Thursday, December 10, 2009

Worth a Read

A friend sent me this on Facebook. I thought it was very encouraging and wanted to share it with you. I know it's long, but I trust you'll be glad if you take a few minutes to read it.

Author: Elisabeth Elliot

One of the countless blessings of my life is having a daughter who actually asks for my prayers and my advice (and heeds the latter). She phoned from California one morning, describing the difficulties of home-schooling three children in grades six, four, and one, when you also have a four-year-old who is doing nursery school and a two-year-old, Colleen, who wants to do everything. And since Evangeline Mary was born, a nursing baby now claims attention as well. How to give Colleen proper attention and teach her also to occupy herself quietly for what seemed to her long periods? Valerie was deeply concerned over whether she was doing all she should for that little one. I reminded her of the women of Bible times--while probably not homeschooling her children, an ordinary village woman would have been working very hard most of the time, carrying heavy water jars, grinding grain, sweeping, planting and cooking while tending children. This was true also of the Indians with whom Val grew up. An Indian mother never interrupted her day's work to sit down with a small child and play or read a story, yet the children were more or less always with her, watching her work, imitating her, learning informally. They had a strong and secure home base, "and so have yours," I told her. "Don't worry! You are not doing Colleen an injustice. Quite the contrary. You are giving her wonderful things: a stable home, your presence in that home, a priceless education just in the things she observes." The demands on Val, as on any mother of small children, are pretty relentless, of course. She does all the housework with the help of the children (a schedule of chores is posted on the refrigerator). People usually gasp when I tell them the number of my grandchildren. "Wow," said one, "it takes a special woman to have that many children." Special? Not really. Millions have done it. But it takes grace, it takes strength, it takes humility, and God stands ready to give all that is needed. I suggested to Valerie that perhaps she could define the space which Colleen was allowed to play in during school time, and make it very clear to her that school time was quiet time for her brothers and sisters. When Valerie was Colleen's age she had to learn to play quietly alone because I was occupied for a good portion of every day in Bible translation work, or in teaching literacy and Bible classes in our house. She knew she was not to interrupt except for things I defined as "important." At that time there were seldom children of her age to play with, and she had neither siblings nor father, yet she was happy and, I think, well-adjusted. (For a certain period we had the added difficulty of living with a missionary family of six children under nine whose mother felt obliged to be more or less available for her children every minute--they were thought too young to learn not to interrupt. It was not an ordered home, and the mother herself was exhausted most of the time.) Does this training seem hard on the child, impossible for the mother? I don't think it is. The earlier the parents begin to make the laws of order and beauty and quietness comprehensible to their children, the sooner they will acquire good, strong notions of what is so basic to real godliness: self-denial. A Christian home should be a place of peace, and there can be no peace where there is no self-denial. Christian parents are seeking to fit their children for their inheritance in Christ. A sense of the presence of God in the home is instilled by the simple way He is spoken of, by prayer not only at meals but in family devotions and perhaps as each child is tucked into bed. The Bible has a prominent place, and it is a greatly blessed child who grows up, as I did, in a hymn-singing family. Sam and Judy Palpant of Spokane have such a home. "Each of our children has his or her own lullaby which I sing before prayer time and the final tucking into bed," Judy wrote. "That lullaby is a special part of our bedtime ritual. Whenever other children spend the night we sing 'Jesus Loves Me' as their lullaby. What a joy it was on the most recent overnighter to have the three Edminster children announce, `We have our own lullabies now!' Matt, who is twelve and who can be so swayed by the world, said, `Mine is "Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross."'" The task of parents is to show by love and by the way they live that they belong to another Kingdom and another Master, and thus to turn their children's thoughts toward that Kingdom and that Master. The "raw material" with which they begin is thoroughly selfish. They must gently lay the yoke of respect and consideration for others on those little children, for it is their earnest desire to make of them good and faithful servants and, as Janet Erskine Stuart expressed it, "to give saints to God." Surely it was not coincidence that my friend Ann Kiemel Anderson called just as I was finishing the above piece. She had just received little William Brandt, her fourth adopted son. The others were four and three years old and ten months. She was thrilled, and not nearly as exhausted as she expected to be, thankful for the gift of the child and for the gift of the needed grace and strength for one day (and one night) at a time. "But oh, Elisabeth!" she said in her huskily soft voice, "when I had only one, I thought I knew all the answers. There is nothing so humbling as having two or three or four children." I needed that reminder. Jim and I had hoped for at least four children. God gave us one, and that one gave me hardly any reason for serious worry, let alone despair. She was malleable. What "worked" for her may not work for another child, but I offer my suggestions anyway--gleaned not only from experience as the child of my parents and the parent of my child, but from observation of others. My second husband Add Leitch, whose first wife had died, had three daughters. "If I'd only had two, I could've written a book on child training," he once told me. One of them proved to him that he couldn't.

1 comment:

The Edgren Family said...

WOW! Really good words of wisdom. Thanks for sharing. It's a lot to attain but what a blessing to walk with Jesus as He leads us to practice self-denial in ourselves and to teach our children.