Friday, 29 July 2016

Ascribe Greatness {WEEK 1 - lettering challenge}

This has been a crazy couple of weeks. Planning and tidying up school related things. Getting ready for Holiday Bible Club. A little boy having hernia repair surgery. And then, this week, the crazy, but rewarding, that is Holiday Bible Club. I. Am. Wrecked. It's 7.30pm, and if I didn't have a high maintenance 5 month old who doesn't go down for the night until silly o'clock, I would be in my BED!!!! (I think I am getting old....)


I am SO excited to be starting off with my FIRST EVER lettering prompt series, starting on MONDAY!!! 

As long as I can remember, I have LOVED singing. I sang in the school choir. I learned to sing alto when I was quite young, just by listening to the older ladies in the Church singing. I love to lift my voice in praise to God. In Church. In the car. In the home. I love to sing. 

The words matter to me. 

If your singing of Christian praise is NOT about the words, but only the emotion or the music, then there is something wrong. You've missed the purpose of praise in song. I digress.

I was travelling with Robert to a wedding, recently, and we were, as we often are, listening to Christian praise - hymns and songs. I was thinking about some of the words that I hold very dear, and I thought "these would make great lettering prompts!"  Sometimes it was only a word or two, sometimes a phrase or line. Some hymns have whole verses that are precious to me. The wonderful thing about hymns is that, for each of us, the Lord may use different words to speak life to us, whilst we worship HIM! It's a perfect combo for lettering, I reckon.

I scoured through Instagram, but couldn't find any obvious challenges revolving around hymns and songs, so it was a perfect opportunity!

I made a list of some of my all time favourites. They are mostly traditional "older" hymns, but some are more modern. All of them have solid Christian doctrine and scriptural basis, and have an amazing depth. In some ways, they just don't write 'em like they used to! Maybe there are many you don't know at all, because you've only  known more modern worship? Don't miss out on these superb words of praise. 

Every week I will either share the words or a link to sites where  you can find the words to these hymns, so that you can find them easily if they are unfamiliar to you, or if you don't have a hymn book that has them. (I don't think any one hymn book will have them all, anyway!)

So, from August the 1st, jump in and join us on Instagram and Facebook. You  don't need to be able to write "fancy", but maybe this would make a great opportunity for you to jump in and join with learning lettering? A great way to be creative and relax over the summer, whilst dwelling on these great words of praise and worship. 

(This whole endeavour has sent me on an educational trip all around hymn copyright! It's involving maths, and working out dates and years!!!)

1. I lift my heart to thee

I lift my heart to Thee, Saviour divine;
For Thou art all to me, and I am Thine;
Is there on earth a closer bond than this,
That my Belovèd’s mine, and I am His?
Thine am I by all ties; but chiefly Thine,
That through Thy sacrifice Thou, Lord, art mine.
By thine own cords of love, so sweetly wound,
Around me, I to Thee am closely bound.
To Thee, Thou bleeding Lamb, I all things owe—
All that I have, and am, and all I know.
All that I have is now no longer mine,
And I am not mine own; Lord, I am Thine.
How can I, Lord, withhold life’s brightest hour
From Thee; or gathered gold, or any power?
Why should I keep one precious thing from Thee;
When Thou hast giv’n Thine own dear self for me?
I pray Thee, Savior, keep me in Thy love,
Until death’s holy sleep shall me remove
To that fair realm where, sin and sorrow o’er,
Thou and Thine own are one forevermore.

Charles E. Maudie (1872)

2.  When peace like a river

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought—
My sin—not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so—it is well with my soul.

Horatio Spafford (1873) 

3. His robes for mine

Find the lyrics here. This a new hymn, but the words are incredible. I first heard it three years ago,
 when tragedy struck the heart of a Church where I had visited in Indianapolis. The youth pastor, 
and his wife - Chuck and Courtney Phelps - their unborn baby, and a lady from their congregation,
 Tonya Weindorf, all tragically lost their lives in a coach accident, returning from camp. 
This is a hymn that was sung at their funeral, which I watched via livestream. 
The words really challenged me, especially the words at the end of the chorus. 
"Bought by such love, my life is not my own.
My praise-my all-shall be for Christ alone."  Their lives were lived faithfully for the Saviour, and I want my life to be lived the same way. 

This site has many newly written hymns. They marry up wonderful words and beautiful melodies. They make them free to use and print for worship, because they desire that God should be praised more than making money. You will be blessed by the hymns you will find there. 

