Tara’s Blog

Robin G. is our Winner!

Robin! You’ve won all of the books! Please contact me so that I can send them to you.

Thanks, friends, for letting people know about the video series and for participating in our little giveaway.

Happy First Day of School! :)

Tara B.

LAST DAY to Enter to Win the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible + 15 Other (Fabulous!) Books


I know a lot of us are trying to figure out our fall and spring women’s studies and I hope it’s not too “self-promotey” to mention my own video series, but honestly? I don’t receive any advertising from the PCA Bookstore or Westminster Books or Peacemakers or, well, anyone … so I’m hoping to generate a teeny tiny little e-social-media-buzz by asking you if you might pretty please TELL SOMEONE that this video series exists:

The Peacemaking Church Women’s Study: Living the Gospel in Relationships

… and please let them know that it is being used widely in both Reformed churches and “broadly evangelical” Christian churches because the creators of the series wisely forced me to not be lazy and use a bunch o’ Reformed lingo, but instead, explain the biblical teachings behind the doctrines of grace.

That means that if your church and women’s ministry likes to self-identify as “Reformed,” I have every hope and confidence that you will approve and enjoy this series! OR … if your church does not like the “Reformed” moniker, but prefers to use words like “biblical” and “doctrines of grace,” I am similarly hopeful and confident that you will like it too!

(That being said … if you’re interested neither in the Word of God nor the glory of God as revealed in Christ, this series is really, really not for you.)

A number of people that we respect and trust have endorsed it, including:

  • Ed Welch: “Here is a one-stop guide for relationships. It is filled with Scripture. It will point you to Jesus at every opportunity. It is very practical … “
  • Elyse Fitzpatrick: “It’s with overwhelming joy that I can highly recommend Living the Gospel in Relationships by Tara Barthel. I am recommending these teaching sessions not only because they beautifully avoid the moralistic strategies so common in our me-centered churches but because she connects our struggle for peace to the only source of peace, the one who is called the Prince of Peace.”
  • Thabiti Anyabwile: “I love women’s material that doesn’t shy away from sound theological categories … I’m thankful for material I can recommend to women, material that does not shy away from good biblical truth.”
  • Colin Smith: “Tara Barthel speaks lovingly and candidly to women about what it means to live out the gospel day by day in their relationships. Looking at Scripture, she points out how many women look to the law without fully grasping what Christ has done for them in the cross, and is doing in them by the Spirit …”

And I regularly hear from women around the world, young and old, married/single/widowed who are grateful for the way the series has helped them to believe the Word of God and live out what they believe, especially in their relationships.

So would you PRETTY PLEASE consider letting someone, ANYONE, know about this series? And then please leave a comment on this post by 11:59pm, September 1, 2014 letting me you know you have told someone (anyone!), and I will totally take you at your word and enter you in our family’s drawing for over $100 in (biblical! Christ-centered!) resources that I truly hope will be of help and encouragement to you, especially as you plan your women’s ministry year:

  1. The ESV Women’s Devotional Bible (I reviewed this brand-new resource here and I strongly recommend it!)
  2. Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness & Rejection (Ed Welch)
  3. Jesus on Every Page: Ten Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament (David Murray)
  4. The Path of Loneliness: Finding Your Way through the Wilderness to God  (Elisabeth Elliot)
  5. Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future (Tim Elmore)
  6. Joshua: All God’s Good Promises (Kathleen Buswell Nielson—if your church has not yet discovered her studies, you really really should! Get her study way, way before anything I’ve written. Phenomenal!)
  7. Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus (Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson)
  8. Recovering Eden: The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes (Zack Eswine)
  9. Picture Perfect: When Life Doesn’t Line Up (Amy Baker)
  10. Redeeming Church Conflicts (Barthel & Edling—because we never have conflicts in our women’s groups and studies, right? ;) ! )
  11. Housewife Theologian: How the Gospel Interrupts the Ordinary (Amy Byrd)
  12. Leadership for Women in the Church (this is the only book that is used/a library version—by Susan Hunt and Peggy Hutcheson)
  13. The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs (Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert)
  14. United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity (Trillia Newbell)
  15. Gospel-Centered Teaching: Showing Christ in All the Scripture (Trevin Wax)
  16.  Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image (Hannah Anderson)

Thanks so much for your help! I look forward to hearing about how you mentioned this vidoe series. (Maybe a quick call or text to a church leader? A tweet or Facebook post or blog entry? Or maybe even wrote a quick note to the PCA Bookstore or Westminster Books or Peacemakers letting them know how the series has blessed your women and how you would love to see them promote it more?)

