Tag Archive for parenting

My Toy Purge Experiment

After reading This Mom Threw Away Her Kids’ Toys and Got Her Life Back, I got rid of most of my toddler’s toys.

I wasn’t “drowning” in toys but little B had too many and he didn’t seem to be handling them well. Our little guy seemed to be losing his ability to focus on what was in front of him, a habit essential for learning and school success.

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This really concerned me.

Before the toy purge, I encouraged him to focus on one item by placing him in his toddler chair for a few minutes with a project like painting or legos, or on a rug with cars or building blocks. I’d set the timer and tell him that he was going to do “paint time” or “block time” until the timer went off. Nothing worked. He wandered and I continued to redirect him back to his activity. This wasn’t working. I even sat in the same room with him as he played as he sometimes has separation issues. Not happening.

So, I decided to give the toy purge a try. Why not? At least my living room would be decluttered for a few days, right? One day while he was out, I bagged up all of his toys but 15. I hauled them down to the basement: two trash bags and one Rubbermaid tote FULL. (Don’t judge. When we first got B, people gave us a ton of toys because we didn’t have any in the house. Okay, and we like to buy him toys, too. ;))

I arranged a few open-ended toys on his little bench: a play silk, a ball, blocks. I also left his favorites: his Woody, a few Matchbox Cars, a Playmobil train set, an Octonauts playset, lightsabers and a Woody dress-up hat.

Bonus: My living room was gloriously uncluttered!

When he came home, I waited for his reaction. He sometimes freaks out at change. But, lo and behold, he ran into the living and exclaimed, “I found my Octonauts!”.

He sat on the rug in the uncluttered room and played for 20 minutes. I was intrigued and wondered if it was just the newness of the set-up.

The next morning, he sat and looked at his Cars and blocks on.his.own. for about 15 minutes.

This morning he came running out with a play silk around his neck pretending to be Superman.

I’m happy I tried this because I think he is the type of kid that needs an uncluttered environment to concentrate. (Aren’t we always trying to figure out how each child ticks?)

Also, having too much limits our creativity. Aren’t we most creative when we have to be? If we had everything at our fingertips, we wouldn’t need to be creative. I think this applies to imagination and creative play as well.

Seems this approach is not as uncommon as I thought. Apparently, some preschools are getting rid of toys.

The program grew out of an addictions study group that worked directly with adult addicts. They determined that habit-forming behaviors started in childhood, and that these adults used toys to distract themselves from negative feelings. As they got older, they turned to other things.

 

I know these are small steps, but I’m encouraged to see him sitting and interested again. I’ve always believed that typical children can be taught to concentrate in the right environment.  (Obviously, I realize that there are exceptions to this!) With my older children, I kept a low-key atmosphere in the house. They weren’t bombarded with television that was too hyper or allowed to sit passively and be entertained on a regular basis. (It’s impossible to compete with the TV, am I right?)

I encouraged lots of play time, crafts, outdoor play, and audiobooks as I felt that it was very important to learn to “listen”, especially for school.

I’ve also realized that our little guy’s viewing habits need to change. He came to us loving movies that were fast paced, and I’ve tried to slow the movies down. Like, way down. Did you know that you can get several seasons of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood free with an Amazon Prime Membership? They aren’t as “flashy” for sure, and the first time he watched one he reported that it was “boring” but I like that the child can be thoughtful as they watch. Some movies are like trying to get a drink from a gushing fire hydrant. And with the constant barrage of images, who can process or make any kind of judgment about what you are seeing? It’s hard to keep up. (YES, I realize how old-fashioned this sounds.)

So, I’ll let you know how we progress. Have you found that too many toys actually limit your child’s creativity? Do you think limiting toys and “noise” is extreme? How have you encouraged your kids to learn to focus? I’d love to hear your ideas.

A Word About Enforcing Obedience

The human heart pulses with the desire for self-rule.

Every fiber of our natural being is bent toward autonomy and self-sovereignty. We don’t naturally want to bow to the Lordship of Christ, and even after we’ve trusted Christ, our old selfish nature fights against God’s new standard for us: submission to Him.

Truthfully, the flesh hates to submit to anyone. We get really uppity when our will is crossed or people question us. I don’t like it when Peter questions why I keep the water bottles in this drawer or why I don’t crush my boxes before I put them into the trash bin. When he tells me that I should use this curriculum instead of that one {the one that I researched for a gazillion hours and where were you again during that process??} I can feel that old self, that defensive self, rising up claiming its right to rule the world, and I have to force it back down under the rule of Christ.

