Episode 15: Rachael Hartzell and Discipling Our Children Daily

Rachael talks with us about using the everyday activities we do to creatively open up discussions about discipleship.

Transcript/Show Notes:

Terrie (00:37):

Welcome to “Everyday Discipleship, Every Day” where we discuss discipleship in the 21st century, guided by biblical discipleship, a Christian worldview and individual needs while discipling our children as well. I’ve begun to release a discipleship book that I’ve written on my blog, and you can find those chapters there and download them for free. I hope they will bless you and that you can use them in discipling someone in your church or in your group, and you can find that on my website, which is TerrieHellardBrown.com, and like I said, that’s free for you to use and I hope it blesses you. And today I’m so excited about the conversation we’re going to have with Rachael Hartzell, and she is a writer and a mom, a homeschool mom, and an educator, and she has written a wonderful picture book that is the first one in a series about the fruit of the spirit, and she also has a 7-year-old daughter that she is discipling and teaching, and so we’re going to talk about discipling our kids today and what that means for us as parents, whether our children are young or old, what we are doing as parents and how to talk to them. So let’s join the conversation. Welcome. Today we have a special guest, Rachael Hartzell is with us. Thank you, Rachael, for joining us.

Rachael (01:59):

Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

Terrie (02:00):

Rachael is a writer and a teacher, a homeschool mom, and she has this really adorable book called Buzzing with Love. It’s the Garden Scouts series. And so let’s just start by talking a little bit about your book and then we’ll jump into talking about discipleship.

Rachael (02:18):

Sure. well I was led by God when my daughter was four, to find resources to help her understand how to live out each fruit of the spirit, not just memorize what they are and a scripture to go with them because that’s what they were doing at church, but at her age they weren’t going deeper, and I could see, she could understand if I had something for her that brought that information down to her level and I just couldn’t find it, so I felt this stirring in me, this deep desire that God was leading me to write what I couldn’t find, and so I just followed, I had no idea what’s what I was doing. I didn’t have even a strong understanding at the time what it meant to live out the fruit of the spirit because I didn’t have a strong Christian background or an example of that when I was growing up as a kid.

Rachael (03:15):

And so while I’m teaching and discipling my daughter at a young age, I was also filling in the gaps that I missed as I was getting bounced back and forth between homes and going to their churches on the weekend, but they were more of a warm Christian kind of household environment, so nothing was talked about or reinforced at home, but when you get bounced back and forth like that, you don’t get a consistent story as you go to Sunday school, and so I had what I call a “Swiss Cheese” Christian education. There’s so many little holes everywhere and I hadn’t even heard of the fruit of the spirit growing up as a kid. That’s something I encountered in my twenties. And so I was like, I don’t even know what I’m supposed to write about, but I guess I’m just going to have to do some research and write it because you’re calling me to do it.

Rachael (04:04):

So God always equips us and that’s what he did with me for this, and I wanted a story that would be relatable for kids and something that would help continue a series. I didn’t want to throw it all at them in one book. I wanted them to have some time to process each one individually and have time to practice that skill, that fruit in their real lives and have the reinforcement of their parents helping them along the way, so that’s why I’ve broken it out into nine books. And I started with love because it’s the foundation of all the other fruits of the spirit. It’s what you have to really fully understand before you can have other fruits like kindness and patience and gentleness.

Terrie (04:51):

That’s right. That’s good. And we were talking in the other podcast that if you don’t show kindness with love, there’s usually some other motivation there. When our motivation is love, then it’s coming from God. It’s more powerful, it’s more meaningful. It’s has an eternal result if we’re loving with his love first, so I love that. And the book is just wonderful. I think it really does make the whole concept of what “ἀγάπη (agape)”, godly love, looks like as I walk through my life and encounter little frustrations or difficulties and how I can walk through that, and it makes it very practical for kids, so I really love the way you did that. It’s really nice.

Rachael (05:32):

Thank you. I love hearing that. That’s what I was going for.

Terrie (05:35):

Well good, because I think you succeeded very well.

Rachael (05:38):

Thank you.