Please know how much I appreciate your help to get the word out. Oh, how I pray that God will be glorified and His people built up in Christ! And yes, honestly, our family could use the financial help too, especially with some scary big medical bills screaming in my face right now. (I need to get some specific medical things taken care of, but I am postponing it simply because of finances.)

Thanks, all.

Your friend,
Tara B.

**FREE SHIPPING when you order the complete series from our family!**

I am re-posting this one last time because today is the final day to enter to win. Thanks so much for letting people know about the video series. It’s been a great month for sales and, Lord willing, the resources will be a blessing to women, their workplaces, families, churches, and communities. Thanks again! — tkb

Submission Has a Voice

I have been thinking seriously about why it was so important when my dear, twelve-year-old friend confronted me earlier this summer re: not shutting down my five-year-old daughter when she (honestly) speaks her mind. And I have come to this conclusion:

It is important that I listen to my daughter and honor her contributions (words, feelings, actions) because this is an important part of training children to submit and obey. 

That may seem a little counter-intuitive, so please let me flesh it out a bit …

If you have read this blog for any length of time, then you know that I am a strong proponent of training children about the blessings and safety that come from obeying authority. (The example of Ma Ingalls telling her girls to “Lie Down!” when their covered wagon lost contact with the bottom of the riverbed for a moment comes readily to mind. If Laura—who clearly was encouraged by her parents to think and value education and dialogue had, instead of obeying, sat up and asked, “Why, Ma? What is your thinking behind that command?”, their entire family could have been lost. But instead, the children immediately obeyed and they were kept safe. Yay!)

That being said, I am also a strong proponent for training children that there are limits on authority. For example, even as I train our children to know the names of our church leaders and to pray for them, I also remind them that:

  • All authority is also under God’s authority.
  • That means that while we are definitely called to honor and obey the appropriate exercise of authority in all four spheres of life that the Bible explains (family, workplace, civil society, and church), we are only called to obey God absolutely.
  • All other authority is derived from God’s authority and thus, it is limited. 

What does that mean? Ask any one of the 4 year-olds or 5 year-olds that I teach each week at my church! They know:

  • If our swim teacher commanded us to sit on the side of the pool during a lesson, that is an appropriate use of authority. We should obey, without delay, without complaint. But if that same swim teacher showed up at Target and commanded us to get into his car and go with him, we must not obey. That is beyond the sphere of his authority.
  • If our pastor commanded us to sin, we must not obey. If our daddy’s or mommy’s boss at work commanded them to lie or cheat or steal, they must not obey. If our Sunday School teacher commanded us to deny Christ, we must not obey.
  • So what would we do in those situations? If we are safe to do so, as we get older, we may speak directly into the situation. People in weaker positions speak truth to authority and make respectful appeals all the time. (Do the children you lead and serve know the components of a respectful appeal?) Submission does not always mean silence or even often mean silence; submission often requires us to have courage and love well and speak.
  • But what if we try our best and the person in authority still requires us to sin or hurts us with his or her sin? Then, we get help. From whom? From people in authority over these authorities—swim teachers are under authority; pastors are under authority; daddies and mommies and their bosses are under authority. Thus, we have places of appeal. Of rescue. Of protection when we are the ones in the weaker position.

I teach these concepts to young children at Christmas parties because I never want my well-meaning efforts to encourage submission and obedience to be warped into creepy, unwise, unbiblical, subservience that facilitates voicelessness and abuse.

(For example, one of my dearest friends in the world was molested for years by her church leaders and her father—all of whom told her to “submit.” Can you imagine! This makes me SO angry. Beyond angry. And also so concerned—concerned that well-intentioned parents and church leaders may be inadvertently encouraging in our children an atmosphere of voicelessness and a warped view of headship and submission. Especially in our girls.)