 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

The rubber meets the road in the oddest places and over the smallest issues sometimes, doesn’t it? Water bottles, recycling, and curriculum?

Even in small matters, God’s will must super-cede our whims and wishes. God wills that I submit to others in areas of preference, and He wills that I submit to my gentle husband.

And unless we choose to bow to God’s will in the small, insignificant moments, taking drastic measures to cut out selfishness and self-seeking– measures that include repentance and turning from the wrong way into the path of obedience,

and unless the grace of God shines in and prompts us towards a serious pursuit of humility,

we’re going to fumble and fight our way through this life, hurting people, sacrificing relationships on the alter of our own ego, burning bridges, cutting off those who cross us, and elbowing our way to our perceived top.

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So every morning, my job is to de-throne Sarah and re-throne Christ to His rightful place, as Master and Lord. This is seriously hard business.

SO, where am I going with this?

Well, I often talk to frustrated mothers who are dealing with disobedient children, and they can’t seem to see that their sweet child is struggling with the same old temptation we all face: the submission issue. The child wants what the child wants. End of story.

And honestly, the mother is not dealing with this situation well. They’ve gotten into a battle of the wills and the child is driving her crazy and she resents all the TIME it takes to parent this out-of-control child. She’s frustrated, so she takes action. Nobody will accuse her of being a passive mom. She’s armed with Ephesians 6:1 and she uses it like a boss. She sets out to enforce first time obedience and nobody better cross her. She uses threats or promises to control the child’s behavior. She begins to expect outward compliance. She uses punishments and rewards to get a desired behavior. Her moods are all over the place. She snaps in an effort to control. She yells.

Obedience has become the end-all and she’s ruled by that desire.  And this is where it all goes terribly wrong.

To be clear, the desire for kids to obey is a good desire, but it’s not the ultimate goal and it’s abusive to use ungodly methods to get your child there.

In fact, dear mom, more important than your child obeying you is YOU OBEYING CHRIST. Your authority only comes from Him and He has put you in this place to represent Him.

You are His ambassador and your authority has boundaries. You can’t rule any old way you’d like to. You’ll answer to God for your treatment of His kids.

Your authority must be reflective. It MUST reflect Christ. It should bring the child face to face with the Father’s character. It should hold the child’s hand and say, “I’m dealing with you this way because this is how God is.” “God says we all must obey His word, and this behavior is not in His will for you. We can’t bite and hit and hurt others. We must be kind.”

So when mom is not under the authority of Christ and is ruling like a CRAZY–

You are portraying a false image of Christ to your child and undermining all that you are setting out to do. You’re marring the image of Christ and portraying Him as a moody, silent, manipulative, angry, frustrated, or exasperated taskmaster. And you’re harming your child’s soul. (hardening it as well.)

I know parenting is hard. I know it is. But we make it harder when we don’t submit to God’s will for our life  because we’re locked and loaded on one aspect of our kid’s life. 

There’s a lot about training kids online, but if we would just submit ourselves to Christ, our authority issues won’t become central. No, showing your child Christ becomes central.

If you’ve asked your kids to obey for all the wrong reasons, or if your heart’s motivation was all wrong–GO AND TELL THEM and ask them to forgive you. Tell them that you have an authority problem–a problem as old as Eve– and you’ve used that authority in ways that displeases and misrepresents God. Tell them that yelling, manipulating, and the silent treatment are all just adult selfishness and sin.

And tell them that you are working on trying to be a mother that obeys God just as much as they are working to try to obey you, for Christ’s sake.  Tell them that we are all under the authority of the Word of God and none of us can live the way we want.

Then repent of your wrong reasons for enforcing discipline in the home and remember that your number one job as mothers is to teach our kids to glorify and honor God’s Word and to point them to God by reflecting His nature.

Life is simpler when we follow Christ first. Only then can we lead our kids to Christ.

 

 

Teach Your Children Virtues, Not Just Rules


The internet is full of advice for mothers. Full.

Yes, motherhood is hard. It is. No denying it. Tough days, frustrations, exhausted nerves pushed to the limit of almost crazy. We all know this.

Yet, in all of these discussions, one topic is lacking: teaching virtue.

We focus on rules because we believe that rules get results.

Yes, rules are important, for sure. Boundaries should be clear, consistent, and enforced. But rule keeping is only one side of the coin.