Terrie (05:40):

Okay, so the other thing I do like too, a lot of times with children’s books we write in very simple vocabulary, but I think it is so important that we start introducing some of these other words that kids do need to know, and I noticed in at least one part of your book, you do list some of the other words that we talk about a lot at church; we talk a lot about in the Bible, and to get them familiar with those words and starting that, and you also list at the beginning some vocabulary. I think that really is an excellent way to introduce these things to children, and I just love books that do that. We don’t want to dumb down our kids, we want to help.

Rachael (06:20):

Absolutely not.

Terrie (06:21):

Grow and learn. So yeah, I’m really a fan.

Rachael (06:25):

Thank you. Yeah, I am a really big proponent of using big words with kids. They are not incapable of understanding them. You might have to give a smaller synonym that they already know, but you can easily say what you want to say as an adult without dumbing it down for them, and you can do that in a book too. Sometimes as a picture book, you have the illustrations to help you along the way, or the parent is right there. They can say, they can give that little synonym if for some reason the kid still hasn’t grasped it from the pictures or the context of the book, so I think it does our kids a disservice to continue to use smaller language with them. I have an only child, so I’ve only kind of tested this out with one kid, but at a young age as her mom, when she was two and three, I wasn’t dumbing stuff down.

Rachael (07:20):

I wasn’t using small language, I would say a big word, and then give her the synonym right afterwards so she understood what I meant, and then that had my three-year-old talking like a 10-year-old to adults and they were, or even like 12 year olds, and she was like blowing people’s minds because they had no idea why she would talk like that, and I said, well, I just don’t dumb down my language with her. I talk to her. I don’t talk to her with inappropriate topics, but I talked to her as like she were an adult because eventually that’s what she’s going to become.

Terrie (07:52):


Rachael (07:52):

She’s going to become an adult, and if I don’t start preparing her to talk and interact in that way, then I personally felt like that was doing her a disservice, cause she’s eventually going to have to learn that later on, and I felt like, if I can start preparing her for those conversations now, and she’s able to have those conversations with adults that most kids her age can’t have, then I’m doing my part to set her up for that, but that was my personal drive behind why I wanted to have the bigger language in the books. I wanted other kids to have that opportunity, and I think a lot of kids even will notice, like when a book is baby-ish, they don’t want to read the baby-ish books, especially if they have older siblings and they want to read the big kid books. I feel like it also helps bridge that gap between, yes, it’s a picture book, but it also has the language like what older kids use or what they might have in their own books.

Terrie (08:52):

It has substance to it. It makes it worth, yeah.

Rachael (08:54):

Yeah. That’s a good way to put it. Yeah. I think that’s great.

Terrie (08:57):

I had a friend who refused to talk to her children with baby talk and her children sounded so intelligent at the age of three and four. They were speaking like normal people. It was just brilliant. The thing is, we’re taking our kids to church, they’re hearing these vocabulary and they don’t know what the preacher’s talking about. Right? And so if we’re starting to build that foundation, when I was talking to Danielle Hitchen, she wrote The Baby Believer series of board books, and they go ahead and put the vocabulary in there, even starting with babies from birth. You read these books to them. She says they’re not going to understand all the vocabulary at first, but then as they hear it, they’re going to start making connections, and she said her child did the same thing. They had been reading about one of the theological ideas in one of the books, and then someone said something about it and she went over and got the book. She was making that connection, and it’s like…

Rachael (09:58):

Yeah, because she’s already built that into her schema for that topic, and so even though they have no idea what it might mean at the time, it is doing something in their brain that we just can’t see the fruits of yet. I love that example. That’s amazing.

Terrie (10:11):

Yeah. I think it’s brilliant. I love that we were talking before we started this podcast about discipleship, and I know that that is at the core of what you do. It’s at the core of what I do in my podcast in writing as well. We know that we want to disciple young believers, but our first priority is also to disciple our own children, so I want to talk about how we can day by day as we’re reading books with our children, as we’re doing things with our children, disciple them, and how we can help parents to maybe feel a little less nervous about it. So first, let’s talk about what you do when you read a book with your daughter.

Rachael (10:50):

Yeah. So I don’t specifically go and pick a book that’s going to have the word Jesus all over it. I pick those common market books. The books you’re most likely going to find at your library or at a bookstore. You don’t have to walk into a Christian bookstore to find these books, and I just start reading it with her. I start off with the same question every time because I am a busy mom. I don’t have time to sit there and think through writing out all the questions I could possibly ask and read the book ahead of time, and there, there’s a lot that I have on my plate, and I only have one kid, so I know that parents that have three and four, and five, six kids, I know that they’ve got a lot on their plates too, and they don’t have the time to do that.

