Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Crazy Busy, Day 3

Leslie Basham: Kevin DeYoung says a lot of parents are tempted by this line of reasoning:

Kevin DeYoung: "My kids are so incredibly fragile that if I don't get everything right I will ruin them." And conversely, "My kids are so imminently moldable that if I just push the right buttons, voila, I will have godly Christian successful boys and girls, men and women."

Leslie: This is the Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, September 4, 2014.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We've been talking on the past couple of broadcasts of Revive Our Hearts with Pastor Kevin DeYoung from the University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan. He's an author; he's a blogger; he's a conference speaker. In short, he is crazy busy.

He's written a little book to help the rest of us with some of his journey on dealing with this crazy busy stuff. Kevin's been our guest the last couple of programs. Kevin, thank you so much. I've been encouraged and helped by what I've read in your book and by what you've been sharing with us. So thanks for being back with us today.

Kevin: Happy to.

Nancy: And this time we're graced to have joining us in the studio your wife, Trisha. Trisha, welcome to Revive Our Hearts.

Trisha DeYoung: Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.

Nancy: When I first contacted Kevin's office and said, "Is there any way that you as a crazy busy person could say 'yes' to being on Revive Our Hearts?"

And he said, "Well, we'll talk about it."

And I said, "Could I also ask if your wife might consider coming?" Because I know that a lot of our listeners as they listen to a guy like Kevin want to know, "Okay, how does a wife handle this?" You are, as we speak, expecting within a month.

Trisha: A month away. Our sixth.

Nancy: Number six child. And the ages of your others?

Trisha: The oldest is ten and it stair steps down, ten, eight, six, four and two. 

Nancy: So you have got your hands full. And by the time this airs, you will have a newborn, a little one. And your life has got to be crazy busy, too. So Kevin wrote the book, and I know he's the one who loves to be in front of the microphone, not so much your comfort zone.

Trisha: That is true.

Nancy: But we want to hear from your heart as well. You, as a couple, how you process this life. Your husband's a pastor. He's traveling quite a bit, and you're trying to keep the fires burning at home and have some family life. When he started writing this book, did you think, This was going to help us, or we have answers?

Trisha: I thought it sounded like a great idea, and sure, we could use the help and still can use the help to think over these things. I do prefer the more "behind the stage" and keeping the home fires burning. But I've learned a lot, and I feel like Kevin is a good encourager to me in my work where it feels like life is busy and messy and chaotic. I need the Lord's help, and I need perspective from the Scriptures.

Nancy: So, do you guys talk about this as a couple as it relates to your own family, your own schedules? You've got things going every which way. Do you periodically sit down? Do you have a date night? Do you talk about your priorities? How do you handle some of this?

Kevin: Yes, we try to. We are part of a small group at our church. We do that every other week. And then we try on the alternate weeks to have a date night. It depends on how busy we are and if I'm in town. But we generally do that. We are constantly trying to evaluate, trying to look at this.

I don't know if this will be discouraging or perhaps encouraging to people listening, but if they were to drop in unexpectedly at our house, first of all, we probably wouldn't want them to. But if they did, they would find that they were not exaggerating when they said their house is kind of crazy. We often joke to each other that maybe I'll write a book on parenting someday, and it will be called "The Inmates Are Running the Asylum" because that is what it feels like most days.

My wife does a great job, and it's absolutely the truth (not pandering) to say to be a mom and wife and stay at home and do that with a house full of kids, I cannot imagine a more difficult, more taxing, more relentless job than that. So I'm blessed to have a very good wife. But our lives are very crazy, and we're constantly trying to find some calm in the midst of all the madness.

Nancy: I could guess at the answer, but who tends to be the more calm of you two when it comes to chaos and schedules?

Kevin: Well, I think we're different. I'm more the type A—organized, driving. My wife is . . .

Trisha: More phlegmatic. I had a friend who said that I had a very high threshold for chaos, which I didn't know how to take, if it was a compliment. Things are pretty organized.