The other side–the reason for law and order–the reason for the commandments is virtue that allows us to love God and others well.

Do most people know what virtue is? In a world that’s false and Photo-shopped and me-centered, where does virtue fit in?

What does the Bible mean when it says, “If there be any virtue…think on these things?”
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Virtue and Integrity go hand in hand. Virtue is the sense of what is noble, fair, right, just. It’s all that’s good. Integrity is the character that allows you to pursue virtue. It is the same in the light as in the dark. Integrity does the same in private as it does in public. When nobody else sees, a woman of integrity does what’s right.

A mom lamented that her child was sneaking food. The food is an issue. Chocolate before supper is naughty. But the real issue is a heart that was willing to deceive—to do something that they wouldn’t have done if mom was there.

Look for ways to teach virtue. More importantly, live virtuously.

So, for instance, a mom who yells at her kids but then answers her phone sweetly is not living a life of integrity.

The mom who screams at her child and then expects the child to respect her might as well forget it.

The mom who lies to her kids or exaggerates to others can’t expect her kids to trust her when they are older.

Bottom line: What will stop a child from lying? Is it your threatening? No. Only an elevation of the truth and the love of it.
What will stop selfishness and self-focus? Seeing the beauty of generosity and kindness against the backdrop of our own dark hearts.

What will stop a teen from gossiping or laughing behind someone else’s back? A love for justice and for protecting people.

What will stop any sinful behavior? Nothing–absolutely nothing, until you behold the humility and perfection of the Savior and want it for yourself. Seeing the virtue in our Savior shows us our lack and inspires us towards goodness and godliness.

Behold the Lovely

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Virtue is a forgotten tool in the mothering toolbox.

Highlighting virtue in our daily lives inspires our kids to be noble. When we see goodness, we want to be good.

When we experience grace, we want to be grace-givers.

And then when we see injustice or are the recipient of hurtful behavior like prejudice or gossip, we should abhor the behavior, and it should propel us to love virtue even more.

2 Peter 1–

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,

…For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

You might be caught in the “no” cycle–saying no for wrong behavior more than you highlight noble behavior.

Have you praised the generous child who shared a cookie, or the unselfish one who offered a better spot on the couch during movie time, or the compassionate one who offered a hug when someone was sad?

I remember the hard days of parenting, but the good news is that children can grow into lovely, compassionate, virtue-loving adults. (Why don’t more people write blog posts about that!)

I have three adult child and three younger ones in the home, and I have been on both sides of the “hard parenting” stage. Can I just tell you how much of a blessing older children are when they exhibit the virtue of scripture?

My daughter Emily is sitting out for a semester. While she’s home she’s been clipping coupons for me and writing out the local deals. She takes initiative to straighten out the house. She’s generous with her money and loves buying gifts for people. She plays with our foster child. She offers her clothes to her younger sisters. All these things are not part of the rule following, but are part of the virtues growing in her.

Rebekah is a dorm counselor at Bob Jones University and she has a coffee ministry in her room. She offers French pressed Starbucks and treats to anyone who needs to talk. Last week I sent her fall napkins in a care package and she was so excited to be able to give her girls a cookie on a “pretty napkin.” She’s concerned with the needs around her and when she comes home, she jumps in with the needs here.

  
Matthew is generous almost to a fault. He texts to ask how our foster boy is doing because he misses him. He’s always on the look out for his sisters safety and even, occasionally, for mine. There’s nothing more attractive than kindness and gentleness in a man.

Although I love to brag on them, (ahem) I’m not using them as an example to say what a great parent I have been. On the contrary. I’ve stumbled along the way and had to learn on the fly.

I’m saying that the tough days do pay off. You’ll wake up one day to these wonderful adults and, like the pain of childbirth, you forget the trauma. 😉 Well, almost forget.

If you are in the trenches of the early years, make your child obey the rules, yes. Be consistent, certainly. But train them to love virtue and give them plenty of good examples to follow.

Praise them when they are good, and make virtue something to be pursued and emulated.

Don’t let “first time obedience” be your end all. Who wants to raise a rule keeper who is heartless?

After your child’s faith in Jesus Christ, mind 2 Peter 1 and “add virtue.” Don’t skip this.

Need parenting inspiration? Get into God’s word and look at the life of Jesus and talk about it. When you read with a heart to imitate the goodness, it highlights the virtue instead of always focusing on the forbidden.

Does that make sense? Let me know if I’m not clear in the comments or tell me what you’ve done to instill virtue in your kids.

Have a great day!

