Category: Relationships

Why I Am Not Surprised by Mommy Wars

picture taken from bringbirthhome.com

The popular Christian women’s blog, Her.meneutics, recently posted two posts (here and here) discussing the hot button issue of “crying-it-out.” For non-parents, “crying-it-out” refers to some amount of letting a child cry in their crib, by their self, to fall asleep. Good moms on both sides can get pretty spicy about defending their views. Many on Her.meneutics talked disdainfully on the existence of such “mommy wars” in the first place, surprised that moms can’t just parent the way they feel is best, and be happy to stay out of others’ business.

Really? It’s surprising that these exist? There are wars on so many fronts- sports, politics, business, education, religion, Christianity, church leadership, church growth models- I could go on. Women in general (and probably men too, I dunno, I’m not a man) start these kind of “wars” with one another in the workplace, in fashion, in lifestyle choices, in body shape. Aren’t we all trying to get people to do things the way that we do because we think they are the best ways?

While I’m not saying that these kind of things are good, I’m saying let’s stop pretending that mommy wars are any more horrible than all the rest of the wars going on in our lives. Kids are important; we care deeply about them (whether they are ours are not). I think moms can come together in community, offering our ideas and reasons why we do things the way we do, and then ask questions of one another, trying to understand why others do the things they do. Perhaps we find ourselves changing our minds on some things when we lower our defenses and actually try to learn. Or maybe we have a little more understanding of a different way of parenting because we love the person we are talking to and see that they are working hard to make decisions that are good for the child and the parent. It’s also about recognizing when we are doing something that is not in the best interest of the child, and then creatively brainstorm with others different ways of doing things (that may be outside the realm of Way A and Way B).

So let’s work together to help in this difficult journey of parenting. And let’s be open to one another- in things we are doing well and things we need help in.

What if eve resigned?

When I saw this book, I was immediately intrigued.

Initially, I remembered Jim Henderson from his website Off the Map, and wondered why in the world he was writing this book. Perhaps you’ve heard of him because of his famous ebay purchase. While this isn’t a part of the focus he’s known for, I think it makes a lot of sense for him to write this book.

A Book of Stories

Resignation of Eve is a book that tries to bring people together from both sides of the “gender role in the church” debate. In this book Henderson is more interested in sharing stories than diving into theological reasons why one is right and the other is wrong. He is upfront about his bias (he thinks Scripture frees women to fully use their giftings and talents in every area of the church and society), but he’s not overbearing about it. His main reason for writing this book is to make people aware of an alarming movement- young women are leaving the church, most of the time quietly, because they can’t find a way to use their gifts in the body. Many of these women are highly motivated, incredibly gifted, and leading or teaching in other areas of society (business, school, parachurch organizations), but are realizing that if they don’t work well with children and youth, there is not much left for them. What about the woman who is great at looking at systems and finding areas of strength/weakness? What about the woman who is incredibly gifted at developing leaders? What about a woman who has a gift of shepherding?

Resigned To, Resigned From, or Re-signed?

Henderson writes the stories of women who have reacted to this issue in different ways. There are some women who realize they have these gifts, but are happy not to use them because “women aren’t allowed” to do what they are gifted at. Many of this group have found creative ways to make a niche for themselves in other ways that is in-bounds with the traditional gender roles. Another group of women have found it too difficult and have left the church or the faith. A portion of these women still go to church gathering on Sundays, mostly for their husband or children, but have checked out emotionally and mentally. Perhaps they do still have a vibrant faith, but have chosen to distance themselves emotionally because they don’t see another option. A third group cares a lot, but can’t bring themselves to leave. These are the women who “realize that life is a series of trade-offs….[they] are realists and even optimists. They are willing to nudge the ball of change down the field. They’re not world changers, but they’re contributers.”

