March 27, 2015

Are your Children Growing Spiritually?

by Belinda Letchford

are you children GROWING spiritually-


One of the things I’ve tried to do with my parenting is to be aware of the different aspects of each of my children’s being – their physical, emotional, intellectual, social, moral, spiritual; to intentionally know where they are at, and to know how I could help them grow.  Recently I’ve been thinking about spiritual wellbeing, spiritual growth and maturity.


The problem with ‘assessing’ and ‘planning’ spiritual growth is that it quickly becomes about external things – like reading your Bible, Praying, Going to Church, Volunteering.  We can read through that list, do a mental check, and think that everyone is doing okay.  And yet what we are really talking about in terms of spiritual growth and maturity is a relationship with Jesus, and becoming more and more like Him.


Do your kids have a relationship with Jesus?

Do they desire to be more and more like him?

And how are you helping, encouraging, supporting them in this?


Before we go any further in thinking about our kids, we need to think about ourselves. We are first and foremost responsible for our own relationship with Christ.  How would you assess yourself, your own spiritual growth and maturity?  Are you getting to know Jesus more and more each day?  Listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit?  Obeying?  Being changed from the inside out?  Or are you only getting to know more about Him?  There is a difference – and we can go through all the motions of being a Christian and know about Jesus, and yet, he’s standing at the door of our heart – knocking, saying let me in to every crevice of your heart.


The heart is our will, emotions, passions, character, intellect, – the center of everything that makes us tick as a person.  Is our relationship with Jesus changing or affecting each of these things?


Not to say that we need to get it 100% right and be fully mature before we can encourage our kids – but our desire needs to be tuned towards Jesus, knowing him, obeying him, being changed by him.  If we are just going through the motions, we cannot expect to see life, spiritual life, in our kids.


Of course, God is bigger than anything – and I pray that God will turn on the light in my children’s heart and helps them see who he is.  And yet, I don’t want to be a hindrance to my children, a stumbling block.  My children live with me day in and day out, even when they were younger they knew what was going on in my life.  They knew the ups and downs, the real and the pretend.


Spiritual growth or maturity is the journey of responding to God’s word,

and changing to be more like Jesus.


What does it look like to encourage spiritual growth and maturity in our kids:

  1. Live an honest life in front of our kids – showing them what it means to grow and mature – showing them what it means to respond to Jesus and change to be more like him.
  2. To introduce them to Jesus, and to teach them from His word (the Bible)
  3. To encourage them to know Jesus and respond to him as their Saviour and Lord
  4. To encourage and help them read the Bible and apply the things they learn
  5. Teach them to pray and listen to God’s answers
  6. To help them recognise the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit, prompting and warning them.
  7. To depend on the Holy Spirit to strengthen them to be obedient especially when the choices they have to make are hard
  8. To be an active part of the body of Christ – encouraging other Christians and being honest enough with others to be encouraged by them.


When your kids face a difficult choice, when they are tempted with a selfish response – how do you instruct them at that moment?  In this day when WWJD has become so commercialised it is easy to forget the reality of that story.  (By the way, have you ever read the story behind the letters?  It is a story of a group of people who committed to asking themselves, and each other, what would Jesus do – before they made any decisions in their busy lives. It is a powerful story.)


It is easy to just give our kids the answer – to give them instruction on what they should do; to draw on our own wisdom, even if it is wisdom that comes from knowing Jesus ourselves.  But that is not always the best thing to do.  If we are to encourage our kids to grow and mature, we need them to develop a relationship with Jesus themselves.  Not just acting out of our relationship.  They need to learn to listen and obey.  Listen and obey Jesus, not us.  This of course doesn’t take away the need for children to obey parents – but ultimately, if we are discipling our children, our goal is for them to look to Jesus, to listen to Jesus and obey Jesus.


How we help our kids face their challenges throughout the day, will be what gives them the opportunity to grow spiritually.



Also sharing and linking with others:  

Throughout the week I share with one, or more of these blogs (see more details on my Link Parties page)

Monday’s Musings,  Thoughtful Spot, Mama Monday MusingsHip Homeschool Moms Blog Hop, Titus 2 Tuesdays,   Coffee and ConversationFinishing Strong (Middle & Highschool years),  Capture your Journey,  Thriving Thursdays, Hearts for Home, Shine Blog Hop,  All things with PurposeA Little R & R,  From House to Home,  Fellowship Fridays,  Homeschooling Highschool Linkup, Weekly Wrap-up, Collage  Fridays, My Week in Review


March 24, 2015

The value of Play – for Teenagers

by Belinda Letchford

The value of Play for (2)

An important aspect of growing up is having the time to play.  It is one of the concerns with early education pushes and hectic lifestyles that our children don’t have time to play anymore.  A childhood full of imagination and creativity actually does give our children a solid foundation for learning – not just in their future, but at the time of playing they are learning.


