Heaven v. Disneyland

We have a new favourite song as a family at the moment. It’s called Home in Heaven by Slugs and Bugs and we sing it at the tops of our voices wherever we’re driving. I find it really encouraging personally, and it’s something I really want my boys to trust in.

I’ve got a home in heaven,

And my Lord will be there too.

I’ve got a home in heaven,

He is making all things new!

It’s based on Revelation 21, a passage that speaks about a time to come when God will remake this broken world.

There will be no more death, for He has made it so,

No more pain, tears or sorrow.

Write this down, He says these words are true,

He is making all things new!

It is a massive promise, from a God with a track record of promise keeping. As Christians it is a hope that we cling to. That one day there will be an end to suffering and to sin. That the world will be made perfect, and so will His people. The way it was meant to be.

But how easily I doubt God’s Word! disney

It feels like at the moment, everybody is going to Disneyland, Florida – my most favourite place in the world. And then the grumblings start deep in my soul. If only we had more money… if only we prioritised family holidays abroad… it’s not fair… grumble grumble grumble. And before long I find myself believing that a fortnight holiday to Consumer Central will satisfy me. The truth is, I’ve been there before. 5 times.

How many times do I need to go before I am satisfied? Or maybe, just maybe, I will never be satisfied. C.S. Lewis once wrote  “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” How true! And yet how easily I forget!

Do I really, deep down in my heart, trust that the world God has promised for His people will be a disappointment? Do I actually believe that Disneyland is better than the New Creation? I know in my head that this is not the case. But how easily my heart forgets and yearns after worldly pleasures that cannot offer lasting satisfaction. I was made for another world. A world where I live in perfect relationship with my Maker, and perfect relationship with His world and His people. I long for that Home in Heaven. And while I wait I will keep pointing myself and my sons to a place that is better than Disneyland.

At times like this, all I can do is cry out with John (the writer of Revelation) “Come, Lord Jesus!”

One of those days…

Today has been one of those days.
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No, not one of those days… 

😊🤗😄

One of those days!

The thing is adoption (and parenting in general) is filled with lots of those days, and those days.

It all started when the boys managed to stay in their room (note still not quite beds!!) until the sun rose on their Gro Clock. It meant we didn’t start the day getting grumpy with them and them with us. It meant we could shower them with praise to set them up for the day. If we look hard enough, there is always something to praise, to show them they are valued and motivate them to co-operate!

We reviewed our visual timetable and discovered today was the day we get their new bikes! The bikes were never a bribe, but they did seem to inspire obedience! Gifts are given freely, bribes have strings attached. Giving our children gifts without strings sometimes is an illustration to them that our love comes without strings attached.

After breakfast, the boys helped tidy away the laundry. I love getting them to help out with housework. Taking responsibility for their home means it is just that: their home. Plus it’s good training for them, often useful for me, and nearly always becomes a fun game!

Once we were dressed (and had narrowly avoided a minor meltdown) we set off for the park. Our favourite park is next to Spiderboy’s new school and we go often as we’re preparing him for September. This morning it was empty and the sun was shining bright.

The boys feel safe there, it is familiar, it is never busy and it is surrounded by wide open space. Watching your children playing carefree should never be taken for granted. We played for an hour, and we were just feeling ready to leave as another family arrived. Thankfully it was polling day, and the community centre was open so we could use the toilets.

After a snack we went on to the farm. We have annual passes there and we make good use of them. Parenting in summer is a million times easier than in the winter! We arrived just in time to feed the lambs. 

We also groomed and rode donkeys, cuddled rabbits and guinea pigs and rescued some escapee lambs! We love our farm, all of the staff are happy to let the boys help with jobs, or teach us about the animals. (There was a small, chicken related incident, but the less said the better.)

After we got home and had some lunch, it was Quiet Time. At Quiet Time you either sleep, read a book or watch a film, the idea being I can get some jobs done. In reality I either spend the time soothing Batboy and trying to teach him to feel safe enough to go to sleep without​ me, or needing to sit with Spiderboy while he watches a DVD so he knows I haven’t forgotten him. 