4. Great is thy faithfulness

Find the words here. This is one of my all time favourites, because my heart is so thankful for God's faithfulness to me. 

5. Come, thou fount of every blessing

(I've added this one as it was written, although it's not in the format I am used to singing it - we have some parts skipped out, to make three verses.)

Come, Thou fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.
Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothèd then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send Thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

6. When all thy mercies

(Another one that had many more verses than I am accustomed to, but I loved how it tells
 a life story of God's mercy!)

When all Thy mercies, O my God,
My rising soul surveys,
Transported with the view, I’m lost
In wonder, love and praise.
O, how shall words with equal warmth
The gratitude declare,
That glows within my ravished heart!
But Thou canst read it there.
Thy providence my life sustained,
And all my wants redressed,
While in the silent womb I lay,
And hung upon the breast.
To all my weak complaints and cries
Thy mercy lent an ear,
Ere yet my feeble thoughts had learned
To form themselves in prayer.
Unnumbered comforts to my soul
Thy tender care bestowed,
Before my infant heart conceived
From whom those comforts flowed.
When in the slippery paths of youth
With heedless steps I ran,
Thine arm unseen conveyed me safe,
And led me up to man.
Through hidden dangers, toils, and death,
It gently cleared my way;
And through the pleasing snares of vice,
More to be feared than they.
When worn with sickness, oft hast Thou
With health renewed my face;
And when in sins and sorrows sunk,
Revived my soul with grace.
Thy bounteous hand with worldly bliss
Hath made my cup run o’er;
And, in a kind and faithful friend,
Hath doubled all my store.
Ten thousand thousand precious gifts
My daily thanks employ;
Nor is the least a cheerful heart
That tastes those gifts with joy.
Through every period of my life
Thy goodness I’ll pursue
And after death, in distant worlds,
The glorious theme renew.
When nature fails, and day and night
Divide Thy works no more,
My ever grateful heart, O Lord,
Thy mercy shall adore.
Through all eternity to Thee
A joyful song I’ll raise;
For, oh, eternity’s too short
To utter all Thy praise!

Joseph Addison (1712)

7. How sweet the name of Jesus sounds

(We have just finished Holiday Bible Club. Our "Missionary story" was about John Newton! 
What a life of testimony to God's redemption and grace! I live just a few miles from where he 
ministered, in Olney)

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.
It makes the wounded spirit whole,
And calms the troubled breast;
’Tis manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary, rest.
Dear name, the rock on which I build,
My shield and hiding place,
My never failing treasury, filled
With boundless stores of grace!
By Thee my prayers acceptance gain,
Although with sin defiled;
Satan accuses me in vain,
And I am owned a child.
Jesus! my shepherd, husband, friend,
O prophet, priest and king,
My Lord, my life, my way, my end,
Accept the praise I bring.
Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I’ll praise Thee as I ought.
Till then I would Thy love proclaim
With every fleeting breath,
And may the music of Thy name
Refresh my soul in death!

John Newton (1779)

There you have it. All the hymns for the first week of #ascribe_greatness, starting

I hope you join with me, and that your heart is truly blessed by these great hymns. 

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Lettering {which tools do I use?}

So, a quick second post about lettering.

The last post I told you about where I get my inspiration, so I thought I could now share about the pens/brushes I use.

It's been a journey, really. As I started off with Bible Journaling, I started off with pens for that, and progressed from there. I have two photos for you, and I will talk you through them all, and tell you where you can buy them.

1. Staedtler Triplus Fineliner

This is one of the first pens I started with. They come in a fantastic range of colours, but in order to do calligraphy type, you need to do "faux calligraphy".  For this, you need to add a second line on the downstrokes of your letters. Then, fill it in. I have demonstrated this technique on the photo. It works well, but you can sometimes end up with very tiny lines where you don't "keep in the lines". It's probably imperceptible, but I see it! lol  You can get these pens many places, including Amazon (UK) . 

2-4. Pigma Micron 

These come in a variety of thicknesses and colours. These pens, and the Staedtler Fineliners, are both pretty good for using in Bibles, as they don't bleed unless you do very thick and heavy lines. The very fine ones are great for print style lettering, or for very small lettering. All these first 4 pens don't work very well on watercolour paper, though, as they tend to gouge into the heavier weight, with their harder tips. 

This (UK) set has a good range of the nib sizes, all in black, including a brush pen (which I just don't like at all) and a thicker "graphic" tip, which is a nice thick tip for solid lines. You can also get them in sets with colours, but with that you have to decide on one nib size, as they are all the same in the multi-coloured pack. 