This book is filled with stories of questions, disillusionment, confusion, hope, and hurt. I love that the stories were honest and exposed the thoughts and feelings of women on all sides of this issue. Henderson highlighted the tension that surrounds this issue for women, despite which side of the fence they fall. For women who are gifted in leadership, administration, or teaching, being a part of the body in a meaningful way isn’t easy. No man has to ever wonder, “Is it appropriate for me to offer to [insert role]”? Women do. Women with these giftings are constantly approaching situations with caution, and many end up silently disappointed, unsure of what God created them to do if not what they are good at.

Throughout the book, Henderson plays around with the question- what would happen if women just didn’t show up one week in the church activities? What would happen? I think that although it’s a significant question for Henderson, I didn’t find it all that interesting. This question weakened the book a little- it would have been better just left out.

Start some conversation.

While Henderson leans towards one side throughout the book, I think this a great book for both women and men. For women, this book may be a great tool in helping them to explore some of their own silence or tension. For men, perhaps they’ve never thought about or heard from women concerning this issue as it relates to personal stories. Even if the reader doesn’t agree with Henderson’s leaning, I think one would find it an indispensable resource to help get started in understanding the tension that does exist in the church body of which they are a part.

Whether you are a complementarian, egalitarian, or somewhere in between, this is a book that will get you thinking about the women in your life or church. Grab this book, gather a few friends, and read through it together. This is a book to surely start some conversations.

And here’s a discussion guide to help you along.

Much thanks to Tyndale for providing a free copy of this book for review and for encouraging me to give an honest review.

Loving our Way into a New World

Whew, we’ve had a rough couple weeks. The new year began with fevers, ear infections, pneumonia, a bum knee, cavities and very cranky kids who couldn’t sleep through the night. We had a small hiatus from this sickness this past weekend, but we’re back to it with Ada’s fever and ear infection returning (which means she won’t sleep well tonight….don’t ask me why I’m still up writing this and not getting a head start on sleep).

While those things are stressful for parents to handle, what was most stressful for me was not having any time to unwind in the evenings. Normally the kids go to bed around 7:00 or 7:30, and I have the rest of the night to do whatever my little heart pleases. But with the sick kids, there was no “bedtime”- kids and hence adults rotated in and out of beds, bathrooms, bedrooms, and the couch all night long as we tried to find the perfect combination of most comfortability and least chance of the kids waking each other up with their cries of restlessness and pain. (Have I told you that we live in a really old house with thin walls, creaky floors and no carpeting to absorb sound?) By the end, we had the right mixture of room, kid and parent down, and while jake and I hadn’t slept in the same room for most of those 2 weeks, we managed to get a decent amount of sleep.

Isn’t being a parent crazy some weeks? One change in a household can send everyone’s moods and schedules haywire. The interconnectedness of family, especially with small children, blows my mind some days. In our home, I’ve learned that how we all wake up in the morning can very much determine the rest of the day’s events. How we treat one another is so important in helping the day go well. If one of the kids decides to annoy their sibling that day, then the sibling gets annoyed and angry, which causes me to do a whole lot of talking and re-directing, which causes Ada to get grumpy because I’m not paying much attention to her and the other two are being louder than she would like. This cycle in turn causes frustration to well up in me because I feel like I don’t have control over my kids (lol, and of course I don’t, but when things go well I like to think that I do), and then I get grumpy and short-tempered with them. Alas, the cycle continues.

I think this happens on a larger scale too, out in the “real world.” We honk at the person who cuts us off in traffic, which ticks them off and makes them less gracious to the gas station worker. That gas station worker gets tired of being spoken to like they aren’t actually a person and they go home and are snippy with their wife/husband. It’s a cycle. I guess Jesus knew this was how things worked, because he told us to love one another, and that the way of the Kingdom is through turning our cheek, loving our enemies, and practicing mercy. The world will know us by our love. Love really does cover a multitude of sins.

So tomorrow is a new day- a new day to show mercy and love and kindness. To give to those who don’t “deserve” it. To offer kind words to those who are rude. To offer a word of encouragement to the one who I feel like isn’t doing their job. Let’s all try and find one way to love someone in a surprising way tomorrow and then share about it!

Relationally Nomadic

I don’t think God created us to be relationally nomadic.