Rachael (11:36):

So it’s an activity that you’re already doing. You’re already reading aloud to your kids, whether you’re reading to them at bedtime and they’re at school during the day, or you homeschool and you’re going to find time somewhere in the day that we read to them, and it might just be an audiobook, and maybe it’s not like sitting there reading it out loud to them, but we’re all listening together to an audiobook that’s still reading. I picked picture books because right now that’s just a quicker chunk of time for us to digest the whole thing and have a conversation over it, and so at the end of the book, I ask her, what does this book remind you of from the Bible? Is there a story it reminds you of a character you’ve learned about recently? Or a scripture that you’ve heard at church or biblical truth that you already know?

Rachael (12:24):

What does this remind you of? What kind of connection can you make with this? And after she gives me her answer, I wing it and I just use what she has said to spur her on further, “Well, tell me why you think that,” or I might notice that she has a hole in her logic or a piece of the truth that has been twisted just a little bit, and I didn’t know that that had happened, and so I use this as a discipleship opportunity to correct those little miscommunications and tweak them back in line, bring her biblical knowledge back in alignment. I am looking to help her build up the confidence in understanding the Bible, because the Bible is a huge book, and- Yeah! It’s a huge book. I haven’t even made it all the way through there yet, but I want her to have the confidence from a young age to understand that she might sometimes misunderstand it, but it’s not impossible for her to figure it out and to take something from it.

Rachael (13:29):

And she’s going to learn something different each time that she reads the same stories over and over. Something new is going to come out to her, and she’s going to start making different connections with the things in her world based on what she just, spoke to her. And so every time you even read a picture book, you might get something new from it too. It’s that same kind of like a muscle that you’re having to flex, and so I specifically want to use secular books with her because she’s going to, as an adult, as a teenager, even now, as a 7-year-old, she’s going out into a secular world and she is experiencing what that looks like, what it sounds like, and I need her to understand, I need her to have the skill to look at the secular world, look at the culture of our country, and find a way to point it back to God, whether it was intended for the picture book to point to God or not from the author’s perspective.

Rachael (14:35):

I want her to find a way to do it, and sometimes we run across books that don’t align with our beliefs, and in those instances, I use those as a teaching moment of, did you notice how that character was really rude the whole way through the book? Is that really how someone should have acted? Do you agree with how the other characters reacted to that character? Why or why not? If you were in this story and you encountered that character, how would you have acted? How would you have treated them? What would’ve been a way that you could have shown them God’s love? You know, those kinds of questions to help take something that I might have accidentally brought into the house or somehow somebody gifted it to us and it slipped in. And I mean, it happens no matter how hard you try, something like that’s going to happen, and you have to just find a way to point it back to God.

Rachael (15:35):

And that’s what this little weekly daily practice that we’ve been developing has started to do. Where there might be a book that uses language that we just don’t use in our house. I’m a little bit more of a stricter mom where I don’t like to use the word stupid or just because, when she gets angry, that tends to be the first word that will come out of a kid’s mouth. “You are stupid. What you’re telling me to do is stupid.” You know, that’s the first thing that comes out, and it comes out with anger and hate, and I don’t want that to be what she uses first. So I specifically in books when she was a lot younger, I would change that word. Well, now she’s old enough that she knows it’s there. She can read it. It’s right there, so now we talk about, yes, the word is there, but one, do we repeat what everything that we read or hear? No, we don’t. Do we have a bigger vocabulary and a synonym we could use that is kinder. Yes, we do. We’re going to use that instead. So we use those kinds of things as teaching moments.

Terrie (16:38):

That’s great. I had a book I wanted to love so much because it just was cute, and I actually bought it because I thought it was going to be so great, and oh, it was so terrible. The kids were so rude to each other in this book, just mean kids, and I’m like, who would want to read this to their child? And then it also had some pictures that I didn’t agree with that were contrary to our belief and everything, and I just thought, well, here’s one that I will use as a warning. Don’t buy this, but it was so disappointing. I thought, who thought this was a good idea? But I do love that my kids were heavily into science their whole lives from day one, and my older daughter even thought of becoming a paleontologist. She loves dinosaurs and dragons and all of that.

