
  • Guess the Book: Lay out 5 cards with Bible book names. Read a verse from one of the five books, and allow participants to guess which book the verse comes from. Award points for correct answers. Add or subtract cards based on desired difficulty level.
  • Bible trivia
  • Word Link (find instructions here)
  • Charades

Lesson planning tips:

  • As always, remember the attention span and cognitive ability of your group. You don't want to be too juvenile for your older listeners, but you don't want to talk over the heads of the youngest listeners, either.
  • As with the previous two events, it should be led by a theologically trained teacher such as the pastor or a commissioned staff member.
  • Potential source texts include:
    • 2 Timothy 3:14-17
    • Romans 10:14-17
    • Matthew 4:1-11

Small group discussion:

  • Separate by demographics such as
    • Age
    • Gender
    • Family
    • Random assignment
  • Assign a mature, trained leader to each group. Consider having a small group leader training session prior to this event to ensure leaders are prepared for questions that may arise.
  • Provide each group with a list of questions based on the lesson. Possible questions include:
    • Who wrote the Bible?
    • What does it mean that the words of the Bible are a "means of grace"?
    • What does it mean that we find Law and Gospel in the Bible?
    • What is the Bible good for?

Keep in mind:
  • Small children may not be as engaged in this topic as with the previous ones, particularly if they are not able to read. Consider having a nursery/childcare option for families with small children, or use games that will be more effective for younger, non-literate participants (such as charades and Pictionary).
Sample schedule 1:
2:00 Welcome. Detail schedule, process, and any rules or announcements. Pray.
2:10 Charades
2:45 Bible trivia
3:15 Lesson
3:30 Small group discussion
4:00 Close

Sample schedule 2:
2:00 Welcome. Detail schedule, process, and any rules or announcements. Pray.
2:10 Word Link
2:30 Bible scramble relay
2:45 Bananagrams tournament
3:15 Lesson
3:30 Small group discussion
4:00 Close

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bread and Wine Means of Grace Event

Part two of my Means of Grace event planning series! This one covers Holy Communion in a fun and educational event for children to adults.

Photo credit:
Objective: To teach the meaning of the Sacrament of Holy Communion through an intergenerational event themed around bread and wine

Advertising: Use the same tips as with the Just Water? event. An advertisement for this event could say, "Wine in church? Eating a body and drinking blood? Are we cannibals? Find out the answers to these questions and more at our family fun learning event on Communion!"

Games and activities: As with the Baptism event, any games around the theme will do. The following are some of my favorite ideas.
  • Tour the sacristy with speakers such as the pastor, elders, and members of Ladies Aid explaining their part in preparing the Sacrament
  • Have a bread-making event. Donate the bread to a local food pantry, sell it for fundraising, or let participants take it home. Consider recipes such as matzah bread or no-yeast bread
  • Bread and wine trivia
  • Grape stomping (bonus points if you preface it with an I Love Lucy clip!)
  • Grape toss (like a water balloon toss, but with grapes)
Lesson planning tips:

  • Remember the attention span and cognitive ability of your youngest listeners.
  • As with the previous event, it should be led by a theologically trained teacher such as the pastor or a commissioned staff member.
  • Potential source texts include:
    • 1 Corinthians 11:23-29
    • John 6:35, 53-58
    • Luke 22:14-20
  • Luther's Small Catechism is a great source to guide your lesson plan.

Small group discussion:

  • Separate by demographics such as
    • Family
    • Age
    • Gender
    • Random assignment
  • Assign a mature, trained leader to each small group. You may wish to have a training event ahead of time for all of the small group leaders to ensure they are prepared to answer any questions their group may have.
  • Provide each group with a list of discussion questions based on the lesson. These may include:
    • What has to be used for Communion?
    • Who can give Communion?
    • Who should take Communion?
    • Is Communion a symbol? Why or why not?

Keep in mind:
  • If you choose to do the bread-making event, remember that yeast-based recipes will take much longer than yeast-free recipes.
  • Allergies and physical or behavioral sensitivities should be thought of when preparing. (For example, how will you prepare for attendees with gluten intolerance or recovering alcoholics?)
Sample schedule 1:
2:00 Welcome. Detail schedule, process, and any rules or announcements. Pray.
2:10 Tour the sacristy
2:30 Bread-making
3:00 Lesson (while bread is cooking)
3:15 Small group discussion (while bread is cooking)
3:45 Enjoy fresh bread and fellowship
4:00 Close

Sample schedule 2:
2:00 Welcome. Detail schedule, process, and any rules or announcements. Pray.
2:10 Bread and wine trivia
2:30 Grape toss
2:45 Lesson
3:00 Small group discussion
3:15 Tour the sacristy
3:30 Refreshments

As always, please leave feedback and suggestions if you use any of these events!
Click here to find part one, "Just Water? Means of Grace Event"

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Just Water? Means of Grace Event

My regular readers may have noticed that my posts for the past few months have been more serious and less program-oriented than this blog began. I'd like to go back to sharing some programming tips and options for church workers, but rather than sharing ideas for demographic-specific programs, these programs will be more in line with my constantly developing philosophy for family life ministry.