Today however, Batboy went straight down for a nap and Spiderboy settled happily in front of The Lion King. And so I managed to pay some bills, roast a chicken, load the dishwasher, hang up laundry and set another load going, make two weeks worth of pasta lunches to freeze for husband to take to work, and drink a cup of tea! It was really satisfying to use my time well, and reassuring  to get some much needed jobs done! Not to mention getting to listen to the radio for 90 minutes! Sometimes housework is as soothing as any form of self care.

The Lion King finished before Batboy woke up, so I was able to do some reading practice with Spiderboy. Cue loads of over the top praise, eye contact and one to one attention, all of which he really needs and loves. 

Then it was time to go and pick Daddy and the new bikes up. The boys were so excited that they were getting big boy bikes, and I was so excited that we were the ones giving them to them!

The boys loved their bikes. They didn’t say thank you. We really want to teach good manners, but today I didn’t mind because I’m glad they take it for granted that we give them good things. We are their parents. That sense of entitlement that often drives me mad in other children, fills me with joy in my own! At one point as Spiderboy cycled round the playground he shouted at the top of his voice “thanks Dad!” and my heart exploded.

After much riding, falling off, ringing bells and taking bottles in and out of holders, we set off home. There was some pasta leftover from the lunches I made so tea was easy, and then after a quick shower we had family Bible time. We were reading Revelation (in this children’s Bible).

The boys are really starting to engage with Bible time, they ask questions and make links with other parts they know. We know a song about the passage we were reading too, so the day ended in spontaneous singing and snuggling.

The passage reminded me though that even our very best days here are nothing in comparison to the perfect eternity God promises for His people when we are finally with Him.

Today has been one of those days. We all have them. Those almost perfect days. Those days that make all the others a little bit easier.

Our Father in Heaven

The Bible says that God is a Father. But not just any Father. The Bible says that God is an Adoptive Father.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, Abba, Father.’
Galatians 4:4-6

I was very blessed to have wonderful parents who I knew loved me. My Dad always used to tell me that God loved me even me than he did! I couldn’t quite understand it because how could anyone love me more than my parents did?! But the description of God as a Father was very helpful to me. For children whose first experience of a father or parent is very negative, this could be a hard thing to accept.

Since becoming an adoptive parent, I’ve learnt more about what it means to call God Father. You see, the Bible says that God chose His children, just as I chose my boys. I chose to bring them into my home, to care for and love them for the rest of their lives. But they didn’t have much say.

Now of course, the Social Workers thought very seriously before deciding adoption was the right move for our boys. And we thought very seriously about if we could give these two boys the home they needed. The decision was made for their good. But they didn’t see it like that at first. Yes, they were excited to have a new bedroom, and lots of attention and cuddles. But when they were tired, or ill, or in trouble they started to realise they weren’t going back to the foster carers they’d lived with for 2 years.

As the boys dealt with their Big Feelings, we would every so often (and sometimes still do) have a big meltdown on our hands, where the boys would become overwhelmed with the anger or grief of what they’ve been through. At these times, we soon  discovered the only thing we could do was to hold them gently and safely and let them rage. We kept them and ourselves safe, stayed close and spoke truth to them until it passed. We tell them over and over, “you are safe.” “I l love you.” “I won’t ever leave you.” “You are special to me.”

15578992897_952eec4a48_o.jpgIn return, the boys would punch, kick and bite whilst screaming, “I don’t love you.” “I don’t want you.” “I don’t live here.” “You’re not my Mummy.” It hurts a lot. But it doesn’t change the fact that I am their Mummy. Forever. And I love them. Forever.

In those moments, when I hold my little men close and try somehow to absorb all their pain away from them; I get a glimpse of what it was like for God to adopt me. The Bible says that all people turned away from God, it’s in our genes. I did not love Him. I did not want Him. And yet God chose me. By His Spirit and through His Son, He made me His daughter.

IMAGE: RENE ADAMOS (2014)

Fighting the sexualisation of our kids

On Wednesday I went to a Christian youth workers training session on the Sexualisation of Kids. I wanted to share some of it with you.

Teens-and-Porn-Infographic.pngWith the birth of the internet, the smart phone, the app, children are exposed to things now that they never used to be. Pornographic images are no longer confined to the top shelf of the newsagents; they’re popping up in internet adverts, music videos and social media. Kids clothes are now just smaller versions of adult clothes, shops sell padded bras for 8 year old girls – the same girls who can now have pole dancing birthday parties. Sex Education is taught younger and younger in schools; and your child is only as protected as the child they sit next to in class, because chances are they’re hearing it all before you’ve even thought to sit them down for The Talk.