Over the past 6+ years of marriage, Jake and I have lived in 4 cities, 2 countries, and at least 8 apts/duplexes/houses. Our three kids have not known to live in the same place for more than a year.

God has blessed us with caring family- both biological and spiritual. They have been supportive as we have moved from place to place, and have helped us work through the cycle of excitement, loneliness, anxiety, questioning of decision to move, and celebration of settling each time we move. The trouble is that by the time we move, we have only just started to build those kind of relationships where one feels known by the other.

My heart desires sustained relational community. Our growing family loves one another and we have a ton of fun playing and working together. But, Jake and I need adult friends to do all of those “one anothers” with…. encourage, dream, argue, discuss, sharpen, love, play, work, minister. Our kids need friendships that endure; they need other adults in their life whom they can build trusting relationships with and go to when they need non-parent advice or encouragement.

Each time we move, we have to start over. We get to a new city where no one knows us. Although we are initially excited to “start over” and “develop new relationships” and “explore new discussions” and “experience a new place in the world”, we find ourselves longing for familiarity, for deep relationships, for people who know us and have helped create us. As we move around, we are beginning to see how different people in our lives have helped us to change and grow in certain ways. How thankful we are for that.

But we just want to be rooted in one place, with relationships that will be constant. We want to learn what it is like to be faithful to a community, and them to us. We want to make traditions with a group of people. We want people to know and love our quirkyness- our odd parenting style, our nonsystematic theology, our desire for peacemaking and environmental care, and our annoying way of questioning everything and always feeling a need to stir the pot. We’ve discovered that those characteristics are not often welcomed.

I’m thankful for the internet, which allows me to stay connected with some of those friends we’ve made. I get to have “discussions”, read about their lives, and see pictures of their kids. But you know what I want? To play games in our living room. To stay up late on New Years Eve, with all our kids piled in another room. To create family friendships where all the kids feel like brothers and sisters. For my kids to have “second moms and dads”. To know a city with familiarity. To be able to drop by someone’s house, unannounced but genuninely welcomed. To be able to say, “I’m not sure I believe that” and not be looked upon as a heretic. To have my gifts welcomed and utilized in a faith community. To make dinner together.

Relationships like that take time- people in one place (or a common place) for a long time. Do people even do that anymore? I don’t know, but it’s something I’m longing for.

I’m relationally exhausted. I’m tired of trying. I’m tired of starting over. I’m happy to do the hard, long work of sustaining significant relationships, but I’m weary of beginnings. And I’m uncertain of the ability to sustain significant virtual relationships.

Las night as I went to bed with this ache in my heart, I felt something inside me say, “Tiff, you feel this weariness because I didn’t create you to be relationally nomadic.” But what happens now?

Take (and Give) a New Perspective

Part 1: What do you mean by good?

Part 2: Throw away the carrots and sticks

Part 3: Take (and Give) a New Perspective

Chapter 10 of Unconditional Parenting covers the idea of understanding a child’s perspective, and helping the child understand others’ perspectives, especially as it relates to the moral development of our child.

To do so is to recast various ideas that are discussed in other parenting books. For example, ‘boundaries’ and ‘limits’ are usually thought of as restrictions that adults impose on children. But shouldn’t our goal be for the children to refrain from doing certain things not because we’ve forbidden them, but just because they’re wrong? The limits on kids’ behavior, in other words, should be experienced as intrinsic to the situation. We want them to ask ‘How will doing x make that other kid feel?’- not ‘Am I allowed to do x?” or ‘Will I get in trouble for doing x?’ (191)

The author recognizes how hard this is and how much work this will take. But, he points out that kids are typically really good at caring for others. To do this, he gives the following suggestions:

1. Care about them.

2. Show them how a moral person lives.

3. Let them practice. Give children lots of opportunities to help and care for others. It can start so early too!

4. Talk with them. Talk about values. Talk about how they feel when someone does x to them, and then help them to try imagine what a person feels when they do x to another. Talking about this over and over and over helps the children to learn to empathize with someone else. Talk to them about why they can’t do something (from the perspective of how it affects another person). I like this one a lot.

