Thursday, May 30, 2013

Guidelines for Developing a Modesty Policy

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Every Christian family should have a modesty policy. In 2 Timothy 2:9, we read that, "women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control". Although every family's standards of modesty will differ, here I offer some general guidelines to help those who are just starting to think about Christian modesty in their homes. 

Before we dig into my personal modesty guidelines, I think it's really important to realize that modesty begins in the heart. You can cover your body from head to toe, but if your body language and your attitude are bold and egotistical, you can't modest. So an unpretentious demeanor goes a long way in ensuring modesty. 

Conversely, it is impossible to have a genuine modest spirit and be dressing immodestly. I say this because if you truly had a heart for modesty, you would want your outward appearance to reflect that. Titus 1:16 says this: "They claim to know God, but by their actions, they deny Him". While we know that God looks at our heart, and not our outward appearance, we must recognize that "every good tree bears good fruit, and every bad tree bears bad fruit...and so you will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:17, 20). It should go without saying that salvation is based on faith alone (Titus 3:5-7), however, as we grow in our Christian walk, we must strive to be more like Christ in every aspect of our lives, including how we dress. 

All this being said, here are 4 guidelines I have found to be helpful in setting up a modesty policy for myself and for my daughters. 

1. When you put on an outfit, pay attention to where your eyes are drawn. Your clothing should draw attention to your face. The Lord has naturally made faces to be the focal point of the human body. Our faces are very symmetrical and pleasing to the eye. We communicate using our eyes, mouth and facial expressions. When your clothing draws attention away from your face and to other parts of your body, you are causing others to focus attention more on your outward appearance, which may cause them to miss what's in your heart. 

2. When you put on an outfit, think about how the opposite sex would interpret what you are wearing. Does your outfit cling to you? Does it draw the eye to areas meant only for your spouse? Are your undergarments showing? Will they show if you sit comfortably? Can you be active in this outfit and allow private things to remain private? If these questions don't make your choice clear enough, think about this: the only person who should be allowed to pay attention to your private areas is your spouse. If the outfit you are wearing causes other people's spouses to be tempted, you are sinning. Matthew 5:28 says, "But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart". You do not want to aide someone else's spouse in committing adultery!

3. When you put on an outfit, consider how the outfit makes you feel. Not everyone will feel this way, but for me, when I put on a skirt, I feel feminine and beautiful. I feel much more like a woman, which is good, because God has made me a woman. Feelings affect actions. When you wear pajamas all day, don't you tend to act lazier? When I dress modestly and with femininity, I feel much more motivated to act like like a lady in all areas of my life (in relation to God, my husband, my children and to others). Conversely, when I put on clothing that is more suggestive in nature, I am inclined to focus on my physical imperfections and on how others will perceive my beauty (or flaws). The world feeds women so many lies about true beauty already. Let us not continue feeding ourselves the lie that beauty lies in our physical appeal. 

4. When you put on an outfit, consider how your actions affect the choices of others, specifically your children. My oldest daughter is nearly 7. When I started being more intentional about dressing modestly it was because of her. I wanted to instill in her a heart for modesty. She looks to me to show her how a godly woman should act and dress. When I get dressed, I always think of her, and I ask myself, would I want my daughter wearing this? If the answer is no, I know I should not wear it either. Since I started dressing more modestly, my daughter has started dressing more modestly too. I haven't forced her to make all the changes I have made, (though I have put away some of her more questionable apparel) but 9 times out of 10 she chooses to wear modest outfits on her own. 

So there you have it. I hope these guidelines will help you as you venture down the road of dressing modestly. Proverbs 13:10 says, "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies (emphasis mine)". May we learn to dress and act as if our worth was far above rubies!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Two Types of Homeschoolers

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Homeschoolers. We're a creative lot. We can be very similar or we can differ greatly in our thoughts, ideas and attitudes about homeschooling.

But when it really comes down to it, there are really only two types of homeschoolers. Today I want to define the two types of homeschoolers and make a case for which type YOU should be.

Type #1: The homeSCHOOLER. You are a homeSCHOOLER if your primary approach to homeschooling focuses on the educational aspect of homeschooling. Some thoughts that might frequently run through your head may include:

Can I teach my child everything she needs to know?

Will my child have learning gaps?

Is my homeschool program rigorous enough?

What will I do if my child falls behind her public-schooled peers?

You are a homeSCHOOLER if most of the thoughts you have and the actions you take regarding homeschooling have to do with academics.

Type #2: The HOMEschooler. You are a HOMEschooler if your primary approach to homeschooling focuses on relationships. To the HOMEschooler, relationship is the key to all learning. Yes, academics are important, but the development of healthy relationships between your children and yourself is the most important aspect of homeschooling in your mind. Some thoughts that might frequently run through your head may include:

What godly character traits do I need to instill in my children?

In what ways do I need to grow in order that I may be an example to my children?

As a homeschooler, is the purpose behind my behaviors and choices solely to glorify God?

Have I prayed about the materials I've chosen to use to educate my children, and are these materials in line with my faith?

You are a HOMEschooler if most of the thoughts you have and actions you take regarding homeschooling have to do with developing relationships with your children.

Which type should you be?

Why do so many homeschool moms complain of burn-out?

Why do so many homeschooled children complain about their schoolwork?

I sat in on a conversation with two other homeschooling moms the other day. They were consoling each other as they lamented their homeschool experience with their teenage sons.