So far, everything I have said in this post applies equally to both men and women. Men are called to submit just as much as women are called to submit. But I would like to shift gears now and point to something that is deeply concerning that I see on a fairly regular basis as a Christian mediator and also at my women’s retreats and conferences. This is especially true when I have the privilege of serving in a more conservative, complementarian, contexts.

Sometimes—not always, but sometimes—intelligent, Spirit-filled daughters of the covenant, will, in their pain and confusion and suffering, ask me questions that indicate to me that somewhere along the way in their journey to love God and obey His Word, something has gotten really, really messed up in their thinking re: submission:

  • “Tara? I know I need to submit to my husband. So when he spends too much time on the computer all night and all weekend and doesn’t spend time with me and the children, I just need to be quiet and submit. But I think he may be involved in some fairly destructive things. I’m seeing charges on our credit cards that we cannot afford and that seem to be for websites that a Christian man should not be visiting. But I know he is in charge so I just need to submit, right?”
  • “Yeah. My husband has a bad temper. But he doesn’t mean to yell so much. And he has only hit me once. Or maybe twice. A few times. But not many. And he feels terrible afterwards. And I’m probably just ‘provoking’ him, right? If I were a more submissive and obedient wife, then all of the problems in our marriage would disappear. So I’m the problem, right?”

(** Oh, friends. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard similar words to those last ones re: “If only I were a more submissive and obedient wife / I’m the problem …” Especially in marriage mediations. Especially in marriage mediations that are bearing the weight of heretical teachings like Federal Vision and abusive patriarchy. Men warping headship and submission AND women warping headship and submission. It is truly a terrible thing to behold. **)

And so. While I am (hopefully) training my children and the other children I serve to have a beautiful, biblical view of the rightness and goodness of authority and submission, I am also (hopefully) not training them to be foolish. Blind. Naïve re: the truth that when we are in authority, we all can be tempted to wield that authority in unloving and selfish ways AND tempted to abdicate our authority. When we are in submission, we can be tempted to rebel AND sometimes be tempted to be a doormat. Yes, Lord willing most of the time, sometimes people in authority wield their authority with humility, wisdom, and a selfless, servant’s heart. But sometimes, people in authority do wicked things and try to get us to do wicked things. Sometimes, the people who thought we could trust, are actually unfaithful. Unwise. Dangerous. And in those situations, love and wisdom and faith constrain us to stand up and say, “NO!” To remember that the appropriate exercise of submission in that context means not submitting but instead getting help. This may mean getting to safety and then getting help from an authority that is bigger and stronger than the person who is trying to hurt us.

So now we have arrived at the nut of the question:

Do your children know (truly know with confidence!) that you will listen to them and value what they say and believe them—especially if they come to you for help because someone they trusted is trying to hurt them?

Oh, friends. This is so important. We must get this right—especially for those of us who are trying to train children with some semblance of this idea of authority / submission / respectful appeals / etc. Our children need to know that submission is not voicelessness; that what they say matters. Especially when it comes to abuse.

  • Do your children know to whom they should turn for help if you and your spouse ever go off the rails and begin to encourage sin in your home or to abusively hurt them in any way?
  • Do the children you serve and lead know that you will listen to them when they speak?

If not, I urge you to prayerfully consider (and seek counsel from people who know you well) whether you might be unintentionally warping headship and submission / the exercise of and following of authority into foolish, blind, and even sinful tendencies. (Even all the way to misogyny in some cases.) This will help you as you lead and as you follow; and as you help others (especially children!) to do the same.

This is why it was so important when my twelve-year-old friend confronted me this summer about being sure my five-year-old daughter knew she had a voice. I wanted her to know that I was listening to her because I cared about her; she mattered to me; and she was worth listening to. And I wanted to her to understand that submission does not always mean silence; submission has a voice.

Blessings on your Sabbath!

Your friend,
Tara B.