Perspective taking is actually probably difficult for a lot of us as adults, at least it can be for me. He gives a good example of this that hits home because of the religious camp that I’m from:

Or consider a different kind of example. While many people dismiss those with whom they disagree (‘How can she hold that position on abortion!’), those accustomed to perspective taking tend to turn an exclamation point into a question mark (‘How can she hold that position on abortion? What experiences, assumptions, or underlying values have led her to a view so different from my own?”). That effort to step outside oneself is what we should try to cultivate in our kids (p. 202).

I think this is forefront in my mind because with having kids very close in age, Aly and Asante tend to get in a lot of arguments. I’m eager to get to the place where they can deal with things on their own, but I know that in order to do that, I have to help them build some foundation of how to talk to others, discussing feelings, and understand where the other person is coming from. We talk this one to death, and although those two are only 2.5 and almost 4, we have actually seen a lot of improvement. They ask each other questions before yelling at each other about a toy (sometimes), they are quick to empathize, and sometimes apologize or cry because they have hurt the others’ feelings. Not all the time, not even most of the time, but it’s about baby steps and developmental maturity.

Parenting: Us vs. Them?

Part 1: What Do You Mean by “Good”?
Part 2: Parenting: Us vs. Them?

Kohn observes that many of the books on discipline have to do with winning battles, how to outsmart them, to get them to do what we want, etc. The language that is often used seems to pit us versus them. But, the real question, Kohn asks, is “do we want to see our kids as opponents to be beaten? (100)” He suggests that this kind of thinking and language comes from a hypercompetitive society, where parents who adopt this are people who need to win. I would suggest that parents who adopt this could also just be desperate for a solution to help them to parent their kids better.

Most who know us know that one of our adorable little children is particularly hard to handle- strong-willed and near impossible to motivate with punishments or rewards. This little lady has driven Jake and I nearly crazy at times, because we just didn’t understand how her mind worked or what we were doing wrong in parenting her. During the worst weeks, I found myself to be open to a lot of different ideas, simply because I was desperate to find something that helped me get control over her so that our family could move beyond tantrum after tantrum. Thankfully she has eased up some, and we’ve all found a way to communicate with one another better.

Kohn suggests an authoritarian approach (i.e. high control) to parenting is not healthy. However, sadly enough, the christian community has fallen into the deception that in order to be godly parents, we have to break our child’s will and teach them how to be obedient to us, without question. The reason behind this idea is that we have to help our child to know that it not his or her will that they should do, but God’s will. I must admit, this sounds very sound and reasonable. But, the more I’ve been thinking through my relationship with God, and how I see Him dealing with His children throughout Scripture is more flexible and relationship-based.

For example, we know that some places in Scripture say that God changes his mind sometimes. Moses was able to talk God out of a couple of his ideas. God invites us to be like the persistent widow who asks and asks and asks, even if the first answer is no (um, can any parent relate to that?!). God doesn’t just want our obedience, he wants a relationship. He teaches us– discipline is involved, but not punishment. He gives good gifts to both good and evil people (sending rain on the just and unjust). I have a lot more work to do in Scripture (and life) before I can make any real definitive case for any of this, but initially, these are my thoughts and reflections on God’s relationship with us.

I’d be curious to get your thoughts on this- is it our job to break our child’s will? And what does that mean and look like?

And another question I’ve been wondering- does God love us with a conditional love? Kohn suggests that the God of the Bible seems to do so. Initially I said, “of course not!” But, as I was thinking more about it, I wondered if it wasn’t an easy assumption to make.

Throw Away the Carrots and Sticks

pic taken from the Laughing Owl

Part 1: What do you mean by Good?

Part 2: Throw Away the Carrots and Sticks

One of Kohn’s foundational points of his book Unconditional Parenting, is that the way we use rewards and punishments in our parenting communicates to our children that we love and accept them only when they’re obedient. Kohn spends several chapters defending his stance, explaining that the carrot and stick approach is simply behavioral conditioning and doesn’t get at the heart of the person, and in reality, it just doesn’t really work.