Play creates opportunity for our kids to learn

  • Social skills – how to play with other children and enjoy life
  • Focus skills – how to play by themselves
  • Life skills – as they build real life scenarios and act out roles in their play
  • Thinking skills – as they solve problems
  • Physical skills – as they stretch their physical abilities they strengthen their muscles
  • Moral skills – as they learn to interact with people and things, they learn to make wise choices, moral choices – their character is built.


It seems though that even for parents who do value play, and who do see educational value in play that when it comes to our teenagers we become a little vague.  What do teenagers play?


Well, a teenager would say – Mum!  We don’t play – that’s for kids! I’m reminded of the time when I had to stop organising ‘play dates’ for my teens – apparently teens don’t have play-dates, they hang out!  It is important for mums to get the right lingo!!


When my kids first hit teen years (and we had the above conversation) I didn’t want my teens just to hang out.  The emphasis is on the ‘just’ – I wanted them to be creative, and purposeful with their ‘play’ – er um… discretionary and social time.  So what is it that teenagers do when they aren’t studying?


A lot of teenagers just hang – they either hang with their friends, either in real life or on social media or they play computer games, or watch movies. Is this the best or the only option for teens?  It is important for us as parents, to have an understanding of the benefits of play not only for children, but also for teenagers (and to be honest, for us adults as well!)


When I talk about ‘play’ I’m talking about the time that isn’t filled with responsibilities.  A teen’s responsibilities are study and other commitments, household chores, family activities.  Play is what would fill their ‘free’ time, or as we have called it over the years ‘productive free time’ or as adults call it, ‘discretionary time’.


Play for teenagers is going to look different – the activities will be different but the learning opportunities are still there.  They will still be learning how to engage with people, they will learn to understand and accept themselves, develop and grow in focus skills, life skills, thinking skills, build physical strength and skill, and make moral choices.  Play is still a learning opportunity for teens.


Just as play helps prepare a toddler or young child for the next season of their life – the same goes with the teenager.  Play for a teenager generally looks like interests, hobbies and friends* and we need to help them see that how they spend their time today will impact their tomorrow.  To me, this is why endless hours of computer games and texting or facebook-ing has its limitations.  It is recreational, and it is social – and we need, and our teens need these aspects in their life, but there needs to be more to their life.


So what can teens do?

Sport & physical fitness, chess, music, reading, art, craft, building, photography and movie making, web design, volunteering, fishing, drama & dance, inventing, cooking, magic tricks, training a dog, bird watching or breeding chickens, astronomy, model making, robotics, candle making, go-cart racing, origami, … the list is endless.


There is no right or wrong.  No one hobby is more purposeful or productive than another.  The goals that I set for my kids when they were looking for productive free time activities were:

  • Are you doing something – with your mind, your hands, your body?
  • Are you producing something – you can produce physical things, like a project, or relational things like a friendship, or a not so tangible thing – like an idea or knowledge.
  • Are you purposeful – that is, do you know what you are doing? Have you chosen to do this or are you wafting.


For the homeschool family there are two benefits to recognising and using play time as learning opportunities – even for teens.

  1. We can shorten our formal study time, because we know they are learning skills in other times throughout their day
  2. We can create an individualised plan for their education – using their passions, interests and skills to fine tune their education.


One test that I often think about is that if I give value to an activity in my life why not in my teenagers?  I give value to my blogging, scrapbooking, quilting, cuppas with friends, telephone conversations.  But I also keep these things in balance with the responsibilities and commitments of life.


We need to help our teenagers appreciate the importance of using their time wisely.  As our children get older it isn’t about us telling them what to do, but rather it is about us giving them the tools and motivations to grow and make wise decisions about their life themselves.  It has helped my kids to see their day divided into different purposes:

  • Personal time – This is the time they need for sleeping, eating, dressing etc.  Time to look after their body and spirit.
  • Responsibilities – this covers not only their chore type responsibilities, but also the responsibilities that comes with their particular season of life – study for a student, work and other commitments.
  • Discretionary time – free time for them to choose to use wisely. Hobbies, projects, sport, volunteering, social time.
  • Relaxing time – this is the time they need to recharge and rest (closely connected to personal time but we’ve made a distinction that personal time is generally getting ready for the day, and relaxing time is more about the end of the day or after responsibilities are done.)