RESOURCES FOR TEACHING VIRTUE:

God’s Wisdom for Little Girls: Virtues and Fun from Proverbs 31
The Book of Virtues
Loving God with All Your Mind

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Five Ways Teens Are Like Toddlers

I’m caring for a 16-month-old a few days a week, (the sweetest little guy ever!) and I’ve been ushered back to the world of sippy cups, toys, nap times, cutting up food into small pieces, answering “what’s that” questions, exploring, and the “everything-is-new-and-wonderful” stage that the toddler years bring. “Little B” already knows the ropes around the house and has pretty much used it to lasso our hearts.

 

My children are mostly teens and adults (ages 12 to 21) and somewhere along the way I’ve forgotten a few basic truths that should inform everything I do in this house. Caring for Little B has reminded me of several of these things.

1. Children watch everything. They’re learning by their environment. Little B watches Holly and Hope to see their facial expressions and he responds. When they clap, he is elated. When they do their school work, he observes. When I fold my hands to thank God for the food, he folds his. It’s true of toddlers and it’s true of teens–they learn how to do life from watching you. God help us if we lead these kids astray.

2. Children want to please. Kids are easily motivated by praise. I see it so clearly with this little guy. He flashes the most adorable smile whenever we clap or say “Good boy!!” He gives me a toy because he knows I’ll give him a huge “Thank you!!” and it becomes a game to see how many times I’ll smile and say it.

Teens want to please you as well. Somewhere along the line, maybe they stopped trying because they got more negative feedback than positive or could never make their parent happy. Maybe you criticized more than praised. Maybe you used your words to injure instead of build up, causing the teen to conclude that building walls and keeping you out was safest and most peaceful route. If so, make that right and ask forgiveness. Teens are almost adults and just like all of us they want love and acceptance.

3. Children mimic. They say what you say and copy what you do. You see it more in toddlers, but it’s true of the teen years as well.

I’ve sat with mothers of teens who can’t figure out WHY on earth their teen is so sneaky, moody, rebellious, or just plain disrespectful and I honestly have to hold my tongue because it’s so obvious to me that the teen gets that behavior from one of the parents. We are often blind to our own sin, and yet we see it clearly in our kids.

Maybe the issue are different,

but if the parent lives their life as though they are above the rules

or they make exceptions or excuses–always the easy way for them– how can they complain when their kids break house rules like curfew, or sneak media, or plain disregard the instruction of the parent?

If the mom is moody (or mouthy!) saying whatever pops into her head without thought for righteousness, how can she be surprised when her child uses her mouth disrespectfully or cruelly?

A mom of a passively/outwardly rebellious child has to ask herself if she’s been joyfully submitting to the authorities in her life or if she’s taught her daughter unwittingly how to manipulate life to make it work for her.

The truth is that our kids tend to copy our own sins–the ones they grew up seeing us commit.

4. Children value what we value. When I make a big deal of going in the car, Little B catches that excitement. When my eyes light up and I ask “Do you want an ice cream?” he can’t get to the car fast enough. Our teens are the same way and learn what we value by our enthusiasm. They know when we expend energy, and know where we cut corners or make excuses. They hear it in our language about “getting to go” here or “having to go” there.

5. Children want to be loved. Toddlers come running for hugs or want to give kisses to the puppy. They snuggle when they are tired and want to sit on your lap to read a book. Closeness matters.

Teens may outgrow much of that but they still want to know that you love them more than anything else. Make sure they know it. If they doubt your love, they’ll go searching for it wherever they can get it.

The teen years are the letting go years, and independence is the goal, but one thing we should never let go of is the pursuit of our teens heart.

Do you have teens and toddlers? What similarities do you see?

Moms, You are the Difference Makers

Do you feel like your life counts and is making a difference? Does the fact that you are a young mom with kids at home make you feel side-lined?

A shot of hope: You’re making a beautiful difference right where you are.

Have you heard this prayer? It’s one of the most beautiful prayers of all time.

In it, St. Francis of Assisi speaks to the longing in our human hearts for noble service and difference-making a world so full of hate, prejudice, war, and hurt.

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Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

I gravitate toward difference makers and I want to spend time with people who are bettering the world around them.

I want my life to count and you do, too.

But we think everyone else is making a difference. Me? I’m here at home, doing my thing, making meals, schooling kids, changing diapers, tidying toys.

So who are the actual world changers? Are they the people who have a confederation named after them? A conference? Do they have a newsletter or blog? A nationally syndicated TV show?