I know that I have taken a strong tone in this post and I want to be sure to mention that I fully recognize that most of us are not facing acute and endangering abuse on a daily basis. It’s terrible, horrific, for those who are and I hope that I am a consistent voice for speaking out against such abuse. But for most of us, on a regular basis, we instead face conflicts over wisdom issues. Discretionary issues. Issues that the people in authority over us should be wanting to seek out our counsel and listen to us on, because we have shown ourselves to be faithful, prayerful, trustworthy, mature, and competent friends to our leaders. Good followers and good friends. I unpack all of these issues much more fully in my teaching “But How Can I Submit When I Know He’s Wrong?!” which you can listen for free to on the free audio downloads page of my website.

2014 Peacemaker Conference LiveBlogs



In just three weeks, I will have the joy of serving at the 2014 Peacemaker Conference. If there is any possibility you can join us September 25-27 in Colorado Springs (or earlier for some of the pre-conference advanced training events), it truly would be wonderful to spend time with you there.

But if you can’t make it to Colorado, please do plan to pop into the LiveBlogs and say hello.

(If you have no idea what a LiveBlog is, you can learn more about them here.)

Thanks, all! And hope to see you in Colorado or on the LiveBlogs—

Tara B.

Peacemaker Conference Plenary #1 LiveBlog – Dr. Jason Meyer: No Greater Love

Live Blog 2014 Peacemaker Conference Plenary 1 – Dr. Jason Meyer: No Greater Love

(To access all of the 2014 Peacemaker Conference LiveBlogs, click here.)

Peacemaker Conference Plenary #2 LiveBlog – Dr. Gary Hoag: Peacemaking – A New Testament Perspective

Live Blog Peacemaker Conf Plenary #2 – Dr. Gary Hoag: Peacemaking – A New Testament Perspective


(To access all of the 2014 Peacemaker Conference LiveBlogs, click here.)

Peacemaker Conference Plenary #3 LiveBlog – Pastor Brady Boyd: Lessons Learned

Live Blog Peacemaker Conference Plenary #3 LiveBlog – Pastor Brady Boyd: Lessons Learned

(To access all of the 2014 Peacemaker Conference LiveBlogs, click here.)

Two MORE (Free!) Books to Encourage You as You Minister: Made for More (Hannah Anderson) & Gospel-Centered Teaching (Trevin Wax)

more and gospel

It’s almost September 1 and the biggest WIN FREE STUFF GIVEAWAY of (biblical & practical) resources our family has ever done is coming to a close. THANK YOU for all of the sweet comments and for letting others know about Living the Gospel in Relationships video series. Fred and the girls and I are so grateful.

To round out our gifts of the just-released ESV Women’s Devotional Bible (which I was so blessed to receive an advanced copy of), we are adding two books that I am confident you will truly enjoy:

Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image by Hannah Anderson

Gospel-Centered Teaching: Showing Christ in All the Scripture by Trevin Wax

So that puts the count of books for this giveaway at 15 + a gorgeous, cloth-covered edition of the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible.

As always, NO RISK OF SPAM! So I hope you will join in the fun. And please let a friend know too!

Click Here to Enter to Win the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible + 15 Other (Great!) Books

Thanks so much and I hope you enjoy the books!

Tara B.

Begging Jesus for Sleep


Last week I endured one of my (relatively common) stretches of insomnia. It was, as always, incredibly hard to bear.

If you have never struggled with acute, lasting sleeplessness (the kind that goes for hour after hour, night after night), please know that I am thrilled for you. I rejoice as I leave the room with my sleeping-soundly husband and walk past the room with my sleeping-soundly children, accompanied by my formerly-sleeping-soundly Golden Retriever (who always tries to keep me company during my marathon stretches of being up all night—but even she, ultimately, collapses in sleep at my feet after a certain amount of hours).

One of my dearest friends in the world who has a young child who struggles with sleeplessness and I pray for both of them often. Having spent hour after hour in the lonely dark as a child (as well as a teenager and young adult and now as an old adult), I am particularly sensitive to the suffering that these little girl is experiencing. And I don’t take it lightly.

Sleeplessness is really, truly, terrible suffering.