We haven’t divided our day, or our schedule according to these categories necessarily, but as we talk about managing our time and our commitments these are the aspects that we talk about.


My hope in this article is that you will see play as a valuable learning opportunity for your teen. That you will either

  1. Acknowledge value in the interests your kids have where in the past you may have thought they were wasting their time and should be studying books, or
  2. Help them gain interest beyond the device they seem attached to, interests that will expand their horizons and prepare them with skills for their tomorrow.


Play has value – even for the teenager so we need to not only make time for their hobbies and interests but encourage and support them in their efforts to grow and build skills and competency in these areas.


*Yes, teenagers have friends as their ‘hobbies’.  Friends are very important to this age group, but even time with friends can be unproductive or productive.  Idleness isn’t healthy – so I have taught my kids to have some time where they are just catching up, being silly and having a laugh, but I have also encouraged them to find a project to work on or a board game or sport to play when they visit with their friends.  We also encourage them to recognise when conversation becomes dribble and to either unplug (if it is an online conversation) or find something to do if it is in real life.


Also sharing and linking with others:  

Throughout the week I share with one, or more of these blogs (see more details on my Link Parties page)

Monday’s Musings,  Thoughtful Spot, Mama Monday MusingsHip Homeschool Moms Blog Hop, Titus 2 Tuesdays,   Coffee and ConversationFinishing Strong (Middle & Highschool years),  Capture your Journey,  Thriving Thursdays, Hearts for Home, Shine Blog Hop,  All things with PurposeA Little R & R,  From House to Home,  Fellowship Fridays,  Homeschooling Highschool Linkup, Weekly Wrap-up, Collage  Fridays, My Week in Review

March 21, 2015

The Issue of Comparing Ourselves

by Belinda Letchford

comparison blog square

One of the biggest discouragements we can fall into is when we compare.  It hits us all at some stage.  I was encouraged by my daughters over the last few days as I slipped into a bit of a funk; they came along side of me and told me words that I had told them many times.

  • You’re not comparing yourself are you Mum?
  • You are not them, be yourself!

I did have to hear those words!

The thing with comparing ourselves to another isn’t so much the acknowledging that there is a difference, but somehow we internalise that difference to be a weakness in ourselves.  It is this aspect that makes comparisons so damaging.

When we compare we internalise that difference to be a weakness in ourselves.

Five things happen when we compare:

  1. We feel less than the other person because we see their successes and our failures or limitations.
  2. We feel guilty because we haven’t made it yet, and we really should have!
  3. We are distracted and start doing things to be like that other person.
  4. We are exhausted because our goals are unrealistic
  5. We are robbed of our joy because we are not being true to ourselves.

Thanks to my upbringing that developed a strong security in who I am (both in Christ, and in my family), I am usually able to stand pretty strong against comparisons.  But – there is always a but!   When we are tired, uncertain, or overwhelmed it is easier to see someone else’s successes, and our own failures.  This is when we need someone to get along side of us and remind us to keep our focus on what is true.

The thing is – if we were able to compare and not judge ourselves as less, or create a bucket-load of guilt for ourselves, it would actually be a helpful thing.  If only we could look at someone as a role model and see the opportunities for ourselves to grow, not the failures in not being like them already.

To learn from those who have gone before us is a good thing. In order to look at someone else and see their differences and choose to learn from them, not judge ourselves as less comes down to our motivation for change.  Why do we want to change?

  • Do I want to grow in that area to be like ‘them’? Or…
  • Do I want to grow in that area to be the best I can be?
  • Do I want to grow in that area so that I can do the things that are on my heart?

The issue actually becomes an issue of contentment.  When we focus so much on our weaknesses, we become discontent with who we are, we become discontent with our journey. Can we be content to be who we are, where we are, and where we are going?  Sometimes, especially when we are tired, overwhelmed or uncertain this takes trusting God.

So when an attack of comparison comes upon you, I pray that you have someone to stand alongside of you – to remind you of who you are, to remind you of who God is, and the purposes He has for you.