I don’t say this to scare you – although these statistics are scary – but to show you the reality of the world we live in. Our culture tells our children that they need to please themselves first, and that using other peoples’ bodies to do that is OK. It tells them that their value is in their sex appeal. It tells them that relationships are for serving themselves. It tells girls that to get somewhere in life they must either become like a man, or be able to seduce any man. It tells boys that some women are no more than objects, and that they like it.

While parents can put measures in place to protect their children while they are young, what we really need to be doing is training our children to live wisely in a world that has made sex a commodity instead of a commitment.

And so here are my top 3 tips I picked up this week:

1. Teach children to identify worldviews

We all have a worldview. It is simply how we view the world. It’s made up of our experiences, the worldviews of our family and friends, our core beliefs, our culture. It’s very hard to identify our own worldview. It’s as though we’ve been born with a snorkelling mask glued to our face, all of our masks are tinted in slightly different ways. We can never take it off and see the world without it, but we can be aware that it’s there. Teaching our children from a young age to identify worldviews and to challenge them is so important. Learning that words and actions start in the heart will help children see the worldview behind them and help them to question our culture. Try asking them questions in everyday life with this structure: What does x say/do? What does x think? In your experience, is x true? (If you’re a Christian) According to God, is x true?

What is Daddy Pig like? Are all Daddies like that? What does God say Daddies should be like?

What does this song say about men/women/relationships? What is the songwriters view of men/women/relationships? How do you feel about that? What does God say about that?

Know that your worldview is flawed. You’re not teaching your child to take off their mask, because you don’t even know how to take off your own! You’re teaching your child that they’re wearing a mask, and so is everyone else. If you’re a Christian, the Bible teaches us The Worldview. It tells us what the world was supposed to look like from the lips of its Creator. And so pointing your child back to this is so important.

2. Teach children delayed gratification

Microwaves, Google, On Demand TV. Food. Information. Entertainment. Whatever you want at your fingertips. We are waiting less and less, and we’re teaching our children that if they want something, all they have to do is press a button.

Now, whether you believe pornography is morally wrong or not, more and more research is proving that it is damaging to relationships and to the brain. What is the point in working hard at messy, difficult relationships when you can have no strings attached, sexual gratification at the touch of a button? And if you’re a Christian and you’re teaching your child that sex is one of God’s good gifts to us, how can you expect your child to want to wait for it at its best if they’ve never waited for anything before? Let’s teach our children to wait.

Take them to a restaurant, order a meal and then wait together. Don’t frantically try and distract them so they never experience waiting. Don’t only ever go to McDonalds where the food was cooked 5 hours previously and so no waiting required.

Encourage them to save up their pocket money for something big they really want, instead of spending it on smaller things they can afford straight away.

Wait in excited anticipation for Christmas instead of buying toys and presents just because.

3. Teach children God’s Good Design

God created the world and it was good. Then He created Man and it was very good. The pinnacle of God’s creation was us! God didn’t make us men and women by accident. He made us to be different and to beautifully complement one another. And the fact that we are sexual beings isn’t a mistake, it’s part of God’s Good Design. Sex is a gift from God, He wants us to enjoy it! The view of Christians as prude and anti-sex is so far removed from what the Bible says, the Bible celebrates sex! God was clear that sex was designed for the lifelong commitment of marriage, and any other version is a poor substitute. Christians, let’s not be shy, let’s teach our children the truth about sex! Let’s teach them to delight in the Gift, and the Gift Giver. and let’s pray that they will think it’s worth the wait.

Now obviously talking about sex needs to be done in age appropriate ways, and at the right time for each individual child. But whether you’re a Christian or not, I would encourage you to open those lines of communication. If your child sees that you’re squeamish or embarrassed, they won’t want to bring up the subject when they have questions or concerns. Don’t wait for your child to hear it from their peers, or from school. Be proactive, not reactive. The truth is at some point your children are going to start talking about sex. Probably sooner than you’d like. Pre-empt that by teaching them to think rightly and positively about sex, their bodies and the bodies of others.

Sorry for the long post, but this is such a massive and important topic and there is much more to be said. Share your thoughts in the comments and let’s help each other help our children navigate this crazy world!