Armor of God

Last year, I started “Tuesday Night Teachings” with my children. My plan was to keep this up on a weekly basis. Goodness. That plan fell through! This week, I finally got back to doing a lesson. This one is called, “Armor of God”.

I gathered the kids around and asked them to name what was in front of them. They quickly guessed the round “ball” as being a walnut but weren’t quite sure what the nut was. I told them, “They’re both walnuts!” The kids couldn’t believe that tiny nut was inside of that big, green ball.

“Do you know what the armor of God is?”

They threw out some ideas gained from their years of being involved in Sunday school.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about the armor of God. Right now, in our world, things are a little scary. Christians are fighting against other Christians regarding politics and what is right or wrong. Sometimes, I feel like I’m not good enough or misunderstood. I feel bad about myself at times as well but then I remind myself that the only opinion that really matters is God’s opinion of me. I try to keep on the armor of God.”

Looking at both walnuts, I said, “The walnut without the shell is someone who doesn’t have faith. The one with the shell is someone with faith.”

I then took a knife and applied pressure to the walnut with the casing still on it. The knife cut into it a little bit but not all the way through.

“Now, look and see what happens to the walnut without the shell around it.” Applying the same amount of pressure, the walnut cut right in half. The kids were like, “Whoah…”

I pulled out a hammer and knocked on the walnut without a shell. It crumbled. I knocked on the walnut with the shell and it barely dented.

“When we talk about putting on the armor of God, what we mean by that is keeping our faith, knowing that we are protected by God…even when we are worried, scared, or feeling bad about ourselves. People say things that cut us like a knife or the weight of what we’re dealing with is so heavy that it’s putting pressure on us. Just like the walnut(s), without the armor of God, we can get cut or crushed. Now, that doesn’t mean that words won’t hurt or we won’t ever worry. Keeping on our armor of God will help us.”

I read Ephesians 6:10-17:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

After our lesson, our family said a prayer and took communion together. I encouraged them to be strong in their faith even when bad things are happening in the world. And, friends, I think we can all use this reminder right now.

Using walnuts, a hammer, and a knife, I gave my kids a visual representation of the armor of God. I truly hope they wear it all of the time.

Life Lesson: Having Faith

Here’s another Tuesday Night Teaching that I did with my kids. This one is called, Life Lesson: Having Faith.

“Having faith in God means that even though we cannot ‘see’ him, we know he is there. Faith is believing in what we don’t see. Can you actually see love?” My kids nodded that “no”, we don’t really see love.

“What about smells? Can we ‘see’ them?”

Giggles…”Well, maybe sometimes….”

“Okay, but you get the point.”

I looked at my daughter and reminded her of the times she thought God wasn’t listening to her prayers because she didn’t see the answer. I then spoke to my kids about feeling distant sometimes from God, especially when times are hard.

“There are moments when we are going through rough times and we really don’t feel or see that God is near us.”

I took three sheets of wax paper and held them up so that they blocked a cross hanging on our hall.

“Remember, the cross represents God. Can you see the cross now?”

“Not really”, they said.

“Okay, there are other times when things aren’t quite as bad but you still wonder where God is.”

I removed one sheet of the wax paper.

“You can barely see God, right?”

“Yes.”

“Let’s say things are maybe a little bit better but still a little cloudy and you’re not sure if God is near you.”

Removed another sheet of wax paper.

“The cross is becoming even more clear now, right? Okay. Now life is great and we’re moving along…”

Removed the final piece of wax paper to reveal the cross.

“Do you see that the cross was there the entire time, even when you couldn’t see it or when it was a little hard?

This is what it means to have faith in what is unseen. No matter how bad things get in our lives, even when we cannot see him clearly, he is there.”

I then read Hebrews: 11:1:

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Explaining faith to children can be hard, especially for extremely literal kids! I’m hoping that this visual lesson helped them to truly believe in what is unseen; to have faith in God during times in their lives when the view is cloudy and when it is clear.

Life Lesson: Having Faith – this one is for us adults, as well.

Life Lesson: Apples to Apples

In continuing life lessons for my kids, I decided to focus on loneliness. For fun, I’m calling my lessons, “Tuesday Night Teachings“. They look forward to Tuesday nights and ask, “Are we going to have a Tuesday Night Teaching?” This one is called, “Life Lesson: Apples to Apples”.

We sat around the dinner table and took turns telling each other what we are thankful for. It was a pleasant sound to this mom’s ears to hear my kids talk about being thankful for people in their lives, including our family.

This conversation about being thankful for each other was a perfect lead-in to tonight’s lesson.

