How to raise excellent children

"A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher." Luke 6: 40

Pondering, pondering and more pondering.

With candles lit, mugs of steaming tea in our hands, voices raised and opinions energetically batted about, we have been participating in Clarkson culture at its best. Convictions, ideas, ideals, stories at their best. All we need is for Nathan to come home and share from his perspective of living in Hollywood. Then our circle will be complete.

Profound satisfaction has filled my soul. Witnessing the beauty of souls alive, hearts on fire for Christ, ideals cherished in this dark world, and testimonies and stories of God's faithfulness being shaped in the lives of my seasoned children. 

"Give her the product of her hands and let her works praise her in the gates." Proverbs 31:31

I have been thinking about how deeply fulfilling it is to have walked with the Lord, worked hard, trusted Him and to see this palpable life in and through my children.

How did it happen? This life, goodness, strength of character in the midst of such an ordinary family, who cooked and washed dishes and complained about it, lived in the give and take of 6 sinful, but delightful people trying to find their way.

As I have prayed and thought about this, I have come up with several answers that I think lay a foundation of excellence. I hope to be writing about this in the next few days amidst a house full of company and having my children home for the next two weeks. Don't want to miss any time with them. But if they will all cooperate and stay in bed, sleeping late into the mornings, I will look forward to sharing with you.

But the first thing that the Lord has brought to mind is the soul, mind and heart of the mother.

So many women that I meet when I travel and speak all over the world want a formula. Just tell me the ten steps of raising good and godly children and I will follow them and pop out excellent children.

Or, "What curriculum is the best one to use to help me children be academically superior."

But, as I have pondered, I have realized that the starting point is you. Are you disciplining yourself to have quiet times every day? Are you building a resource of wisdom, truth, understanding of Jesus's life, his values, His heart so that you are becoming a well-spring of His very presence in the life of your home?

How are you using your time to invest in the best for yourself as well as your children? Are you reading books that are educating you, stretching your ability to think, challenging you with new ideas? Are you reading the best writers to your children and learning along beside them? What books are you reading in your sparse free time? What foundations of excellence are you building in your own life? Is prayer a regularly growing part of your spiritual life--are you depending on God and the Holy Spirit to bring excellence into your life? He is the source of life, strength and righteousness and love.

As you live your life, is the grid of your mind looking out into the minutes of your days focused on "How can I focus on the Lord in each point of my day? How can I encourage excellence of character by portraying it to my children and husband through every action, every display of character? How is my witness growing in the life and excellence of goodness, beauty and truth every day?

I have realized so much that there are very few women in my life, who when I am with them, bring energy, challenge and life to me when I am with them. Yet, I really think that as you are, like Jacob, wrestling with God, seeking Him, engaging in His word, seeking to develop your own character, that that becomes the souce from which others will draw.

Contemporary culture gives all of us permission to take a break, to become mediocre, to be passive. But, the Holy Spirit always pushes us forward to do more, work harder, become more excellent as He is committed to developing in us the very character and life of Christ Himself.

So, the key to raising excellent children is to grow in excellence yourself. You cannot give your children what you do not possess. Buying the best curriculum or the most expensive lessons cannot compensate for shortcomings in your own life, if you are not growing in excellence yourself.

"A Mother's heart is the child's classroom." Henry Ward Beecher

Your children will be like their teacher. We, as teachers and models, do not need to condemn ourselves for not being perfect. Jesus never asked for perfection. Yet even as we look for a heart of obedience in our children, a willingness to try to please us, so He looks for that in us. And it is this committed heart to all that is the best, that He looks for in us. And a heart engaged in the excellent ways of God will lead to a life that is more excellent.

But I have found out that I can always accomplish more than I thought with God at my side. I can always work harder than I thought I had the capacity to work. And most of all, God's grace carried me through each weakness, failure, sin--but He is always calling me to live beyond--beyond the place where I am to grow more fully into the me He created me to be. If I am growing, learning, getting better, loving more, living more intentionally, then it will be the spirit of excellence and growth He will bring into the very fiber of my family life. For indeed the most important resource to my children in their life education is me, as I submit to God's training and calling on my own life, fully committed to being like Him, my teacher.