And that’s why I’m putting up this post today. My hope is that by telling you a little bit about my experience, I might encourage those of you who struggle as I do that you are not alone. (You are definitely not alone!) And also that I might help those of you who (happily!) do not experience sleeplessness on a regular basis to be even just a tiny bit more compassionate and gentle towards your family members and friends who struggle in this way. And also? I hope that you might be moved to pray for us because sleeplessness is really, truly, terrible suffering.

With that in mind, here are a few thoughts about insomnia that I have often wondered if people who aren’t insomniatic know:

  1. I can usually tell before I try to go to sleep that it is going to be a “bad night.” And thus, during our (usually sweet and relaxed) family cuddle / Bible reading / prayer / singing time, even if I don’t give any clue on the outside, deep inside, a dark, thick, swath of dread begins to grow in my heart when I know that sleeplessness is coming and there is really nothing I can do about it. I know that when my family members happily climb into their beds and roll over and take a few deep breaths and are OUT, I will be lying there. Wide awake. Often with my mind racing and my heart pounding. Alone. Trying to discern what wisdom looks like (just lie there and do relaxation exercises and deep breaths? pray? read a paper book? read on screens? exercise?). Trying to commune with God, even as the exhaustion and temptation to despair grows worse and worse with each hour.
  2. That initial “Oh no! It’s going to be a bad night!” experience often feels like a WAR to me. Rather than our comfortable bed and my happy home and the night in front of me being something I am looking forward to as a rejuvenating, refreshing, safe place—I lie down in my bed and feel like I am girding myself for a battle. A terrible battle in which I am literally begging Jesus for sleep.
  3. It’s not just the psychological struggles (although the constant replaying of certain music or conversations in my mind over and over again is often present), did you know that insomnia often has really uncomfortable physical experiences as well? Heart pounding out of your chest wall. Terrible temperature control (can’t get comfortable). Back and joint pain (because I don’t think we’re usually supposed to be awake when we lie there, unmoving, for eight hours). True physical hunger (because we’re not usually awake for 24, 36, 48 consecutive hours without some sort of hydration and nutrition).
  4. You may already know this, but just in case … Are you aware of just how warped a person’s thinking can become in the wee hours of the late night/early morning, especially on day two or three of a streak of insomnia? Oh man. it is really something else how our minds can play those ol’ tricks on us that seem so real re: theology / life experience / the future / the past. By God’s grace, I have had some growth in grace regarding this specific area of my insomnia so that, usually, I identify the issue and turn away from it relatively quickly. For example, if I start to obsess about some sort of morbid future fear at 4:00AM, I usually “take myself by the hand” (to use D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones phrase) and speak truth to myself: “Tara. You are sleepless. Your thinking gets terrible warped when you are sleepless. This is not real. Don’t dwell here. Let it go and move on.”
  5. When someone is struggling with sleeplessness, the daytime hours can be particularly difficult too, because we can start to shake and feel cold and just find that our thoughts are muddled and we are more prone to drop things and spill things, etc. (When things are really bad, I—of course!—don’t even let myself drive because being exhausted can be as dangerous as being drunk or texting while driving. Terribly dangerous!) So this is another opportunity to be particularly gentle and kind towards a friend or family member who is suffering in this way.

Hmmmmm … I’m tempted to just delete this post because a) it seems a little whiny and I surely don’t want that!; and b) I don’t think I am communicating just how awful insomnia is. But maybe I’m communicating a little bit and so I will let it stand with the hope that it might prove helpful to even just one of you. That is my hope!

Oh. And before you start leaving every comment (or emailing every piece of advice) under the sun re: how to fix my sleep problems though (fill in the blanks) medicine / not medicine / exercise / not exercising close to bed / light /  not light / music / no sound / homeopathic fixes / certain vitamins / memorizing Scripture, etc. etc. Please know that I am grateful for your concern and happy to read your comments or emails. But also that I really can’t imagine there is something “out there” that I haven’t already studied and/or tried. I really have been insomniatic my entire life.

In some ways, I wonder if this is just going to be one of those things in my life that I experience some growth in grace and some relief in, but that true relief will not come into Glory. That very well may be the case. And if so? I am so grateful that even in my dark, long nights, I know that God is with me. Truly. And when a family member or friend is compassionate and doesn’t just legalistically (if well meaning-ly) Psalm 4:8* down my throat? Oh oh oh. I am then comforted, even if I am really really tired.

