Give them Grace: A Book Review

As a mom of two little boys I am constantly thinking about the right way to handle discipline.  I was really challenged by this book by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick & Jessica Thompson called Give them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus.  These women challenged my idea of what it s to be a Christian Parent.  So many times we think that if our kids behave or are “good” that we have done our duty as a mom.  Behavior is the goal.  This is no better than just moralistic parenting.  Even a Non-Christian can parent this way.  So what makes our parenting different?  A Christian Parent needs to “tether every aspect of our parenting to the gospel message.”  Fitzpatrick & Thompson challenge us to look at the Foundation of Grace that has been given to us.  Then they proceed to Part two of the book which is about the Evidences of Grace.  In part two I began to see the practical side of what they were saying.    They introduce 5 simple words for us to take with us as we parent:  Manage, Nurture, Train, Correct, and Promise.  Each word represents an obligation we have to raise our children “in the Lord”.  I love this quote from the book, “…just managing our children without giving them gospel truth never fulfills our entire obligation, may times that’s all we’ve got time and energy for.  Yes, there are plenty of times that simply call for managing a situation, but management is only one of our responsibilities.”

This book was an excellent call to what the focus of parenting should be.  The Gospel needs to be the forefront of all our parenting decisions.  The end of the book has some charts that bring up common discipline areas and show you how to see the Gospel in them.  This book is a wealth of information and I might need to read this yearly just to remind myself that it is God who will change my children’s hearts not me.  “Seeking to be faithfully obedient parents is our responsibility; granting faith to our children is his.”  I quickly forget the gospel and slip into methods of parenting that are moralistic or behavior driven.  Grace transforms our parenting because it makes our sin immense in our eyes.

Lord, help me to focus on the Gospel in my parenting and dazzle my kids with your grace.


Book Review: Families Where Grace is In Place

Families Where Grace is In Place: Building a Home Free of Manipulation, Legalism, and Shame by Jeff VanVonderen

I have just finished reading this book on Parenting.  It is an excellent book for Christian parents that have felt like or been taught that performance is the way to sanctification. In this book VanVonderen paints a beautiful picture of how God’s grace can transform a shame-based relationship into one full of grace. He focuses on marriage, children, & the home.  This is not another how-to-have-a-perfect-family book.  In VanVonderen’s own words, “this book is more about learning the right job, and less about learning new techniques. The first step is easy – if we will do it: We must learn the simple difference between God’s job and ours. God’s job is to fix and change. Our job is to depend, serve, and equip.”

I love that he begins the book by examining the relationship between husband and wife.  Change needs to between that relationship first in the home.  He explains the curse found in Genesis when Adam & Eve sinned.  He shows us that the same curse continues to be the thing battle with in our home.  Curse filled homes leave everyone involved feeling tired.  I found that I could identify with those feelings in my own life as I struggle with being the “perfect mother” and “perfect wife”.  As wives, always trying to “cover up” or hide our flaws, or even our husband’s/children’s flaws is a hard job and one we are not meant to do.  We miss out on the relationships and focus on the performance and what we can control.  Instead, we are to view our loved ones through the lens of grace.  VanVonderen points out that children have three basic needs: to know they are loved with no strings attached, to know that they are valuable and capable, and to know that they are not alone to face life.  I had not thought about those three things as being essential for my relationship with my son.

I felt that the Part III of the book was a little lacking.  VanVonderen did a great job at describing the curse-full home and helping me realize the patterns that I have in my own home/life in Part I & Part II.  I would have liked to see him expound upon the contrasts between the Curse-full home and the Grace-full home.  Although short, Part III definitely gave me things to think about and apply in my home.  VanVonderen says, “In curse-full relationships, rules and performance take the place of people and needs. In a family that seeks to be a place of grace, relationships are there to make sense of the rules. A grace-full family is the place where people can do the job of learning to live without the fear of losing love and acceptance if the job gets too messy.”  This is the heart of the message in this book.

I would recommend this book to any Christian husband or wife that was raised in a performance based home to read this book and take to heart what Jeff VanVonderen says.  He is truly a gifted communicator and can encourage our TIRED hearts and direct them toward the one who can fix and change our homes.  I truly believe, with VanVonderen, that healthy relationships between husband and wife, between parents and children, are possible only when God’s grace is the lens in which we view the processes of marriage and parenting.  Romans 5:8 says, “..but God shows his love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  God didn’t wait for us to be worthy of his grace and love, he chose to give it to us while we were still sinners.  This is the reason that we can extend our love to our husbands, wives, or children even when they mess up.  Thank you Jesus.