One reason that a heavy-handed, do-what-I-say approach tends not to work very well is that, in the final analysis, we really can’t control our kids- at least, not in the ways that matter. It’s very difficult to make a child eat this food rather than that one, or pee here rather than there, and it’s simply impossible to force a child to go to sleep, or stop crying, or listen, or respect us. These are the issues that are most trying to parents precisely because it’s here that we run up against the inherent limits of what one human being can compel another human being to do.

Isn’t this so true? No matter what I do, I can’t get my kids to eat, sleep or respect me if they don’t want to. I don’t think I really understood this until having my second child. My first child is a “by the book” kind of kid. My second child has been such a challenge because of her strong-will. Up until recently, there has been nothing that she loves so much that she would stop or start doing something because I tried to use it as motivation. Carrots and sticks just don’t work for her.

So, instead of using rewards and punishments with children, he recommends the following:

1. Be reflective. Be honest with yourself about your motivations for dealing with your kids how you do.

2. Reconsider your requests. What if your child doesn’t want to do what you want them to do? Is it something that they really ought to do because it’s important? Or is it just something that you would prefer them doing? From our family recently, I asked Asante to stop banging his colored pencils on the kid table. He said okay, but why? I realized that I just didn’t want to hear it, but everyone was awake and there was no reason he shouldn’t. So I said, “Thank you for obeying, but you bring up a good question. There’s no good reason. You can go back to it”, and then i went to a different room where it wasn’t so loud.

3. Keep your eye on your long-term goals.

4. Put the relationship first. Make sure that whatever we do, it is worth the strain that it will put on the relationship between us and our child. Sometimes it will be, but sometimes it won’t.

5. Change how you see, not just how you act. Instead of seeing inappropriate behavior as blatant disobedience (sometimes it will be, but with younger kids in particular, it’s much harder to decipher real motivations), look at the behavior as a problem to solve, and work with the child, instead of doing something to the child.

6. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. We want to be respected. So do our kids, even our young ones. Remember that kids aren’t just sheep to be herded, they are real humans with desires, feelings, preferences, etc.

7. Be authentic. Admit when you were wrong, apologize to your kids, speak from our hearts. This is a big one for us. We apologize to our kids on a regular basis- when we lose our tempers, when we say potentially hurtful things, and when we say they can do something and then things end up not going the way we planned.

8. Talk less, ask more. Ask questions instead of assuming the answers. Why did you push your sister? Why did you throw that tantrum? How are you feeling right now?

9. Keep their ages in mind. Let kids be kids. Don’t expect a 4 year old to be a 10 year old. Don’t expect a 2 year old to behave like a 4 year old. I have to remind myself of this nearly every day.

10. Attribute to children the best possible motive consistent with the facts.

11. Don’t stick your no’s in unnecessarily.

12. Don’t be rigid. Predictability- yes. Rigidity- no. Allow the rules to be eased up sometimes.

13. Don’t be in a hurry.  Anyone with a small child will know why this is on his list of suggestions.

He suggests that the goal of parenting is “empowerment rather than conformity, and the methods are respectful rather than coercive” (62).

What do you mean by “good”?

Part 1: What do you mean by “good”?

I just finished a very interesting book called Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason. It’s by a guy named Alfie Kohn, who has written in the areas of parenting, education, and human behavior. Kohn is one of the leading progressive voices in the field of education, and critiques many of the traditional views on parenting and education. I think it’s also important to note that he doesn’t seem to be a follower of Christ, but he seems to be very concerned about children being moral, compassionate, generous, “other”-oriented people.

While there are some major arguments in his book that I do not agree with, I must say that this book has probably been the best parenting book I have read to date. A key question he asks at the beginning of this book really made me think: What do we mean when we say that a child is “good”? Do we mean that s/he is curious? Or compassionate? Or helpful? Or creative? Or do we mean that s/he is well-behaved or obedient?