Terrie (17:31):

And so of course the books that deal with dinosaurs and dragons, you’re either going into questionable areas with either way, and so early on we had to have those conversations. Well, they say, I personally do not believe in millions of years. I’m a young earth person. I believe in creation the way the Bible talks about it, and I wanted my kids to learn that as well, and so she has no problem with it from early on. She was able to adjust and understand, well, this is what they believe, but we believe this, and I mean, just from really young, they’re able to do this. They’re able to understand truth. They’re able to understand when someone believes differently and not be all rude about it, but just that they believe differently than we do, and with the dragons, well, we were in Asia, so dragons were not evil there, but a lot of the literature that has dragons goes, some of it goes into a dark place.

Terrie (18:30):

And so just being able to vet all of that and kind of guide her through that. Well, now she’s an adult and she reads what she wants to, but as a kid, limiting what she had access to was not always easy, cause she would go to the library like any other kid, even though we were in Taiwan, there was a library at the school where she could go get books. Thankfully it was a Christian school, so there wasn’t a whole lot to worry about, but still being aware of that and trying to guide them. And that’s one of the things I hear parents talking about all the time is “I don’t have enough time to vet all the books that my kids want to read. They read too fast. They read too much,” and so that’s one of the things on my website, if they sign up for my mailing list, they do get a list of a hundred books, over a hundred books that I’ve gone through and vetted and looked at the pictures and tried to get books that support or don’t contradict a Christian worldview. And most of them are not Christian books, most of them are general market, although I do have some Christian books in there. But I think that’s such an important thing that parents need help with. And when we get into chapter books, it’s even harder, cause they’re just longer. When they can start reading on their own, we have to realize we’ve got to lay that foundation so that they can weed through all the stuff. Yeah.

Rachael (19:49):

Yeah. I even had my daughter recently one night come down after she was reading right before bed, and she goes, and I had given her a book that was from my childhood that I remembered loving in kindergarten, and she came down so upset. She goes, mom, this book is awful. And I was like, what? I have memories of this from my childhood. Granted, I’ve not read it in like over 30, almost 30 years, but this was such a great book, and she goes, read it. So I’ve reread it, and I went, “Oh no. I can’t believe- I didn’t know that this character was so rude and spiteful and was repaying evil with evil,” and it wasn’t like talked about or corrected in any way. And she was like, “he’s so mean,” and I was like, I’m so glad I’ve already given you the foundation to realize this because I didn’t see it as a kid and I thought it was a good book, but this has been going on for decades. We all think that this is something recent in maybe the last 10, 15 years. It might not have been the LGBTQ kind of stuff back in the 90s when I was going through school and starting to read, but there were still unbiblical messages.

Terrie (21:09):

Oh, for sure.

Rachael (21:10):

And that was a wakeup call to me that I can’t rely on things that are nostalgic from my childhood. It doesn’t matter the publication day, I’m going to still have to vet it or find somebody that maybe has read it and asked their opinion on it. I can’t just go, “Yeah, that’s from the 90s, that’s from my childhood. That’s from the 80s. It’s good.” I can’t do that. And that was a wakeup call for me recently.

Terrie (21:34):

Yeah. Well, and then if you go further back in the 60s and 70s, which is the classic literature, our vocabulary has changed, and so words that meant something back then mean something different now, and so I’ll be reading something and I’m like, oh, this is not going to communicate. We just have to be aware. Our kids have brains. They understand and we can walk them through it. We laugh a lot, me and my kids. We’ve always just laughed and walked through whatever and talked it through. I think that’s key. If we can encourage parents in any way, to jump in with both feet and help disciple their kids, I think two things that come to mind are, you’re walking through it with them. You can guide, you can explain, you can skip over if appropriate, and then the other part is sharing what you’ve gone through.