With this in mind, today I begin a new three-part series on how to cover the Means of Grace through family events. Topic one: Baptism!

Photo credit:
Objective: To teach the meaning of the sacrament of baptism through an intergenerational event themed around water

Advertising: Get the news out in whatever way works best for your congregation and community--and in as many ways as possible! Have a bulletin insert, put up flyers in the church and community, announce it during your worship service announcement times, and make sure your advertising begins several weeks in advance! Highlight the games and learning opportunities that will be provided. An advertisement could say, "Is baptism Just Water? What's the deal with it? Join us for a family fun and learning event filled with water games, a lesson, and small group discussion on baptism!"

Games and activities: Any water-based games and activities will do. You can host your event on congregational property, go to a public park, or rent a facility. Below are some options based on event size and finances, but feel free to mix and match based on your demographics and budget.
  • High budget/large group ($1000+ or 100+ attendees)
    • Rent out a pool, beach, or water park for a few hours/a day
    • Rent a dunk tank, inflatable water slide, and/or inflatable slip n' slide (prices may vary by location)
  • Medium budget/medium group ($500-999 or 50-99 attendees)
    • Sprinklers
    • Slip n' slide
    • Backyard pool party (only an option if someone in the congregation has a backyard pool they are willing to open for the event)
  • Low budget/small group (Less than $500, less than 50 attendees)
    • Water balloon toss
    • Leaking bucket relay (video example here)
    • Water limbo (instead of a bar, use a hose!)
Lesson planning tips:
  • Should be led by a respected and theologically-trained member of the congregation--ideally an ordained or commissioned staff member (Ex. Pastor, Director of Christian Education, Director of Family Life Ministries, commissioned teachers, etc.)
  • Should be understandable for your youngest listeners but not so juvenile as to lose the interest of teens and adults. To this end,
    • Use concrete examples whenever possible
    • Consider incorporating humor
  • Should not exceed fifteen minutes in length (young children will probably lose focus after the first five minutes)
  • Some Scripture options include:
    • 1 Peter 3:21
    • Mark 16:16
    • Romans 6:1-10
    • John 3:1-5
  • Luther's Small Catechism is a great guide for directing your lesson plan
Small group discussion:
  • Choose the demographics you would like your small groups to be. You can separate the groups by
    • Families
    • Ages
    • Gender
    • Random assignment
  • Assign each group a leader. These leaders should have training on the issue, be old enough to teach (I recommend 18+, at least), and be comfortable leading a group of potentially varied ages.
  • Provide each group leader with discussion questions based on the lesson.
  • Sample questions:
    • Is baptism a symbol? Why or why not?
    • What has to be used for a baptism?
    • Who can do a baptism?
    • Who should be baptized?
Keep in mind:
  • Be aware of attire regulations and ensure that these regulations are shared with attendees BEFORE the event. (You may also choose to provide swimsuit covers or t-shirts for attendees that come unprepared for the regulations.)
  • Consequences for inappropriate behavior should be determined ahead of time and shared at the beginning of the event.
  • Providing water and a shaded cool-down area will help prevent attendees from dehydrating and overheating.
  • Be aware of your church's insurance requirements, as well as the requirements of any outside facilities you may be using.
Sample schedule 1:
1:00 Opening, welcome, and prayer. Detail schedule, rules, and consequences. Separate into teams if desired.
1:10 Water balloon toss
1:30 Activity 2
1:45 Activity 3
2:00 Lesson
2:15 Small group discussion
2:30 Open activity time
3:00 Close

Sample schedule 2:
1:00 Opening, welcome, and prayer. Detail schedule, rules, and consequences.
1:10 Open activity time
2:30 Lesson
2:45 Small group discussion
3:00 Close

If you use the tips here, have other ideas, or want further clarification and assistance planning, let me know! I'd love to hear how your event went and what advice you'd give to others incorporating the same sort of program.

Next week will cover a similar event discussing Communion!