Nancy: I would take that as a compliment.

Trisha: I grew up in a home where my mom kept an impeccable home. So that feels restful to me when my house is like that. But then I also feel like our children are our first guests in our home. So I want them to be able to use their home and enjoy playing. I love having neighbor's kids over. I like that environment, but it also leads to lots of chaos. Then I feel like, Oh, I'm not keeping up on this.

I'm no different than anyone else. It's so easy to compare and say, "Oh, this person makes her kids better meals. She's feeding them more natural or more nutritious foods than I am. Or this person does wonderful crafts with her kids, and her home is decorated in such an great aesthetic way that it's inviting." So I am one to compare. I certainly compare a lot with the home I grew up with.

Nancy: So how do you counsel your heart about those things to have the freedom and the grace to be who God wired you to be and to do it the way you want to do it in your home?

Trisha: I think I do it in a very stumbling way. Kevin is very good to remind me that times where you are opening your home up to other people is a good but to remember the heart attitude is to refresh people. On my mind I think refreshing people means the table's beautifully set and the kids are well behaved and contributing to the help of the meal and the food tastes good and is all ready. But that doesn't happen very often. Kevin helps me remember that it's more important that you have an attitude of "I love having you here. I would love to have the other stuff and I'll work toward that end, but those are secondary. So I think I feel like sometimes if I have a gentle reminder or I'm listening to the Lord, then I can remember those things.

Kevin: It's really important, you said this, Nancy, for wise moms to know who they are and be okay with (not sin, don't excuse sin) different gifts, different strengths, weaknesses, personalities. Trisha and I have talked often.

We can think of friends we have or other wives who say, "Wow! Just the way she's wired, she's so organized, or she's always getting new books for her kids, or she's always just really on top of these things." But with my wife who's wonderfully phlegmatic, in some ways that allows me to do some kinds of ministry that other people say, "How does Trisha do that? How does she manage?"

Well, there's different strengths and there's different ways we're wired. I know not many husbands are listening. But maybe the wives can gently help their husbands with this. We need to understand who our wives are and what they can do and encourage them and praise them for what they do well instead of harping on the things we wish were better, because there's always going to be strengths that turn into our weaknesses. Butc

Nancy: And my guess is, Trisha, that there are other women around you who are looking from the outside into your situation. Of course, nobody lives in our homes. But they're saying, "If I could only be the mom that Trisha is." And that's why Paul says, "Those who compare themselves among themselves are not wise." It leads to discontent and frustration. I love how Paul talks in Romans about how God gives a measure of grace and a measure of faith and different sized and shaped ministries and callings to all of us.

I face this in ministry with other women who do the kind of work I do, Bible teachers and broadcasters. I look at Joni Tada and I think, That woman is so productive. How does she get so much done, and she's got all those physical limitations? But that is so foolish, because God has made me who I am with my limitations. I think no matter what your season of life or your calling, you've got to be willing to have those conversations with yourself.

Trisha: Absolutely. I think that's the beauty and the wonder of the gospel. I feel like just in parenting, when I realize that I come to the end of my kindness and my patience with my kids very, very quickly. And to go to the gospel and say, "This is why I need Christ, because I need His forgiveness most of all." And then I need His strength for another day where I'm going to fail or by His grace He'll give me help for doing His good works.

Nancy: My mantra in the early years of this radio program when I just felt like I was beyond my ability all the time (and still feel that way much of the time). I used to wake up every morning with this phrase from "Jesus Loves Me"—"We are weak but He is strong." It's so true.

I have to counsel my heart that it's okay to realize that I'm not strong even if other people think I am or think I'm supposed to be. But not only am I weak, because that could just be a counsel of despair, but He is strong. He loves those kids, and He loves you and that calling, and He wants to be strong in us.

Do you ever find yourself coming quickly to the end of your own patience and ability? Do you get to melt down place, ever?