St. Francis of Assisi gives us clues. At first glance, the prayer sounds like it’s for the lofty worldwide-peace-global movers and shakers.

But upon further examination, it’s small. It’s local, even right down under the roof of your own home.

It’s all about one-on-one human interaction, because isn’t our theology lived out in our human interactions?

So, who is nearest to you right now? That’s where you make the difference.

Moms, you can answer this prayer without ever leaving your house.

You can and will make a difference for the Kingdom of God by caring right where you are. 

Who needs your comfort? Your love? Your care? Who needs you to be a voice for justice in their lives? Who could use your encouragement? Who needs a meal? Who needs a listening ear?

My friend Joy is using her gifts alongside her husband in Uganda. It’s easy to admire here because she’s rocking babies on the other side of the world. But, what if you could make a difference here by rocking babies in a church nursery or by welcoming a younger mom into your home for refreshment and a needed break?

Why do we overlook the local, while glamorizing the distant and global?

Who is hiding deep hurt? Who doesn’t know where to go for help, like the son of this woman who lives a town over from me, who didn’t feel as though anyone cared, so he killed himself.

We are the difference makers if we’ll open our eyes and allow the Holy Spirit to  direct us. Christ through you. A conduit of hope and peace.

Yesterday, was a perfectly normal day, but I prayed that God would take my day and use it for the good of others and His glory, as I pray each morning.

The “others” came in the form of my kids first as I taught them. I checked cursive handwriting for neatness and served leftovers for lunch. I tidied the house.

I noticed an ambulance outside my window through the falling snow. It was my elderly neighbor in need of help. God prompted me to go out and stand with the son as he waited for his dad. “There’s nothing I can do,” I reasoned. “It’s snowing and I would just be in the way.” But the Holy Spirit prompted me to go out. So I did. I stood in the snow with my neighbors worried son, and told him we’d watch the house and pray. I have no idea how that helped, but I showed up.

We had kids over for some snowmobiling fun, came home, and ate dinner. An hour later we had 12 teen girls in for Winter Bible Study. We talked, laughed, and I served more food. I had a table full of women after the event, so we sat, ate, shared life, and prayed for the needs represented at the table. My college daughters want to chat late at night, so I did that.

Was my day remarkable? No. There was absolutely nothing radical in it.  But the Spirit prompted me to go and help and pray and serve and I did. That’s the radical part. 

We’re not living a soliloquy. It’s not all about our story. We are part of God’s bigger story, a Kingdom building story, and the radical part is showing up in the small.

 

Where are you today? What is God prompting you to do? Who can you serve? Chime in and tell me what He’s called you to today.

God-Mandated Curriculum for your Kids

Do you ever wonder what you are supposed to teach your kids?

With a market flooded with how-to manuals for parenting, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with the latest, greatest manual for raising kids.

IMG_6862.JPGWhen you are a believer, you have the Holy Spirit who guides your heart and mind and leads you to the help you need when you need it.

And in my experience with my five kids, what works for one doesn’t necessarily work with another, so we really need to depend on the Lord in our parenting. (Obviously–WHY do I even have to state such an obvious, but isn’t it true that we run to manuals more than the Lord?)

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Good news, today. I have a one size fits all parental concrete to share with you. A God-given mandatory.

We must share the mighty acts of God.

Ps 78: 4-8 (selected parts)

The things that we have seen and known, that our father’s have told us (oral, 1st hand history lesson)

We will not hide them from their children,

But tell to this coming generation, the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

That the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn,

Here comes the why:

so that they should set their hope in God,

and not forget the works of God,

but keep his commandments,

and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.

The Israelites were famous for forgetting God. They were famous for being in bondage because of their sin and idolatry. God is warning us NOT to be like the Israelites in this passage,  but to remember all of the blessings of God and to tell them to our children.

This means that we tell stories. Stories of how God intervened in our lives.

For me, on top of the Biblical stories of God’s faithfulness through the generations,  I’d tell my kids

  • about the time we broke down in the dead of winter in Vermont, and we prayed as a family and a man walked up the driveway of our cottage and asked if we needed help
  • about the time we couldn’t afford violin lessons and had to opt out of lessons for a semester, until a complete stranger paid the kids conservatory tuition bill
  • about the time when God brought a man to build a room for us as a ministry to us when we needed a bedroom for Matthew. He build a family room/ministry room to suit our hospitality needs
  • about how God IS providing money every month to pay college tuition for TWO kids
  • about how God restored my mother in laws health after a serious brain hemorrhage and how people all across the country prayed
  • about  the every day answered prayers, for little things like grocery money, shoes, gas money and so much more

Has God done something wonderful for you? Tell it to your kids. It’s part of their heritage. Their God has done this! Don’ t forget!