The next question is- do you want your child to be that quality as an adult– is your child being “good” your long-term goal in parenting? I’ve been thinking about these questions for a week or two, and I have to admit that my answer is no. I don’t want our children to just do whatever they’re told. I want them to be able to think, to respond, to have discussions, to challenge the status quo if it needs to be challenged. I definitely don’t want my girls to just do whatever they’re told (i.e. cave into peer pressure from a boy in the back of a car). I want them to be compassionate, generous, faithful, creative, loving people.

But the question stands, is how I’m parenting helping them to have the tools they need to become those kinds of people? Kohn suggests that most of the books on parenting are actually not helpful in helping kids to become anything but obedient, and rely heavily on the use of control and manipulation. In this book, Kohn makes a case that there may be a different kind of discussion that may prove to lead us to a kind of parenting that helps our children develop in more whole ways.

FAQ: Family Responsibility

Some questions that have been asked (or implied) by multiple people (including myself) over the course of the discussion about our responsibilities as it relates to those outside of our nuclear family.

Isn’t there a specialness to a nuclear family that isn’t there with others?

Of course there’s a specialness- even psychologically, we have some crazy hormones that help us to form that bond with one another (spouse and children). So, naturally, yes, definitely a specialness (thanks for that, God!). And for many of us, yes, it’s not there with others.

I would like to argue that God wants us to be moving towards having this specialness with everyone. In John 17, Jesus prays that His disciples would be one with each other like the Father and Jesus are one (uh, which is some serious unity). This isn’t just a “let’s hang out with people from other denominations and sing nice songs”…this is some serious “knowing” of one another. Just as a set of parents develop this specialness with a child that they adopt or foster, we can develop this oneness with others. I have to say that there are people in my life that are not my husband or children or mother or father that I care for deeply. I consider them true family and they do I… well, at least I think they do 🙂 (we have spent or will be spending holidays with one another instead of being with our biological families). On the other hand, there are some extended family members of mine that I have no relationship with, no bond with, and would not consider them my friend (and there are some that I haven’t seen in years, but still feel a deep bond and love for). I don’t think that specialness is intended to be limited to the nuclear family. And if it is, everyone whom God has chosen to be single or chooses to be single better get married and have kids, because when your parents die, you won’t have a special bond with anyone (note the sarcasm, I don’t really believe that).

Isn’t my child my responsibility? Is it really my responsibility to look out for someone elses’ child too?

Yes, our child is absolutely, 100% our responsibility. However, our child is also other peoples’ responsibility (to a degree)– our community whom God has placed us in. We are our brother’s/sister’s keeper. Maybe they are not in our culture, but there certainly was a sense of this in the early church’s culture, as well as in many cultures around the world today.

We’re called to love one another. Love isn’t partial (choosing one person over another, favoring one over another, check out James 2). As hard as it is, I think we’re called to creatively love our own nuclear family well (if we have a nuclear family) in a way that loves others well too. If we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, that literally means to love someone else like we love ourselves (and probably our family too). We are never given an exempt card on this, that I know of, in Scripture.

Doesn’t Scripture lift up the importance of the nuclear family?

From my understanding, when Scripture is referring to family, for the time in which it was written, the readers would have known that it was talking towards a very “extended family.” Very few people thought in the terms of nuclear family in the way that we do (spouse and kids).

Why is it so bad for the church to build itself up around the importance of family (read: nuclear or biological family)?

A partial love for our own families may speak volumes to those around us who don’t have that kind of love, but it stops speaking lovely things when they get to know our family and see that that love is not for them to be included in on. Ask any single person you know, and they will tell you that the lifting up of nuclear family values in the church today does not speak love to them. It speaks exclusion. And loneliness. And rejection. It’s lovely from a distance, but it doesn’t show them God’s love for them.

Isn’t the idea of family the best for a peaceful, God-centered society?