Trisha: Yes! Yes! Plenty of times. I just think of a few weeks ago when we hosted a couple friends of ours who have two young kids for dinner. I had let the kids play for a little bit, and then I knew now we're going to send our friends home and we are going to get things ready for dinner. It was an hour of a mom that was out of control, not just the kids. Now, the kids were disobedient, too, and full of sin.

But I just realized even in the midst of it, I just thought, This is an ugly thing about myself that I'm seeing. I'm irate at the children who have flung themselves on the floor because they can't clean something up when they were full of energy playing fifteen minutes ago. I'm having a hard time getting them to help, and I'm feeling overwhelmed with the tasks I have left to do." So I'm often then the person that's out of control.

Kevin: I would say one of my besetting sins is impatience just in general, but it spills over with the kids. And not to be too morbid, we all remember the shock when we heard about the New Town shootings. What just washed over me was, "Why am I so impatient with these precious children who have been given as gifts?" They're sinners. But to have that perspective of the gift of our children is something that every parent struggles with.

People always tell us, "Enjoy the kids because the years go by quickly." And I think, Yes, I bet they do. And the days feel like forever as the years go by. But it's one of the things I think for most parents that we struggle with.

I was reading about a survey of "ask the kids." They ask kids to grade their parents on how they were as parents. And moms scored a little bit higher than dads, but for the most part, they scored their parents pretty well. They scored high on shows affection and loves me and goes to my special events. Generally it was A's and B's.

But for both moms and dads by far the lowest grade their kids gave them was anger management—losing their temper. One author calls this second-hand stress. What our kids are living with is the second-hand stress. And that's where the busyness comes in, as crazy as it sounds sometimes. It might actually be healthier for your kids that you go through the drive-thru at McDonalds and you get a Happy Meal this night so that you reclaim some of your sanity.

When we think that we're serving our kids by doing everything and feeding all the best foods all the time and all of the lists that people give us that we have to do to be "on-top-of-it parents," but if they're living with parents who are constantly stressed because of that and impatient, then we're not giving our kids the sort of life they want and more importantly, we're not being the sort of people God wants us to be.

So it's really a spiritual issue when this busyness gets so out of control. Our kids notice more than we realize. I've just had to ask for the Lord's forgiveness for times when I snap and especially when kids are just being kids. There are kids being defiant, and then there are kids being kids. Every parent can wrestle with that sin issue.

Nancy: And what an opportunity though for the gospel again to be put on display when you do snap, to ask forgiveness from your kids.

Kevin: And we've had to do that many times.

Nancy: I don't think it matters at all to the kids that their parents be perfect. But I think it does matter a lot that they see their parents being humble and acknowledging when they're not perfect and that they need the Lord.

Kevin: Yes. We've sat down many times. We try to say, "Okay. Everyone come to the couch. All right let's sit. First we want to say, 'We're sorry.' And so let's talk about our sin. And now we want to talk about your sin. But we all need God's grace, and we need to look at our hearts."

The title of the book is what makes the book so good, Shepherding a Child's Heart. I'm sure many of your readers have that book by Ted Tripp. And it's not just shepherding a child's heart, it's shepherding a parent's heart in what's going on in our hearts where we're not trusting, where we're not patient, where we're out of control. It's what God needs to do in us to sanctify us as much as He is doing in our kids.

If we just wake up and think, Today's about what I'm going to teach my kids instead of remembering, Today God is going to teach me a bunch of things through my kids. He's going to show me some things that are beautiful and some things that are probably ugly. But it's from the Lord's hand, and He needs to help me."

Nancy: Those kids are heavenly sand paper.

Kevin: Oh, they're a rough grade, yes.

Nancy: Right. Kevin, you mention this thing about lists. I don't know who came up with these, but they're everywhere. They're in the Christian world too, and they're on the blogs. Probably some people feel this from our True Woman blog at times, and your blog. There are so many things if you are going to be a good whatever, Christian, parent, mate that you want to be paying attention to and alert to.