Terrie (22:29):

You’ve mentioned that too. Sharing your experiences and your testimony with your kids. It’s such a powerful gift that we give them when we share what God has done in our lives. I think God, like you said, God doesn’t lead us where he is not equipping us to go. He gave us these children. He’s equipping us to know how to lead them and disciple them and guide them even while we are discipling ourselves, while we’re still growing ourselves. Because I’ve been a Christian for a really long time. I’m really old. I’ve been a Christian for 40 something years and I’m still growing. I’m still learning. I’m still understanding scripture. You know, you’ve been a Christian not quite as long as I have, and you’re still growing and learning, and our kids need to understand. That’s just the way it is. We’re always learning.

Terrie (23:17):

We’re always growing, and we all make mistakes and have to apologize and start again. I was sharing with you beforehand, but there are parents who’ve come to me just in tears because they feel like they can’t disciple their children. They’ve blown it. They became a Christian too late in life. Both of us, Rachael and I, want to encourage you as parents, it’s not too late if you’re a parent, your kids are still breathing and you’re still breathing. It’s not too late. We can still help guide our children even if they are closed to the gospel. They see our lives, they see our faith as we live it out, and that’s what we would encourage you with, is to live out your faith. Take every opportunity that does drop into your lap to have those conversations and just keep going on and keep praying. God will be faithful and he will answer because he wants them to be closer to him more than we want them to be closer to him.

Rachael (24:14):

I think it’s important for parents to remember that it doesn’t matter, like you were saying, how long you’ve been a Christian, you might have just come to faith yourself and you aren’t feeling confident like, you know, you should be sharing with your kid, but you know, I take him to church, that’s just going to be the church’s responsibility. I’m still trying to figure this out for myself. No, don’t just rely on the church, because the church has your kid for maybe one or max maybe three hours depending on the programming you have at your church in an entire week, and I think there’s what, like 168 hours in a week, so when you think about it, even if you send your kids to public school or a private school, if you think about it, who has more time with your kids? You or the church? You’re still responsible for discipling them, but it’s not as hard as you make it out to be.

Rachael (25:14):

It is literally a relationship that you’re building with your kids. It is the day-to-day tasks you do. You can be discipling while you do chores with them. This has been one of our big things lately. It’s “I don’t want to do it.” I understand you don’t want to do it, but we need to do it, and it goes right back to, well, God, but I don’t want to go talk to that person that you’re telling me I should go talk to but guess what he needs you to. And so it’s that practice of building in that skill of pushing back that resistance that you’re feeling in that moment to do what God’s called you to do, and we build those kinds of skills with our kids in our daily rhythms, and I think a lot of parents put too much pressure on themselves and they think it has to be some sort of big production. They have to go and research all the different curriculums out there and find the perfect one or the perfect devotional or anything like that. It’s not as complicated. It’s literally go pick a book up off of your bookshelf and just read with your kid and then see what they think about it and help guide them in their thinking. Or, you know, it doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be simple. If you want to make it complicated, you can, but it’s not necessary.

Terrie (26:37):

That’s true, and I had one parent who told me they read the Bible every morning at breakfast, just read a psalm, read a portion of scripture, and they just have done that consistently since they’ve had children. He didn’t realize what an effect it was having on his kids until his son became very ill, and he was just miserable, and his dad was sitting with him and said, you know, do you want me to pray with you or what? And he said, can you read? And he mentioned the specific psalm. He said, because it’s a psalm of lament and I am hurting and it just expresses what I need, and the dad was like, whoa. You know, the child had picked up so much in their conversation over the breakfast table of just reading scripture and talking about what that scripture meant. And this child then, when he was in great need, he found comfort in that scripture.

Terrie (27:32):

I just, it makes me want to cry because it’s just so beautiful and that’s how God works. I mean, his word is alive and it can come alive for our kids if we just are faithful to share it with them and to open those conversations and keep the conversation going and letting them know they can ask anything. They can ask questions if they don’t understand. That’s just vital. And I love in Deuteronomy 6, that’s the core verse I use with everything I do. We talk about God’s word when we’re walking along the way, when we’re going to bed, getting up whatever we’re doing, the Shema that scripture tells us to share God’s word with our kids, and I always say that doesn’t mean we beat them over the head with the Bible, and preach at them all the time, but it’s just as you’re naturally going through the day and something comes up, then like you say, what does this remind you of from the Bible? And letting them make those connections. I think that is brilliant. Rather than you saying, oh look, this sounds like, but let them make those connections, I think is great.

Rachael (28:42):

Well, thank you.

