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Extending the Walls of Your Home
Today I want us to think about the word "home" in a different way.

And don't worry; I don't want you to get out a sledgehammer and knock anything down, unless you're really into that.

I just want us to get real about what keeps us cocooned in our homes.

There's a school of thought, especially among some Christian circles, that the home is so sacred that it needs at least one parent completely dedicated to that home--and that person should be the mom. I don't actually buy that. I think the KIDS are so sacred that they need at least one person dedicated to that, but I think we redefine family to mean "what occurs inside the walls of our homes". We don't want to get too busy because we don't want to endanger family time. And we want to make sure our homes run smoothly, so we spend an inordinate amount of time inside those four walls ensuring (or at least worrying) over exactly that.

In the meantime, though, I'm afraid too often that real life passes us by.

Yes, we need to have an organized home. Yes, we need to cut back on extra activities so that we have family time. But here's a more important question: what is the purpose of that family time? In my opinion, family time should be to foster relationships, transmit your values, have fun, and build love. But these things do not necessarily need to be done at home. And indeed, often they are best done outside the home.

Let me explain what I mean. God calls all of us to reach out to the poor, the lost, the brokenhearted. As my blogging friend Terry reminded me in this post, He doesn't give you a hall pass when you have kids at home. He doesn't say, "come back in twenty years when your kids are all grown, and you can serve me then." He says that we, as the church, need to be His hands and His feet.

But we also need to be moms. So can the two things go together? I think they can, but it means recognizing that home and family are not synonymous. Do you remember in Deuteronomy 6, when Moses had finished reading the Law to the people, and he was summing it up? He said, "you should put these laws on your foreheads and on your doorposts, and you should talk about them to your children when you get up and when you lie down, when you eat and when you walk along the road." (I'm doing this from memory, so that's my paraphrase).

In other words, we're to be transmitting to our kids the truth about God when we get up and when we lie down (at the beginning and end of the day), when we eat (at meals), and when we walk along the road (when we go places, engage in business, reach out). It's that walking along the road I want to focus on.

The best way to transmit our values to our kids is to have our kids see our values in action. It does no good to talk about the need to put God first in your life, or to share what you have with others, if you're not actually doing these things. The kids will see from what you do how much you actually value what you say.

But God wants us to walk along the road with our kids. He wants us to be engaged in the world WITH our kids. He doesn't want us to leave them behind so we can do our ministry (we're reading Floyd McClung's biography Living on the Devil's Doorstep right now, and McClung learned this the hard way), but He does want them involved in our ministry.

Last month, when we had the immense privilege of going to Africa for the third time, I saw how God worked in my kids' lives. Over the last two trips the girls got to know some of the children at the children's home we visited, and they continued those relationships now. They see what God is doing. And they helped, too. My youngest, whom I always have a difficult time getting to do chores, jumped in and mopped the floor for the medical clinic, where the doctors and nurses on our team were working, several times. And mopping the floor in Kenya involves getting down on your hands and knees and using a rag.

They helped mend clothes for orphans. They talked to kids and prayed with kids. They got involved in the choir. And my daughter Rebecca, who is 15, says that she can feel the Spirit there in such a special way because the kids are so open to worship and pray at any time.

When we talk about giving money now, and who should we donate to, they can put a face to the appeals. They want to help. And they're not as attached to all the "things" inside our home because they've been outside so much, and they've seen how the rest of the world lives.

Obviously visiting an African orphanage is outside the realm of possibility for most. I was very blessed to be able to do it. But my blogging buddy Terry goes to a homeless shelter with her whole family once a month. That's something we can all do. I know other families who work at a soup kitchen together, or who foster together (when you decide to foster, the whole family is being called!). Service, then, does not have to be something that takes you away from your family; it's a way to "walk along the road" with your children and involve them in real life. Involve them in the kind of activities you want them to continue to do when they're older.

So go clean up a park together. Adopt an immigrant family together. Volunteer together. We all want family time, and we want meaningful family time. But that time should not always be inside our four walls, where no one can get to us. God does not want us living within our four walls; He wants us to get refreshment from our homes so that we can walk along the road with others.

It's hard when children are very young, but I still believe there are ways to reach out, even if at that point in time it mostly involves bringing people into your home (inviting people for dinner, filling up food baskets or clothing baskets for those who need them). But service isn't something that we will do "once the kids are gone and I have more time". It's something that has to be an integral part of your life now. If it isn't, then what makes you think that your children will grow up to want to serve? They won't.

Family is our first responsibility, but training that family in the way it should go is the point, not making sure your house in its four walls runs perfectly. So don't sacrifice service for perfection. Reach out, even if it's messy. It will change your kids as you "walk along the road" with them.

take the long road, and walk it
Image by Notsogoodphotography



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5 Comments:

At 7:11 AM , Blogger Terry @ Breathing Grace said…

Thanks for the link love, Sheila. And thank you for broaching this subject.

I fear that for many in the church, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction as we attempt to distance ourselves from the trend of this culture.

I applaud the push to reclaim the importance of home and family, but not at the expense of ministering to the hurting and needy.

 

At 8:42 AM , Anonymous Jennifer said…

I couldn't agree with you more. It is so important to teach our children to make service to others a regular part of their lives. There are opportunities everywhere, and I encourage them to look for them. New kids in the neighborhood to befriend, old friends who are having problems with their lives and need patience, people in trouble who need a helping hand - we don't have the ability right now to do something as organized as volunteering at a shelter, but there are chances to serve others all around us when we look for them, and that I what I am trying to teach my kids right now.

 

At 9:37 AM , Anonymous Joanne said…

Teaching our children about serving others has been an important part of our family too. Initially the kids would come alongside the ministries my husband and I were involved in and be helpers. Then, as they got older, my husband would have a birthday date with each child and talk about their life goals, their spiritual gifts and what ministries they would like to serve in for that year. We continue to have summer mission trips and other ministries that the younger children take part in, but it's wonderful to see our grown up children serving the Lord with their unique giftings.

 

At 10:57 AM , Blogger Kristine said…

I love this!

 

At 11:01 AM , Blogger Growing in God's Grace said…

This is a great post, thank you so much for writing it. I know I can too easily get stuck inside my home and not reach out with my kids like I know the Lord has shown me. Thanks for the reminder. :)

JoAnn

 
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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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