I think sometimes just the cumulative effect of those blog posts, programs like this where we're trying to encourage people, but I think sometimes it can be discouraging by thinking, I just can't pay attention to what's going on on all those different fronts: What I feed my kids; what we do with our time; how I keep them healthy and educated. Do you homeschool your children?

Trisha: No. We've done a little homeschooling. 

Nancy: And even that decision and the challenges of that. Everybody's got opinions, and will let you know what their opinions are, however you're schooling them. You've got three boys and another one on the way what kind of sports boys and girls are involved in and how soon and how much.

I have a friend who has five teenagers. Her first just went to college and wanted to play soccer at the college level at a Christian school. They were told that the kids could not even try out for the soccer team if they had not been on a travel team when they were growing up.

Well, this friend and her husband when their kids were little . . . Their kids were into sports. They love it, and they had to make a choice. Are we going to do the travel team stuff for five kids? They made a value judgment, "We're not going to do that. We're going to have a family." So now the kid gets to college and can't even try out for the soccer team.

But I love their heart. They're saying, "You know what? Our son would have loved to play college soccer, but we'd much rather him have character and love the Lord. There's nothing wrong with playing college soccer, but we're glad we made this decision."

It is priority decisions. How do you think about all these lists, all these things that people are supposed to be paying attention to and doing as it relates to their family? How do you process all that so it doesn't become a bondage and a snare?

Kevin: I think so much of this madness is self-inflicted. Things really have changed from a couple of generations ago. I mean, we are so far removed from "kids are seen and not heard." There were some bad things about that, as well. It's not just looking for the "good old days."

But I ran across this word which I think perfectly describes what we have. We don't have patriarchy rule by men, fathers or matriarchy. We have "kindergarchy." It's rule by children. Our children are the ones who call the shots. So you have parents whose lives are dictated by their kids' schedule, by their kids' demands. It's all the things you talked about.

They can't eat Fruit Loops anymore. They start doing Fruit Loops when they're five, just think about what they're going to be when they're fifteen. What a mess they're going to be into. So they can't eat and drink these things. And you've got to have them on the traveling soccer team before they know how to walk, and you've got to have Baby Mozart in the womb. You've got to limit all these things.

Every one of those things is probably born out of some good desires, some good studies and some helpful suggestions. But the cumulative effect is to think that "My kids are so incredibly fragile that if I don't get everything right I will ruin them." And conversely, "My kids are so imminently moldable that if I just push the right buttons, voila, I will have godly Christian successful boys and girls, men and women."

Nancy: It's Christian determinism.

Kevin: It is. That's exactly what it is. This determinism is left in parenting.

Nancy: Which isn't Christian, by the way.

Kevin: Yes. I mean so much of Christian parenting is the last bastion of legalism about all the things that we must do. It's this assumption that I can create the child. If I do the right things,I will get the right child. If I don't do the right things, then I've failed my child.

When I think there's a great deal of freedom. Certainly there are many ways to sin against our kids. We don't minimize that. But I find the Bible to be refreshingly simple in just the basics.

  • You've got to teach your kid to work. 
  • You've got to discipline them. 
  • You've got to not exasperate them. 
  • You've got to take them to church and tell them that Jesus loves them and pray with them.

And after some of those few building blocks, there's just not a whole laundry list of "make sure you do this and this kind of program and not this kind of thing and this kind of schooling." I just think God means for us to have more freedom than a lot of us are enjoying. That the cereal you give your kids is not going to set them on an unalterable trajectory towards heaven or hell. It's just not.

Nancy: So when you all got married and started having children pretty quickly and have had them, many of them quickly, did you sit down and talk through what were going to be your priorities? Or is this something that's just unfolded as the Lord has given you children?

Kevin: I would say for my part, I often tell people when I got married, I found out marriage was easier than I'd thought. It probably has a lot to do with who I married. And parenting has been a lot harder than I thought. I'm not the parent that I thought I would be. Hopefully I'm not failing. But I thought, our ideals, my ideals maybe, the kids by now would have the catechism memorized. They would have huge passages of Scripture memorized. They would be leading people to Christ. Ideals, and we want to shoot for really good things, but . . .