5. & 9. ( 9 is in the image below) Tombow Dual Brush Pens

These are a MASSIVE treat to myself. I got them for a knockdown price (with the pre-Brexit exchange rate!), and a friend who was returning to the UK kindly delivered them to me, so no postage costs!! I got the full set of 96, and have been LOVING them. I had already bought the primary set from Amazon to try them out, and had fallen in love with them. It's these pens that I have used for my entire series of pictures that went with the #animalpartychallenge on IG. Because they are water based, you can blend them on watercolour paper with a brush and water. You can also blend two colours together and create your own blends (simply just blending them on a piece of plastic)! The tips are self cleaning, so the new ink runs through and it goes back to the original colour. One end has the brush tip pen, and the other end is a finer nib. It takes a bit of practice to master using these (I initially didn't like them, because I didn't crack it as quickly as I wanted to!!! - patience.... ), but once you have, they write like silk. The textures and tones are beautiful, especially on very smooth paper. These are best for doing BIG lettering, although some people seem to be able to achieve much smaller text than I can! 

If are wanting to get serious about your lettering, the 96 box set is a very sound investment, as it's a lot cheaper per pen than buying the smaller packs. It's also massively reduced in price over this side of the Atlantic, compared to a matter of months ago when it was over £200 to buy it!!! 

6. Pentel Fude Touch Sign Pen

These pens are the ones that are able to give a lovely look to a more "normal" sized lettering. As with all the brush tips, you need to master the basic technique of modern calligraphy to be able to use them best. The ladies in my last post have videos that demonstrate the technique - think upstroke, thick down stroke. You can get practice drill sheets for this on many sites - free and "pay for" ones. 

These pens are a bit trickier to track down in the UK. The cheapest way I have found to purchase them is from an Etsy store. They come in a range of colours, and you can get the full set of 12 for £17 including shipping from Japan. You have to be patient, as it takes time to get here! If you can't wait, you can also get them here for a little more money.

I really love the gold and silver in the multi-pack, and the black is a pretty fundamental piece of kit, in my opinion.

7 & 8. Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen - soft tip and hard tip

These, like the black sign pen above, as what I would consider "essential" if you are serious about lettering. They give slightly different effects. The soft one gives a thicker line, and the hard one gives a very fine line on your upstroke.  These are available on Amazon, and are best value in a 5 pack - soft and hard are both available in these 5 packs.

10. Pentel Aquash Water Brush

I love, love, LOVE this tool!!!! This is a watercolour brush, in essence, but has a water barrel attached. You can either fill the barrel with liquid watercolour inks, or keep dipping it into liquid or solid watercolours. I just love the variation in tone that you get with each stroke. It's simply beautiful. There are three sizes available - think medium and thick brushes. Obviously you can achieve a different look with each. They aren't overly expensive, and are available as a three pack on Amazon. These absolutely work best on watercolour paper, as it's far more absorbent than other papers.

11. Paintbrush (I used a Taklon Size 3)

A good old fashioned paintbrush is also a tool you can use. This is one of the ones I found hardest to crack, and I still don't feel I have mastered it completely, but it gives a lovely effect. Again, like the Aquash brush, you have to use watercolours with it. But, you have to keep dipping it into either water then paint, or a liquid watercolour. I found I had to get my grip right with a paintbrush, moreso than other pens, and also the quality of paintbrush MASSIVELY matters. A round brush is best, and don't just use a child's cheap one. You just won't get the brush to move smoothly enough, in my experience.

So, there we have it.

Those are the pens and brushes that I use, and my limited experience with them so far! You don't need expensive pens to get lettering. You can even use Sharpies (which I have never tried!) or Crayola supertips!

Just grab a pen and start trying, and then take it from there!

I think I also need to do posts demonstrating each of these pens, just to give a better idea about how they write and look. No promises as to a time scale for doing that, but I will get started ASAP.  Any questions, just ask away in the comments below, or find me on IG @thejoyfulkeeper and ask there. I will also start trying to record which pens I have used on my IG pictures.

I am SO far from being a pro at this, so I hope this has been useful!?

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

When the Master calls {how we respond in trials}

I am confident that I am not alone in my observation that there is a distinct difference in nature and personalities between my children. The more I have, the more i see the difference. Even though I have 9 children, I can safely say that no two of them are very alike in personality, nor really in looks. They are all individuals, with a God-given personality that makes them "themselves".