"After we are done with school for the day," said one mom clasping anxious hands in her lap, "we each go our own ways, and frankly, right now, I kind of need it that way."

"That's kind of normal, isn't it?" the second mom replied. "Everyone just needs a break from one another."

Can you relate to these moms? Have your children lost their love of learning? Are there character issues you've put aside in order to deal with the 'more important' issue of academics? Are you burnt-out? Do you sometimes wish you could just send them to public school?

Everyone has these feelings sometimes. Homeschooling isn't easy. But if these feelings characterize your homeschool days, you are a homeSCHOOLER. Paying too much attention to academics to the detriment of your relationship with your child isn't the ideal way to homeschool. A shift in focus is much needed. A shift in focus will bring joy back into your days.

I love what Chris and Ellyn Davis say in their book, I Saw the Angel in the Marble. "Children lose when parents don't have a clear vision for what they are really trying to accomplish. It's simply easier to "bring home the school" along with the child than to ask God what this is all about."

If you want to be a HOMEschooler, rather than a homeSCHOOLER, seek the Lord in prayer. Ask Him what He really wants to accomplish in your homeschool and in the lives of your children.

Monday, May 27, 2013

5 Emotions You May Experience When Fostering or Adopting

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Today was one of those days in parenthood that I just want to forget ever happened. I want to kiss the sweaty, sun-darkened faces of my kids, put them to bed, and just erase the day from my memory. I think that probably all moms can relate to this feeling at least once in a while, but today I want to talk about how being a foster or adoptive mom can complicate the emotions you experience when you've had an especially tough day as a parent.

Fostering and/or adoption through foster care is a complex, unique, wonderful, and yet terrifying experience. Parenting a child adopted through foster care takes special care and attention that many parents aren't always naturally equipped for.

Here are 5 emotions you may experience when fostering or adopting through foster care:

1. Guilt, particularly if you have other children in the home. Foster children or those adopted from foster care are traumatized. Because of this, typically they come to you with challenging and often perplexing behaviors. They require a lot of attention and their needs are many. You may experience guilt because your foster/adopted child requires so much of your time and attention. You may wonder if you are able to balance the needs of your existing children with the highly complex needs of your foster or adopted child.

If this is you, think about this: In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about how he was given a "thorn" in his flesh. "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'." If you are feeling guilty because you are spread thin and struggling to balance all that God has given to you, realize that you serve a powerful God who will sustain you and show His greatness as you parent this unique individual. When you are feeling this way, recognize the guilt as false guilt and understand that God's grace is sufficient to bring you through this difficult time.

2. Resentment. If you're not feeling guilty about the amount of time you are having to take away from your other kids to work with your high needs kiddo, you may feel resentment. You may wonder why you ended up with the difficult placement while others around you seem to "have it all together" or seem to know just how to deal with the issue their child presents.

If this is you, think about this: "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2--4) The Lord has hand-picked you for this child. He knows what He is doing, and He will equip you to parent your foster or adopted child in the exact way that is needed. So with that in mind, let go of your resentment, and instead realize that through faith God will produce in you steadfastness.

3. Embarrassment. Surely all parents have felt embarrassed by their child's difficult behavior, but sometimes foster children can take "difficult behavior" to a whole new level. Despite your best efforts in child training, sometimes these special children will have moments that draw all eyes in the vicinity right to you. You may feel embarrassed that none of your previously successful parenting strategies work with this child. You may feel like nothing you do will resolve the issues your child is having. You may feel like a failure as a parent.

If this is you, think about this: "For you created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." God made your foster or adopted child just the way He wanted to. Every hair on their head, every freckle, every birthmark was placed there by His mighty hands. But more importantly, every thought, every behavior, every personality quirk, every wound that your child has is not out of the hands of our God. He knows what you are going through. He knows it can be embarrassing. But He has crafted this precious child in a wondrous way. Through your dedication and commitment to your foster or adopted child, you will begin to see them healing from their past, and growing into the girl or boy God has designed them to be. Making that healing the focus during the embarrassing moments may help you put things in perspective.

4. Helplessness. Particularly in the fostering stage you may experience intense feelings of helplessness. Fostering is, for all intents and purposes a giant roller coaster ride with seemingly no end in sight. You will have days where you feel deeply connected to your foster child, followed by days where DHS is talking about placing him or her elsewhere. You may have days where you think you know what will happen in the future followed by days where what you thought you knew is now untrue. You will have days where you will be forced to leave your foster child in the hands of those whom you deem a danger to him or her. You will have to trust those you do not really know. If you foster, you will feel helpless. It's not really a question of if, but of when and how often.

If this is you, think about this: "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand." (Proverbs 19:21). We may think we know what is best for our foster children. We care for them day in and day out. We have immersed ourselves in their care and well-being. God has placed them in our hands. But realize it is God Himself, the maker of the universe whose purpose will be carried out. No court, no social worker, no birth parent, and no foster parent can ruin the plans of God. Take comfort. You are not in control, but He is.

5. Anxiety.  Anxiety may be one of the most common emotions you may feel when fostering or adopting from foster care. This is because anxiety is all-encompassing. There is so much to worry about--permanency for the child, behaviors, visits, court dates, disappointments, the future. The list could go on.

If this is you, think about this: "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done." (Philipians 4:6). The key to ridding yourself of anxiety is prayer. I love this verse--tell God what you need, and then, thank Him for what He has already done. Learn to pray, and your perspective on fostering will be forever changed.