God bless you and help you if you are sometimes or often sleepless!

God bless you and help you if you love and serve someone who is sometimes or often sleepless!

Your friend,
Tara B.

* Psalm 4:8: “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” So pretty! So sweet! But not a guaranteed cure-all for insomnia. Please oh please be careful when considering sharing this with someone who is suffering with sleeplessness. You may be very well meaning, but it may come across as very condemning (i.e., “Why don’t you OBEY this Bible verse and SLEEP?!”). The answer? I really don’t know. Is it physical? Spiritual? A result of conviction of sin? Hormones? A combination? Maybe. But whatever it is, it’s not easy to bear and it’s not easy to fix. Sleeplessness is really, truly, terrible suffering.

“You have to let your daughter say what she really feels, Mrs. Barthel.” — On Being Confronted by a 12 Year-Old

sophie ella swim lessons

Next month, I will have the joy of serving at the 2014 Peacemaker Conference by speaking on the topic of teaching biblical peacemaking to young children. I am so looking forward to the discussions and learning together that the attendees and I will be sharing because I am absolutely committed to this topic. As much as I enjoy teaching adults and teenagers biblical peacemaking, I love teaching and facilitating peacemaking to young (and super young!) children even more. There is just something so sweet and good about helping to lay that foundation early. Maybe it’s because I caused SO many conflicts as a child, teenager, and young adult, and I SO wish I had learned about biblical peacemaking earlier than grad school so that I could have avoided hurting so many people. Maybe it’s just because I really enjoy my young friends—I think they are interesting human beings and I am honored to get to interact with them about important topics.

Whatever the case, I think training in biblical peacemaking should start in-utero because that’s when we begin to develop our own biblical convictions and shared vocabulary so that we are “ready to go”, as it were, when it comes time to train the young people in our lives.

Can you imagine what it would be like if we did not know the alphabet/phonics or even pick a book up and start trying to learn the alphabet/phonics until our children were at a stage of cognitive development such that they were able to process verbally? No singing the ABC’s on the changing table? No adorable—but also developmentally crucial—back and forth “conversations” with a six month-old, babbling baby? Just waiting until they were “old enough” and then beginning their lessons with thick books and long lessons on subject-verb agreement, sentence structure, and effective use of punctuation? It would never work!

Children need to be surrounded by—immersed in—a world of sounds, words, language, and meaning so that they can learn and master communication little by little each day. The same is true of peacemaking. 

I love Corlette Sande’s The Young Peacemaker curriculum and I can’t imagine serving youth in my church or parenting without it. But I have spent fifteen years now learning how to adapt its core teachings to young children because, even though I think that its recommended ages of “7 to 8 years old – preteen” are particularly important years for going deeper with the material (doing the wonderful little puzzles and projects in the activity booklets, for example), the truth is, I hope that the lessons by age 7 to 8 will be review lessons for the kiddos because they have already been (for years!):

(Plus, it’s a really helpful thing for the parents of children to learn and apply biblical peacemaking in their own lives because man! There sure can be a lot of conflicts associated with raising young children.)

Let me give you just two examples of the fruit of early, consistent, systematic training in peacemaking for young children that I have experienced in the last few weeks alone. The first had to do with a playdate/sleepover that had, at one point, a full-on, complete, Christian conciliation mediation. Yup. There was a conflict and I paused my peanut-butter-sandwich-making-Momma-role to step in to assist them as a mediator because the children knew enough to “Get Help” when they could not resolve the conflict on their own.

Picture the scene: I quickly organized the children in my living room so that they were seated comfortably, but pretty much facing directly at me (the mediator) because MAN! Were they MAD. I’ve done enough mediations to know that this “Pre-Mediation” phase needed me to take control of the situation and create the best environment for a redemptive conversation and possible reconciliation.