Terrie (28:42):

So yeah. We can do this. We are able with God’s help to do this, so we would just like to lift up the families, especially those who are homeschooling, but all of us are, as parents are trying to disciple our kids, and so we want to just pray for you right now and Rachel’s going to lead us in that prayer.

Rachael (29:06):

Dear heavenly Father, thank you for bringing Terrie and I together today to have this conversation, and I pray that it speaks to the parents who are feeling shame for what they haven’t been able to accomplish with their kids yet, or maybe that they feel unequipped to handle discipleship with their kids whatever season they’re in. Whether they have older kids or younger kids, Lord. Or maybe they’re expecting and they’re worried about how to raise their kids in this world that is so far from what you teach us in the Bible. Lord, I pray that you help guide them and if there are resources they need or if there’s a podcast they need to be listening to, I pray that they find those people, those resources in their church, their resources in within their own families, in their friend circle. I pray that you help guide them to people and resources that will help teach them that you are all that they need for discipling.

Rachael (30:14):

Lord, you and your word is all that they need, and that you will guide them and you will equip them in every aspect of their discipleship with their kids. You will do what needs to be done. You are the one guiding them. They just need to follow. You are the light on their path and they just have to focus on that light and follow where you lead them. Sometimes it’s going to make them uncomfortable, and they aren’t going to want to have certain conversations, but Lord, I pray that you speak to their heart and soften them towards that conversation. Help them find ways, whether it’s through picture books or through chores at home. Help them find those moments to bring up your word and your truth and the light that you have for them because they are trying to work on bringing their child to Jesus. And maybe they’re struggling with a child who’s resistant to your truth and your word.

Rachael (31:12):

And I ask that you would give them the confidence to keep pushing through and to keep, keep showing up for that child and keep bringing, keep bringing the words that they need to hear. The child needs more than just a few hours at church a week. Lord, the child needs to hear the same teachings at home because if we aren’t living it out for our children in front of their eyes, then how are they to know the truth? How are they to understand that we have the guidance that they’re going to need. If we aren’t going to teach them, then the world will. And so, Lord, I pray that you would just be with those parents right now that aren’t sure how to move forward, help guide them in that journey in Jesus and we pray. Amen.

Terrie (32:08):

Amen, Amen. Well, thank you so much for joining us and for having this conversation. I just know it’s going to help parents a lot, so thank you.

Rachael (32:19):

Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for having me. I absolutely had a great time.

Terrie (32:23):

Me too. I hope you enjoyed that conversation and I hope it blessed you, and I just really enjoyed the time talking with her and the prayers she gave for you guys. I hope it blesses you. And I’m just so glad you joined us today. And I hope that it encourages you that you can disciple your children. God has equipped you. He has called you. We can’t give our children what we don’t have, but we can share with them what we do have, and that begins with our salvation and our understanding of who God is, and we can help our children grow in that. And as we are growing in our walk, as we are being discipled, then we can in turn disciple our children. Just like when our children are born, we don’t know everything about being a parent. We don’t know everything they’re going to need to know.

Terrie (33:12):

We’re not going to know how to teach them algebra maybe or even how to be good at teaching them some sport, but when they’re born, they’re a baby and they have certain needs and we can start there. We do the same thing when we’re discipling someone. They are a baby in Christ and we are helping them take baby steps in their faith, and we’re doing that with our children as we’re helping them to understand truth, to understand who God is, to give them a true picture of who God is because the world certainly wants to give them a warped picture of who God is, and so we can do this with God’s help with the Holy Spirit guiding and being in God’s Word, and so I hope that the things that Rachel said and what we shared together today really encouraged you. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with your friends.

Terrie (34:03):

We need to let people know we’re here. We’ve kind of quietly been building this podcast and I think we need to let people know we’re here, and if it’s blessing you, please do that. Please share it with those around you. And if they want to join our private Facebook group, we do have one called Everyday Discipleship, Every Day on Facebook, and they can ask to join or you can recommend that they join and we would love to have them be there, and they can ask questions. They can just listen in on the conversation or read the posts, whatever they want to do. They can be as involved or uninvolved as they want to be in all of this. Of course, our prayer is that we can obey Jesus’ command to make disciples as we reach and equip this generation of believers to reach and equip the next generation of believers with everyday discipleship, every day.

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