By: Ginger Hughes

Short little legs, with a red rope dragging in the dirt behind them, trailed behind a pair of much longer ones. We were on my Dad’s farm – my youngest’s favorite place to be. And he was with his Papa – one of his favorite people to be with.

This little boy loves everything about the farm. He wakes up in the morning and in his haste to get outside, begins putting his shoes on while still wearing his pajamas. We have to slow him down long enough to eat a few bites and get dressed. He grabs a bright orange, too-big-for-his-head cap, a red lead rope, papa’s hand, and then heads outside to feed horses, cows, goats, and chickens.

Sure he loves the outdoors, but he loves being with his Papa more. Whether it’s watering and feeding the animals, riding horses, tending the garden, or simply propping up on the fence in that relaxed, yet self-assured way that only cowboys and farmers seem to know how to do, my little fellow is right there copying his Papa’s every move.

During a recent trip, I relaxed back in a white, plastic lawn chair, enjoying the shade the tall pines provided, as I watched my son do his “farm work.” He’d been “working” hard hauling buckets of feed back and forth to the various horse stalls all morning. After a while, he saw his Papa walk over to the fence and prop up, and clearly thought he should do the same.

As I watched my son prop on that fence, imitating my Dad, questions settled in my mind. Does he follow me in a similar way? If so, is my life an example worth following? What do my children see when they watch me every day? Am I teaching them by my example and not just my words?

If I say to my daughter, “Please be kind,” yet I treat people unkindly, what will she think? Better yet, what will she do? If I say to my son, “Please be patient, wait your turn,” yet I consistently act with impatience, gripe about waiting in line, or cut in front of others, what will he think? As he grows older, what will he do? What if I tell my children, “Share your toys,” yet they never see me share anything with my neighbor, what will they think? More importantly, what will they do? If I say, “Use your words kindly, and listen carefully,” but they see me speak harshly and rarely listen to them or others, what will they think? As they grow up, what will they do?

Whether we are parenting small children, working in an office, or playing on a ball field, we each have influence. People around us, especially those close to us, notice not only what we say, but also how we live. I have to wonder what kind of influence I demonstrate to the people around me.

I can say all the right things. I can talk about Jesus all day long. I can even have good Sunday School answers and sound very religious. But what do others see me do? Do I love God, and do I love my neighbor? Do others see me living out this greatest commandment in acts of love and service? Do they see me really listening to the one whose heart is broken, sharing food with the one whose pantry is bare, or extending the hand of friendship to the one sitting alone? Do they see me living with a heart full of love and a hand extended out in grace? I John 2:6 says, “Whoever claims to abide in Him must walk as Jesus walked.”  Do they see me emulating the life of Christ?

-Ginger Hughes is the wife of a pastor, a mother of two and an accountant. She is a Georgia native currently living in the foothills of North Carolina. Her passion for writing is fueled by the desire to offer encouragement, grace and a deeper understanding that we are all God’s children. Her blogging for Nurturing Faith is sponsored by a gift from First Baptist Church of Gainesville, Ga. Additional writings may be found at nomamasperfect.com.

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