Then we quickly reviewed a few ground rules (the “Greeting and Ground Rules” section of the Peacemaker Ministries’ mediation training program) and then I made sure I had a big-picture overview of what had happened outside on the driveway during the ill-fated colored chalk playtime. (We call that “Opening Statements” in formal mediation cases.) Before you knew it, we were deep into the back-and-forth dialogue of the more detailed “Storytelling” phase because this conflict, just like so many conflicts among adults, had a lot to do with miscommunication and people not hearing each other accurately, presuming uncharitably, and then reacting poorly out of a genuine hurt and offense. As the mediator, it was my privilege to help to even out some power imbalances; restate things so that everyone was hearing everyone else; and then get out of the way.

Oh! I love being a mediator when the parties stop needing me and thankfully, that’s exactly what happened on this playdate. Once these very young children heard each other and understood that their friend was not trying to hurt them, their body language melted into softness and they stopped looking at me (or the floor) and moved right towards one another, eye-to-eye, in that position of rebuilding trust that anyone who has any experience in mediation has (happily, gratefully) seen time after time.

“Problem Identification & Clarification” ensued. Confession and forgiveness flowed. “Exploring Solutions” didn’t take but a minute once communication and relationship was back on track. (“How about I stay on this side of the line with my blue chalk and you can do you rainbow over here? Does that give you enough space to work?” “Yes!” “Yay!” DONE.) And before you knew it, I was back in the kitchen making lunch. I would estimate that this mediation took around seven minutes start to finish. Why so short? Because every single person involved in that situation (age 5 to 44) already had at least a rudimentary understanding of the process so we could jump in, apply it, and (thankfully!) move on.

If I had been serving out-of-state on a formal Christian conciliation case as a professional mediator, I would not have given that mediation case any more of my best efforts and professional services than I gave to those children. That’s peacemaking. To me? I think it’s just normal life as a Christian.

One more example to close out this post …

As some of you may be aware, I love to spend time with pre-teen, teen, and young adult women, especially when we get to discuss theology, logic, biblical womanhood in a 21st century, etc. I have said often on this blog how much I learn from ten year-olds and twenty year-olds and everyone in between and it’s true. My young friends help me as a human being and they help me in my roles as a wife and mother and I am grateful.

This summer, a young girl (age 12) that I have loved in our church for years said one sentence that has already impacted my parenting of my youngest daughter and will undoubtedly impact our relationship for years to come. The exchange went something like this:

My ten year-old asked her younger sister if she had had fun on a playdate at our friend’s home. My five year-old responded, “No!”

I was mortified and said, “Ella! Don’t say that! I’m sure you had fun on the playdate.”

My twelve year-old friend (and I mean that—I consider her a friend) wisely and lovingly said, “You have to let your daughter say what she really feels, Mrs. Barthel. She was asked a question and she responded honestly. She needs to be able to have her own voice.”

I was stopped in my tracks by this brave, young, friend. And she was 100% right.

The truth was, I had responded out of Fear of Man (Proverbs 29:25). I was embarrassed that my daughter had said this—not so much because of a godly motivation to train her heart to love God and neighbor, but simply because, in that moment, I was a proud mother who wanted her child to say the “right” things. (Sure, I also wanted to train my daughter to have a little more tact and diplomacy when it came to responding to these sorts of questions. But mostly? In that moment? I was motivated by pride and that was my problem—not a legitimate/God-honoring parenting motivation.)

So I listened to the (respectful, appropriate, immediate) “Third-G-Gently-Restore-Confrontation” by my my twelve year-old friend and I apologized to my daughter and to my friend. They were quick to forgive me. (Children are usually SO forgiving! We have a lot to learn from them in this regard too.) And we moved right on with our days.

Why? Because the child was ready with this foundational biblical peacemaking skill and was ready as the adult with this foundational biblical peacemaking skill. Right then. In the moment. Not as some sort of “Oh yeah, we did that peacemaking stuff one year at our Christian school / in our Sunday school class / five years ago in family devotions” kind of way; but in the normal give-and-take of real life situations that come up quickly and usually without warning.

How grateful I am! And how much I hope that you will consider layering in the regular training and strengthening of your own heart and the people you serve (family, friends, church family, etc.) re: biblical peacemaking for children. It’s hard stuff! Definitely not for the faint of heart. But oh, oh so worth it.

God bless you as you serve today!

Your sister in Christ,
Tara B.

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