“Don’t leave the table just yet. I want to talk to you. I saw something on Facebook that made me really sad. A guy lost his pet cat and asked for help finding it. He said it was the only thing left in his life. It made me cry for him because he later found that his cat had gotten hit by a car. I thought about how lonely he must be without his pet – especially because he said that his cat was really the only thing left in his life.

There are a lot of lonely people in the world.”

Passing the bowl of apples around, I asked each person (including myself and husband) to pick the one that is the most appealing to them. There were six different apples in the bowl. Each of us grabbed the one that we wanted and then took turns telling why we picked that apple.

“Now let’s all take a bite of our apples.”

The kids giggled a bit. My oldest son joked about thinking he might have swallowed a part of the core.

Lining the apples up next to each other, I said,

“Look at that. They are all so different on the outside, but look at the inside. They are the same. People are a lot like apples. God created us to be unique in our skin color and size. We each have our own ‘flavor’ but on the inside we are the same.

Do you notice that there is one apple that wasn’t picked? That is how some people feel. For instance, some people are left out because of the way they look or the color of their skin or for other reasons. On the inside, they are just like you and me.”

I ended the lesson by talking with my kids about how loneliness is a big problem in our world but if we can get past what is on the outside of a person and look at the inside, maybe we can help each other not be so lonely.

I’m really hopeful that each little nugget of wisdom about God’s truth seeps into their pores; creating a future filled with a genuine love of others. God doesn’t ask us to necessarily like everyone but he does ask us to love one another.

This God-kind-of-love sets the lonely into families.
It sees us from the inside out.
This God-kind-of-love can change generations.

I believe that.

John 15:12: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

(Life Lesson: Apples to Apples – what other ways have you used to teach children about loneliness?)

Seasons of Change (Life Lesson)

A few months ago, I started weekly lessons with my kids on Tuesday nights. Although I’ve taken a break for the holidays, I plan on returning to “Tuesday Night Teachings” after the new year. My kids really seem to enjoy them! Here is one lesson that I taught called, “Seasons of Change”.

I started off by reading Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 to my kids.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Looking towards my children, I said, “Dad and I have been talking a lot about how much we’ve changed since we were younger.”

One-by-one, I placed the leaves on the table and asked, “What is this?” Each time I pointed to one, they said, “a leaf”.

“Yes, and look at how much the leaves have changed. In life, you will go through a lot of seasons and changes. There will be some days that you feel ‘green’ and happy and other days where you may feel ‘yellow’ or sad. Sometimes, you feel ‘red’ or angry about things going on. Just like these leaves, you will change and go through different times in your lives.

Do you notice that even though a leaf started off green, it ended up red, and even though it went through this season of change, it is still a leaf?” Nodding their heads in agreement, “Yes!”, they said.

“The cool thing is that even though there are changes, the leaf is still exactly what God designed it to be. YOU are as well. Regardless of what you go through or how you change, you were born a child of God and you will always be a child of God.”

Ending the lesson, I explained that this is one of the most important things to remember in life. The only constant is God. When everything else around us changes or when we go through different seasons, God remains the same.

If there is one thing I can hope to teach my children, it is this:

Regardless of what experiences they endure or the seasons of change they go through, I truly desire for them to know just how deeply they are loved by God, how they were created with a purpose, and that they will always be one of His kids.

Life Lesson: Equal in Worth

I have been searching for ways to teach my children life lessons without it being too preachy or boring. I decided to start “Tuesday Night Teachings” in our home. The theme for the first night was “A Life Lesson: Equal in Worth”.

After dinner, I commanded (not really, but that just sounds kinda cool) for my kids to stay at the table when they finished their food. Once we were all done, I told them this story:

“My hands were full at the dollar store when I got in line behind a man in his upper twenties. He looked at me and said, “You have on a nice outfit.” I said, “Well, thank you so much.”

He then said, “Are you single?” Smiling, with a small little chuckle, I said, “No, I’m married.”

“Do you have any single friends?”

“You know…I really don’t have that many. Most of my friends are married.”

At this point, I realized that this young man was extremely lower functioning – like even though he was an adult, he was more like a 4-year-old. He paused for a moment and looked away. He then turned back around and said, “Can you help me?” I gazed at my watch. I only had about eight minutes to get the stuff and go, and said, “Yes, I only have a few minutes but I can definitely help you. What do you need?”

He seemed a bit embarrassed as he said, “Sometimes, I have to wear diapers.” I said, “Do you need help finding the right ones?” (I realized that he was holding a package of baby diapers.)