Also sharing and linking with others:  

Throughout the week I share with one, or more of these blogs (see more details on my Link Parties page)

Monday’s Musings,  Thoughtful Spot, Mama Monday MusingsHip Homeschool Moms Blog Hop, Titus 2 Tuesdays,   Coffee and ConversationFinishing Strong (Middle & Highschool years),  Capture your Journey,  Thriving Thursdays, Hearts for Home, Shine Blog Hop,  All things with PurposeA Little R & R,  From House to Home,  Fellowship Fridays,  Homeschooling Highschool Linkup, Weekly Wrap-up, Collage  Fridays, My Week in Review

March 17, 2015

Live a Life Filled with Love

by Belinda Letchford

live a life filled with love, one word, GIVEImitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. (Eph 5:1-2 NLT – emphasis mine)

Live a life filled with love.

Doesn’t that sound great!  Many people pursue this idea – many books are written and movies created around the idea of our life filled with love – usually a romantic kind of love.  But I don’t think this is what Paul was thinking when he wrote to the Ephesians, and I don’t think it is the type of love God is talking about – in fact the rest of the verse gives us an idea of God’s perspective on love: that it is a sacrifice – and yet pleases God.

I’ve been reading “A Lifelong Love” by Gary Thomas and nearly every chapter has me thinking about my marriage, and how I live that out.  But marriage is only one sphere in my life where I am challenged to give love.  These thoughts today (about giving love) is heavily influenced by my reading this book.  I highly recommend it.

I particularly like his definition of love – Love is a disposition to do what is best for the other, out of the inner compulsion from the Holy Spirit, to serve this person’s best interests. (Gary Thomas)

Three keys in this definition for me – but it starts from the end of this definition

  1. Love is to serve another’s best interests. Love is about another person, not me, not what I feel, or what I get in return.  It is about them.
  2. The Holy Spirit will prompt me to love this way – am I prepared to listen and change my choices?
  3. Loving this way becomes the normal. I am reminded: I am a new creation, a new heart – a new motivation, a new desire, a new belief system, a new way of living. Loving the way God loves is to be the new way I love.

Loving this way is not about putting other people first – but making it about them.

It is very challenging.  Can I give love like that?  Can I give love like that to God?  To my husband?  To my children?  To my family, friends and even acquaintances?  What about the people I come across down the street?

What does that actually look like?

1 Corinthians 13 is well known as the passage in the Bible that describes love.  But have we become so familiar with it that we glaze over when we start thinking about it.  As I read this passage, I have tried to expand what each description of love looks like:

Love is patient – Patience is accepting a person or situation for what it is without putting an expectation on them/it to change.  Patience is about accepting a person for where they are at.  Walking with them, rather than dragging them to where you want them to be.  Patience can be the answer instead of frustration, anger, annoyance.  Patience takes away the silent jesting mockery of rolling the eyes, snide remarks, or digs at a person.

Love is kind – Synonyms for kind are – caring, sympathetic, gentle, thoughtful, and considerate.

Love is not jealous – The green-eyed monster stops us from being able to love. Whether we are coveting their material possessions, or envious of their skills and abilities, or begrudging of their lifestyle choices – love isn’t jealous, or focused on, what they have, but on what they need.

Love does not brag and is not arrogant.  When love is about the other person, it doesn’t matter about your credentials, about your history, about your expertise – we can use those things to love another person, but as soon as we stand on those things we become arrogant, and it becomes about us – not them.

Love does not act unbecomingly – Love is not rude is how I used to say this to my kids.

Love does not seek its own –When we manipulate situations to get ourselves in a good light or in the right place for someone to do something good for us – that is manipulation, seeking our own best interests.  When we remind people of the good things we’ve done – that is manipulation, thinking about ourselves.  When we get upset when we don’t receive due praise – that is looking out for our best interests.  None of this is living a life of love.

Love is not provoked – I read somewhere that love is to be like shock absorbers – because of love we can take the rude, unkind, selfish, demanding things that come our way – not by being a martyr or putting up with abuse, but by not retaliating in kind.  Love is not taking offense.  Sometimes love for another person does require tough actions – but not out of anger or retaliation.

 Love does not take into account a wrong suffered –Love does not react out of past hurt. Love offers forgiveness, and doesn’t keep a tally.

Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth – This reminder to love cuts down the finger pointing – YOU were wrong, YOU need to apologise and reminds me to look at the truth – I have been forgiven so much by a loving, gracious God – I need to do the same!  I need to focus on God’s truth, God’s perspective, God’s Word and rejoice in the life that it brings.