I have no idea. I’m not a sociologist. But, what I do know is that God desires us to love one another well, with a deep unifying love. If we have an intact nuclear family, then we are in the minority. This conversation may go well for us, but there are a lot of people on the outside looking in. Children whose parents don’t care about them all that much (and those children can be found in our church buildings as well). It’s not the children’s fault. Are we supposed to say, “Too bad for you. You have no one to have a special relationship with. If your parents would die then maybe I would love you and take you into my home because that’s the point when God calls me to love you [as an orphan].” No way! It’s like asking Jesus…so, who is “my family” (Luke 10.29)?

Loving Other Children Well- in Real Time

Let me tell you some stories of people who have encouraged me in thinking about loving other children well.

Story 1: First, there’s Christi. Her and her family live in Kenya, and are probably one of the coolest family I’ve gotten to know up close and personal. There family is one marked by intentionality, hospitality, and deep love. Christi’s three children go to school with other Kenyan children, not the western schools that many of the other non-Kenyan go to (I must caveat this by saying that their youngest is “Kenyan”, for all intents and purpose- born there and lived his whole life there). She shared an example today about how, when her kids weren’t learning everything she felt like they should be learning there, she chose not to pull them out, but instead to leave them there, but go in and start helping in their classrooms so the other children could be better served as well.

My reaction: I love this because Christi and her husband came up with a creative idea to love their kids (make sure they got the education they needed) AND to love other kids (teach them and make sure they get the education they need too). Well, some may say, I can’t do that here in America. Maybe not. But, you may be able to volunteer in your child’s classroom if your children are in public school.

Story 2: While in Columbia, MO, we sent Asante to a preschool a few mornings a week so he could get some interaction with other kids. Little did we know what a HUGE blessing this family would have on us– we were able to get to know the husband and wife who own and work in it, along with their fun and lovely family (5 kids!). For them, there entire life is wrapped up in kids— they spend themselves not only caring for their own family and the unique needs (there have been various issues, including medical that have been really trying for them), but also the needs of the kids in their preschool and the kids on the husband’s baseball team. For this family, they eagerly take other children into their lives and heart, and give them time that they could be spending with their children in their own home. Why? Because they love others deeply. She recently commented on how she felt like she was neglecting her kids because of the energy she was needing to give to some troubled kids in their lives, but was put at peace when one of her children suggested that they pray for the troubled kids during their evening prayers.

My reaction: This family has found a way to make a living loving other kids and in turn, their entire families. God is using them to reach kids with the gospel and all that in entails. They are blessed because they have been able to care for and teach kids in ways that their parents couldn’t. I love how this family has creatively figured out a way to love others besides their children. It fits them, their interests and their giftings.

There are many more I could tell, but these are just 2 examples of what it looks like to redefine family, and to love other children well. For each family, God asks us to do different things. There is no cookie cutter answer.

I think a life lived like this looks like a.) including our kids in whatever we’re doing, b.) making sure our children know they are deeply loved by us and by the Father, c.) that we are loving others because God has asked us to.

A few days ago I was talking to Asante (3 years old) about the fact that some kids don’t have parents, or they do have parents, but there parents can’t, for some reason or another, take care of them as well as they should. I asked Asante what we could do to help others. He said that maybe we should just ask them to live with us. I replied by saying that that would mean them having less attention from me and daddy, and that they would have to share their toys and clothes with any new kids who come into our family. Asante said after some long time of thinking to himself, “Well, I think it would be hard, but if you have to give your attention to the new kid, I could try and find something else to do during those times. I will know that you love me even if you’re giving your attention to someone else.”

I can’t help but think that if our children are raised with the sense that we have a responsibility to love and care for not only the technical orphans, but also the practical orphans (kids whose parents don’t care, or can’t care, or are unable to give them the opportunities to live well), then it becomes a natural thing. Isn’t it a natural thing for a parent and a child to welcome another kid into the family? Isn’t it natural that the parent has to sacrifice some of the opportunities of the other kids for the new child? Of course. So what if that new child is a foster child- is it right for us to sacrifice as a family to welcome in a foster child? How about an adopted child? How about a kid down the street whose parents are gone all the time working minimum-wage jobs, just trying to make ends meet? Or the kid who has angry parents who don’t know how to love themselves, much less another human being?

I just think another world is possible. I have to.