Nancy: Were you that kind of kid?

Kevin: No. So why did I have those ideals?

Nancy: Just wondering because I thought maybe you were. You're a bookish guy.

Kevin: Yes, I was, but no. You need to talk to my parents. They're not going to tell you those really great stories about me. But I had those ideals. What I've had to realize is not to just excuse bad parenting and not discipling our kids. We have family devotions. We pray with them. We want to build them up in that way. But to realize their biggest issues is not outside of them but it's inside of them. It's their heart that has a propensity to sin. And their biggest hope is not us, but it is the Lord who loves them. Nobody loves our kids more than we do.

And so we're trying to love them. We're trying to figure things out as we go. I often think of this line I heard from Alistair Begg. He said he was talking to a man that said before he had any kids he had six theories and no kids. And now he has six kids and no theories. And that's sort of where we are. But we're trying to muddle along, love them, train them up, discipline them, teach them about Jesus and pray that the Lord will be faithful.

Trisha: Well, yes, I would say some of our priorities have just unfolded. About parenting, I think I would just say the same thing that you said. It is a humbling experience. And for me it's really taught me. I'm really encouraged by people who can remind me the Scripture, that can remind me that I cannot determine their hearts. I cannot mold them. I need God's work in their heart, and I'm called to be faithful to God first and to follow Him. And He's working in my heart as I'm trying to lead these other little ones behind us.

I think it's eye opening, and the reason it's humbling is because you don't expect this hardness and this second child's heart in this situation. So we're constantly talking through things, especially schooling. It's the big one because you feel like this is a weighty matter, and I don't want to take it lightly. I don't want to send my kids on a trajectory of being influenced by the wrong things and molded by the wrong things.

Kevin: Our goals in some ways have gotten simpler. Number one: I don't want my kids to strangle each other. So that's one goal which I got up this morning and I saw one of our kids, a brother, on top of his sister kind of like hog tying her. And she seemed to be like this was part of some kind of game. Then later she came and her appendages were all tied together she said, "Could you help me get free?" So I don't know what they're doing. So that's one goal.

Nancy: So you failed at that goal.

Kevin: Yes. I failed at that goal today because I was sleeping. Second: We want them to learn to read and hopefully grow in learning as people. Three: I hope that we can give them the gift that both of our parents gave us which is just those patterns which become so ingrained over time of going to church, of praying, of being around the Bible and the Scriptures, being with God's people. And then fourth and this is the one we have the least control over and have to pray about the most is a heart that's sensitive to the things of the Lord.

Nancy: You can't make that happen.

Kevin: And you know the older our kids get, you just realize your helplessness in that. I can't get in there and change his heart. I can say the things, I can pray for the right attitudes, I can pray for their heart and put them around all the things. That's what God has to do.

Nancy: It's a work of the Spirit, isn't it?

Kevin: Yes. You start to really know that theology about God's sovereignty is true when you look at your kids. You say, "I can't do this. It has to be the Spirit blowing where He wills."

Leslie: That's Kevin DeYoung. He and his wife, Trisha, have been our guests today on Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. I know today's program was a big encouragement for parents. You can feel some of the pressure coming off of parent's shoulders. If you know some parents who could use this message, you can send them a link at ReviveOurHearts.com. To whet their appetite you could send the video our team made with Kevin DeYoung. Again, you'll find it at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, we're able to come to you over the radio, through podcasts, and the website thanks to listeners who support Revive Our Hearts financially. This week, when you provide a gift of any size, we'll say "thanks" by sending you Kevin's book Crazy Busy. The ideas you've heard today come from that book, and I know you'll get a lot out of it. Ask for Crazy Busy when you call with your donation. The number is 1–800–569–5959 or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

How do you keep from growing Pharisees in your house? Kevin will address that tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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