Love bears all things – The Bible calls us to bear one another’s burdens… What are people’s burdens?  I took a side step here to consider what are my burdens, in the likelihood that those things are other people’s burdens as well:  my struggles, weaknesses, the things that make me sad.  Love would have me care about the struggles, weaknesses, things that make other people sad, and help them in any way to make that burden lighter.

Love believes all things and hopes all things – Love sees the best in a person – sees them as God made them, sees them as a person Jesus loved and died for.

Love endures all things – To endure something means we stick with it – it doesn’t give up.  The word gracious comes to mind – love even when there is no change in a person because of your love.

Love never fails – When we read this we tend to think that love will change a person.  But that is coming from a mindset, it’s subtle, but it is there – that our love will change a person, and we likely mean, it will change a person who will love me, who will be easier to love.  But that is selfish – looking for a benefit for me, by loving this person – eventually.

If we read this last description of love with the eyes of the definition I started with it starts to look different.  Let’s remind ourselves of that definition:

Love is a disposition to do what is best for the other, out of the inner compulsion from the Holy Spirit, to serve this person’s best interests.

If we love, in all these different ways, as describe in 1 Corinthians 13, then that love will always serve another person’s best interests.  Then they will be loved.


One word GiveThis is part of my One Word 2015 series.  My one word is: Give.  My journey so far:



Also sharing and linking with others:  

Throughout the week I share with one, or more of these blogs (see more details on my Link Parties page)

Monday’s Musings,  Thoughtful Spot, Mama Monday MusingsHip Homeschool Moms Blog Hop, Titus 2 Tuesdays,   Coffee and ConversationFinishing Strong (Middle & Highschool years),  Capture your Journey,  Thriving Thursdays, Hearts for Home, Shine Blog Hop,  All things with PurposeA Little R & R,  From House to Home,  Fellowship Fridays,  Homeschooling Highschool Linkup, Weekly Wrap-up, Collage  Fridays, My Week in Review




March 16, 2015

Five Minute Friday: Plan

by Belinda Letchford

five minute friday Plan

Five Minute Friday is a weekly writing challenge and linkup, where you write for 5 minutes on a designated word.   Every so often, I find myself with some writing time over the weekend –  and plan to take this challenge.  When I have done this I find that my 5 minutes of writing tends to reflect something that is going on in my life or my general reflections.  So I share these short posts with this in mind – this is simply my immediate thoughts when I read this word today.  This week’s word is: Plan


Planning isn’t Enough


I love planning.  I plan my days, I plan my housework into zones, I plan our evening meals with a menu.  When I was homeschooling younger children I planned lessons and outings.  Pete and I go on a two day planning date every year to talk about family direction and opportunities.  Planning is a part of being intentional.  To plan means we take the idea where we want to go, and set out steps towards it.

I am sure that we all know that quote from Benjamin Franklin:  If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

And yet, planning is only the beginning.  We can spend hours, or days even, planning and if we leave it at that, we will never reach our goals, never fulfil our plans.

You see, plans can sit in our head, on our computer, in our diary or journal. Having the plan made is only the first step.  Planning will never affect our family life unless we actually take the action written in that plan.  

Most times, I write a plan because left to my natural self I probably wouldn’t walk that way.  I would cook the quickest, easiest meal, not necessarily the most nutritional.  I would let my kids play a game instead of focusing on history or science.  I would scrapbook instead of doing the housework.  My plans help me stay focused on the things that I have decided are important.

We cannot rest on our laurels though, knowing we have done the planning.  It reminds me of the business man who has a fantastic business plan, but he has it in safe keeping.  His dreams, his ideas, his plans will never come to fruition, unless he starts to walk through the plan, unless he starts using that plan to direct his decisions, unless he refers to that plan when he can’t think straight.

Two character based responses that will help me actually start to use the plan – diligence and self-control.  These two responses will help me overcome my natural tendencies and help me to take the next step in actually doing my plan.

  • Diligence:  Investing all my energy to complete the tasks assigned to me*
  • Self-Control: Rejecting my own desires and doing what is right*

A plan without action steps taken, is just a list.



And that is the end of my 5 minutes!


  • Do you plan?  Or do you wing it?
  • If you wing it – are you achieving the things that are on your heart?
  •  If you plan, do you use your plan?  Or does it all go by the by when life starts happening?
  • If your plan isn’t actually do-able I suggest you have planned too much and you have dreamed unrealistically.

My plans help me walk towards the things that are on my heart. 


*Definitions taken from Character First


Linking up with:  5 Minute Friday


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