I was reading the passage about the death of Lazarus, the other day. I was struck, again, like I have previously been when reading the "cumbered about" account, that Mary and Martha, although sisters, had quite distinct personalities.

Mary is the quiet, more withdrawn one. I can imagine her, quietly sitting beside Jesus, listening to Him teaching. Martha. She's the one I relate to more. The one who is more bustly, busy, and quick to speak, instead of listening. And yet, passionate in her devotion.

These differences are seen once again in this narrative. IF you remember, the news that Lazarus was sick came to Jesus. He seemed His usual, calm self, and told the messengers it was fine. Don't worry. He's not sick to die. He, in fact, said it was going to be to God's glory.

Let's pause. What a great reminder. Trials come into our lives, and we should realise, right at the onset, that all these things happen for God's glory. It's not so much the incident that glorifies God - rather how we respond to it, and how we deal with it. We don't all get the outcome that Lazarus did, but we still have the God-given opportunity to give praise and glory to the one who "hath done all things well".

Jesus, the one who they KNEW was a miracle worker, announces he is going to just sit where he is for a couple of days. THEN, he decides to go to Bethany, whilst announcing to His disciples that Lazarus is, in fact, already dead. But not dead. Just sleeping. His disciples were understandably confused, but just accepted, and travelled with Him. The purpose for the delay was explained by Jesus, again.

"And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe"

This was all an exercise in faith and trust. It was to point people to His saving power. So that they would know He was GOD.

Pausing again. THAT is why we are allowed to go through struggles and trials. So that others may see GOD in it all. His power. His glory. His perfect will.

He carries on along the road.

Martha hears He is nearby and comes rushing to Him.

Mary sits in the house.

There we have it, again. Two different personalities. Two different natures. Two different ways of approaching the Saviour.

Martha rushes to Him, with a slight accusation, and yet GREAT faith and trust in who Jesus is.

"Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee."

Oh, I LOVE that "but I KNOW".

She knew that Jesus could have prevented his death. But, OH, she knew he could also bring him back to life!!! Such enormous trust and faith.

I SO need more of that faith. TO be in the middle of sad and serious circumstances but to KNOW that Jesus can work it all out, because He is God, and He just can. My faith is so weak.

Jesus then ascertains her understanding of who He is, and what he is capable of. Upon her acknowledgement, she rushes back to Mary, telling her

"The Master is come, and calleth for thee"

I LOVE Mary's response. Yes, she had stayed where she was, when Martha had run to meet Jesus. But,

"As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him."

The Master called, and she jumped to do His bidding.

This made me think of times of trial and difficulty. On difficult days, do we jump to do what Jesus requires of us, or do we sit wallowing in our trials until we feel like being obedient and submissive to the situation we are in?  The Word of God is to be obeyed no matter how down or sad we are feeling. Our feelings don't hold a candle to the importance of being followers of Jesus who come when we are called.

The Lord calls us to be so many things. And those things don't change just because life is hard, or we are facing a bad day. No. We are still to seek Him and follow Him. Not everyone responds the same way to trials and struggles. We may be the kind of people who need to talk to others - we jump up and rush to Him like Martha did. Others may internalise their struggles, quietly - we may sit quietly alone, and then respond as soon as we hear His "Words" whispered to our heart, like Mary. But, obey we must. Seek Him, we must. Be in His presence, we must.

Mary and Martha were tested in a deep way. The whole situation was so emotive that Jesus, himself, wept. When He saw His dear friends in such agony of spirit, He, too, wept, even though He KNEW what He was about to do! He knew the end from the beginning, but was still touched by their sadness.

Jesus sees our sadness. He weeps with those who weep.

But, He still requires that we follow Him and obey His bidding.

Those sisters went through an agonising few days, but just look at the outcome! Their faith was rewarded, and God was glorified in an amazing way. That trial was used for good.

Many Jews saw that He was the Saviour and put their faith in Him.

It also set in motion the events that would lead to Jesus' death.

God's ways are perfect. Trials come, but we need to still be ready to jump up at His bidding, and obey Him in every part of our lives, no matter how we are feeling. WE may come weeping and sad, but come, we must. Come to the one who is control of the situation we find ourselves in, and place our trust entirely in Him, knowing that "all things work together for good".

No matter the situation you find yourself in, run to the Saviour, obey His bidding, and wait to see the great things He has in store to His glory.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Lettering! {where do I get my inspiration?}

I have been meaning to write this post for a looong time.