“Yes, can you help me?”

Off we went to the appropriate section to find the size and type he should get. I said, “I have to go get back in line because I have somewhere to be in about five minutes. Make sure to get this package.”

At the counter, I told the clerk that the young man needed assistance. Checking out, I saw him leave without the item that he needed. Why he was allowed to go into the store alone without assistance? I felt bad for having a short timeline to be somewhere. I should’ve just stayed with him until he got what he needed.

In my van. Crying. For a young man to compliment me in one minute and then admit to wearing diapers and needing help really tugged at my heart.”

My kids were staring at me as I told the story and fought back tears again. I then laid three five dollar bills on the table and said. “Which one of these five dollar bills has more value? The one that looks perfect, the one with dirt on it or the one that looks worn out and torn up a bit?”

My kids paused for a minute and one-by-one pointed to the bill they thought had more value. I then said, “Okay, so in God’s eyes, which one do you think has the most worth or value?” Reaching out, one-by-one, my kids pointed to the one that was worn out and torn up a bit. I said, “I like that you answered that way, but actually, all three bills have the same value. They are each worth five dollars. When it comes to people, we all have the same value to God. It doesn’t matter if we look perfect, dirty or have scars, we each hold the same value to God.”

“Tuesday Night Teachings” are now a part of our home and I hope to share more with you as we move along in this season. This life lesson definitely warmed my heart a bit – not only because I was able to teach my children a truth about God that they really seemed to soak up, but because my experience at the dollar store today taught me so much as well.

We all have value. We don’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t matter if we are dirty or have scars. Despite our age, life lessons signify growth.

Life lesson = Equal Worth. Yes, we are all equal in worth to Him.

Taking Care of Roots {foster care and adoption}

Taking care of roots is an important part of gardening, but also a key component of raising emotionally healthy children (especially in foster care and adoption). This story involving my daughter is an example of this.

My daughter came home from school and said, “Mom, we played foster care at school today. I was the foster child and I had two moms.”

“Oh, that sounds fun and interesting!” After that, we went on with the rest of the day and she didn’t mention it again.

I thought about this conversation the remainder of the week.  My daughter is smart, willful and challenging.  She walks to the beat of her own drum.  She is fierce in so many ways.  However, it seems that the older she gets, the more she questions and talks about being adopted (even in non-direct ways).  Thus, the more concerned I am about her sense of self-worth and identity.

During our foster parent training, one of the videos we watched showed a foster mom and her foster daughter planting flowers together.  Although a bit cheesy and scripted, using activities like gardening is a great way to connect with children.

Yesterday, as my daughter and I were planting flowers, I took a look at her little hands digging in the dirt, remembered the scene in the foster parent training video and thought, “Taking care of roots…if I get an opportunity, take it.”

As I lifted the flowers out of their containers to transplant them, I grabbed the root bed and held on firmly.  I said to my daughter, “You know, the roots are really the most important part of flowers.  Even if you move them from one place to the other, as long as the roots are taken care of, the flowers should grow just fine.  If you don’t take care of the roots or feed, water and help them to be stable, the flowers won’t do very well.  Taking care of roots matter.”

My daughter said, “Kinda like if a baby tiger is taken away from its mother and no one takes care of it, it will die.”  I said, “Kinda, unless another tiger family takes it in, takes care of it and gives it ‘roots’ to grow.  Then, it should be just fine.”  As my daughter plunged her hands into the dirt, she said, “I didn’t know my birth mom, right?”  I said, “Well, you were a newborn, so no, I don’t think you would remember her.”  She then said, “Yeah, but you got me and take care of me now.”  I said, “Yes, it’s kinda like taking care of flowers.  Even though we are transplanting these flowers, as long as we give them what they need, they will be just fine.  The same goes for you.  You came to us and we are your family.  Families give us roots to grow.”

We spent the next few hours digging in the soil, planting flowers and talking.  She carefully watered and tended to them.  I’m not quite sure if this conversation will actually make a difference in her life.  Intentional parenting, backed up with nurturing and honesty, will give her and my other children the best chance at navigating this world; to help them understand that being adopted is nothing to be ashamed of.

Don’t be scared of answering questions when raising a child from another mother’s womb.  Think outside of the box.  Take moments such as the one I described to connect with your children.  You don’t need to come up with elaborate plans or ideas.  Just be authentic, in the moment, honest and insightful.  These moments are sacred.  They matter.  Taking care of roots shouldn’t be a burden.

Just as we tend to the roots of our flowers, so shall we feed the roots of children with nourishment, stability, and love.