During my period of "blog silence" I took up creative lettering. It started off as an interest in being able to do nice lettering for my Bible Journalling, but it turned into a hobby along the way! I am now LOVING doing my lettering, and continually trying to improve on my new found love.

Some of my Bible Journalling

Journalling quotes from books I am reading.

What I have been meaning to share about is the resources I have used and the materials I use, as I have had so many people asking me on IG and Facebook!

I am no authority on these things. I share them with you on the basis that I am no expert and I can only tell you what I have learnt from others who are FAR more experienced and talented!

So, where to start?!?

I think I will do these as a series of posts, and begin with some of the inspiration for my lettering. First off, it is SUPER helpful to be on Instagram! That is THE visual place to watch and learn from others. It's where I found my first inspiration, and continue to be inspired on a daily basis.

My first ever "teacher" was a lady called Lisa, and you can find her at a few places.

IG: +Lisa Walters
Facebook: creativLEI
Pinterest: creativleimade
Periscope: +Lisa Walters

She is an extremely gracious and gifted lady, who has a great love for all sorts of crafty and creative things. She is regularly on Periscope, gladly sharing her tips and techniques, and Periscope (which I only recently discovered!!) is a fabulous place to ask questions, which she always tries to answer.

Lisa also offers a brilliant FREE course, "31 days to love your lettering", where you can watch videos and learn the various techniques involved in getting started with lettering.

She is really inspirational, and has helped me a whole lot! She has also recently dragged me kicking and screaming  lured me into the world of chalk lettering!

More of that at another time! Beware - letterers will lead you down bunny trails of all sorts of creative yumminess....

Another favourite of mine is Liss. I came across her on IG, and am currently signed up for her lettering class (not free, but it was my summer treat to myself!!), and you get to be part of a private FB group where she gives loads of advice and support, and where you get a stack load of inspiration from others who are learning, too.  Again, you can find her in several places.

IG: +liss letters
Facebook: Liss Smith

Another favourite of mine from IG, is @handletteredtruth. Debbie produces beautiful lettering, and inspires me on so many levels.

There are loads more, but I will share them as they tie in with the various topics I share about to do with types of lettering, or materials used.

Another great way to "meet" other letterers is to do a month of writing prompts. Folks give all sorts of different prompts, and it inspires various contributions. I have just finished one about collective nouns for animals, in which I also started doing paintings of the animals using brush pens, which I previously had no idea I could do until I tried! Then there are ladies who run ones that are Bible verses for each day. It's always good to get scripture into our heart and mind, and what a nicer way of doing it than creatively?



My current one that I am following is #letterHISname (they all have hashtags, so you can find other people doing the same thing, for those who don't know these things, like I didn't until recently...) and it is run by two fab letterers - @coldsnowinharvest and @brittanyluiz. It's been precious and interesting to look at the verses where these different names are mentioned, and choose one to base my lettering on.



There are LOADS more lettering prompts out there.

I have one, myself, in the pipeline! I have created the graphic, but want to write a weekly blog post to accompany it. to help people out, due to the topic. I don't want to say much else JUST yet, but I plan to do it in August, and plan it all in July. Watch this space!!

I try and practice my lettering when I can. You can do it as doodles, or do it as something more creative. I like to do things with scripture and just pop it on the fridge!

This lettering was scripture from #scripturewriting with +Heidi St. John 

I am also trying to learn how to do watercolour painting - flowers, wreaths and writing. It's one of my favourite mediums, which I dabbled in as a teen.

I will tell you more about that in a post about materials and mediums.

So, there's a start for those of you interested in lettering. I will return with more helpful (hopefully!!!) info on the topic.  Check out my Pinterest board for places to find lettering inspiration, too. (See the link in my side bar!)

So GO! Have fun lettering! Learn something new, and get creative.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Character training from the weeds {pull them out while you can}

Finally. It happened.

I had a day with no rain, and a chance to go to the shops and buy some plants for the garden.

Yes. I was finally in my garden to sort it out properly, for the first time this year.

It was a mess. Weeds. Plants that hadn't been cut back. Dead plants that needed to be lifted, and which I hadn't even noticed were rotting away at all.

Usually I am well sorted by July, with plants growing nicely, and flowers in abundance. However, a combination of a small person who is quite high maintenance, and nasty damp weather, had held me back from getting to the garden to sort it out.

I forgot how much I missed it.  The feel of the earth on my hands.  The satisfaction of getting rid of weeds and creating cleared space. The joy of purchasing and planting beautiful things, resulting in a much brighter garden.

There is still much to do, including more pruning and weeding, and a painting job I want to do.

But, the best part? How the Lord whispers lessons into my heart and soul, whilst working with the wonders of His wonderful creation. Nearly EVERY single time, I seem to see something valuable to learn.

Today was no exception.

Four lessons, no less.

But, I will only cover one per post!

The one I want to share first is one that is so important as a parent.

Weeds. Weeds. Weeds.

The bane of gardening life. One of my biggest jobs that I still need to work on is to get rid of weeds. Not only do they spoil the look of the garden, but ultimately they stop the plant from growing as it should, and can sometimes kill the plant entirely.

The lesson I considered today was one of nipping things in the bud early. Pardon the pun. As a result of not dealing with the weeds when they were tiny, and only beginning to grow, I now have some hum-dingers growing around my dahlias in the front garden. It looks 50/50 weeds plants. That is never good.

I have nettles (don't talk to me about nettles - my hand hurts as I type!) - I have thistles - I have kinda' pretty looking pink ones that will go to seed and multiply if I don't sort them out. In fact, most weeds will eventually do that - think dandelion, for a start. (oooooh... something else has just sprung to mind!!!) All mixed liberally in with what SHOULD be there. My soon-to-be-beautiful dahlias.

It got me thinking about my children. Do you ever feel, particularly with children aged between about 2 and 4, that you are scolding them and telling them "no" a LOT? It you don't feel like that, you maybe should!! It's that formative age where they try and push boundaries, trying to get away with wrong behaviour every opportunity they get. It's part of human nature. Some of it is simple childishness, but much of it is sin. If you don't sort it out - by training and by discipline/consequences - whilst they are little, these sinful traits will just grow until they are choking out the good in a child, or at least spoiling the "beauty" in their character. I've seen it before. And, I can also see in my own children where I could have done with "weeding" more diligently when they were younger, because there are traits that are spoiling things now.

There is no such thing as perfect children. Likewise, there is no such thing as a perfect parent.

BUT, we CAN work at doing all we can to faithfully train our children, to the glory of God, whilst they are young. We can't save them, but we can guide them into ways that are God-honouring. We can teach them faithfully of what God expects of us morally, and spiritually. We can train them to behave in a way that shuns the behaviour that is wrong, and embraces that which is right. It's not our role as parents to save our children - we cannot - but it's our job to honour the Lord in how we raise them. We don't want an ugly mess when they are growing up, all because we don't tend their hearts and lives when they are young.

It's hard work. We need to keep at it and be consistent. Like a garden, weeds will keep cropping up. But, trust me, sorting it out when they are small plants is FAR easier to do than when the plants grow up. Now that my plants are bigger it's MUCH harder to get to the weeds. Firstly, because the roots of the weeds have got deeper and thicker. Then also because it can cause hurt to the plant to try and get rid of the weeds.

What a powerful reminder to me of the crucial work of tending to the behaviour of my children! If I neglect it whilst they are young it is SO much harder to deal with when they are teens. That time when the plant should be growing strong and blooming beautifully is NOT when I should then be starting to think "hang on, how did I not notice these "weeds" of ugly behaviour until NOW?"

We, as the parents, are the "gardeners" responsible for pulling out the weeds of deceit, lying, stroppiness, laziness, argumentativeness, rebellion and disrespect whilst our children are young. It's definitely easier to teach them when they are little, than when they are more strong willed and older. Not easy, but easier.

And, like the weeds, if we wait until the weeds have taken root, and starting to seed, then these sinful and ugly behaviours will just spread and take hold further, the later we leave it.

We need to recognise those things which God does not want in our children - spot the "weeds" - and pull them out when they are just beginning to rear their ugly heads. If we know ourselves what is right and wrong, according to the gardener's manual - God's Word -  then we will know how to sort it out. We need to be fully aware of what those traits are, in order to weed them out.

Keep at it "gardener" of little souls. By God's grace and help, you can train your children to be those who honour God.

Keep at it "gardener" of those who are getting bigger. Pull out those weeds whilst you can still grab them and get all the root out.

Keep at it "gardener" of those who you look at, like my ugly garden, and think "help!!! - what have I done??". God is able to redeem those years. Don't look at what you haven't done, but look at what you can STILL do!

Above all else, remember that the Holy Spirit is able to do that work of saving grace in their hearts and lives. Cry out to Him daily to help you as a parent, and to save their souls and do a personal work of grace in their lives. He is able and willing to save.

"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not"
Galatians 6:9