This is a really intentional practice. It’s easier to complain and pass along our poor me stories, isn’t it? If you tell about your trials, tell of the Redeemer who brought you through.

Charles Spurgeon once said that we are all to prone to engrave our trials in marble and our blessings in the sand. 

We don’t want this to be our legacy. We need to share our blessings.

 

How has God acted on your behalf? Share in the comments, then share with your kids!!

 

 

 

In Praise of the Pensive Child

One of the best ways to validate your children is to accept them for who they are.

There is a huge tendency to push our kids into what we love or what is currently pushed by society. Peter has often said that “what you praise, you produce.” For instance, a school that is constantly praising and showcasing sports and promoting their athletes will produce more athletes, because children want to please and mankind grasps for mutual admiration.

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In the Christian home, if we praise virtues like thankfulness and faithfulness, versus “outcomes” like straight A’s, we’d be more apt to have hard workers and less apt to produce kids who’ll obsess or even cheat for the A.

Although this post is not theological, I believe that God has given us gifts and talents–we were fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator– and to stifle that gift in a child defies the God who gave it and is extremely cruel.

The world needs a variety of personalities to make it interesting. Imagine a world where everyone was a visionary, a conqueror, a leader, an entrepreneur, a pusher-to-the-topper, a warrior. Certainly we need these, but we also need the beauty created by poets, writers, painters, philosophers, and musicians. We need to value those who stop to think really long and hard about a topic and research it rather than just spouting off the first thing that comes into their head, because we need more depth and truth seeking in a world stretched thin with information.

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The world needs the pensive child.

In a blaring, media-filled, message- saturated, lights blazing, get-your-moment- in-the-spotlight-and-be-famous Kardashian world, we need to encourage the pensive child.

They’re not seeking spotlights. They may even avoid crowds. They don’t want attention drawn to them and they don’t appreciate being forced to perform by pushy parents.

And please don’t mislabel them as directionless or lazy because they haven’t started the college application process by age 10.

The pensive child is an evaluator of life. She considers her place in this moment of time. She thinks before she speaks, if she ever does.

You see, she’s learned that not everyone appreciates this beauty that she sees, so she stifles her sharing, fearing the labels: “out there” or “weird” or “space-y.”

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In truth, she doesn’t mind quietly enjoying beauty alone or with a special friend, because appreciating beauty and living with eyes wide open has its own rewards: inner contentment and happiness. She may secretly feel badly for those who choose not to see. Those who’ve been consumed by the tyranny of the urgent and of electronic worlds.

She’ll lumber on, steady, intentionally, writing, drawing, observing, painting, composing, practicing.

So moms of the pensive child, readjust your expectations and encourage your child. Don’t equate thoughtful and slow to unmotivated or air-headed. And for heaven’s sake, don’t assume that because your child is not a born “goal maker” or “go getter” that he’ll never amount to anything.

While you may be caught up in the busyness of life, they are busy studying the shapes of clouds and noticing how most of the colors of the spectrum can be seen in a sunset. They are wondering how to translate that exact green of that spring leaf into their painting. They noticed the ripples on the water and wondered how to paint them. They noticed how one ripple affects the entire pond, though only seen for a moment.

They live life differently than you, maybe,

but they feel deeply and appreciate much and stop long enough to wonder. And to wonder is where real education begins. Self- education. 

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Boys, especially, are encouraged away from quiet pursuits. Poetry is seen as effeminate and painting isn’t as manly somehow as sacking someone in football.

Imagine a world without the great painters and musicians of the past. Imagine if Bach’s mother told him to head outside and play with the real boys and discouraged her son from what he was clearly born to do. Just imagine no Bach.

Whatever your child’s bent, when you embrace it, you’re loving that child where he or she is. Not trying to change to fit your ideals. Just loving and nurturing and encouraging.

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That is one of the best ways to really reach the heart of your child. It’s not hard. It’s loving them—not loving who you want them to be or who you think they should be to make you feel validated– but truly loving them.

The pensive child is relational and as a parent, you must, must, must enter their world and relate to them where they are. Show them by listening that  you love their music, that you appreciate that insight or poem. They’re sharing a piece of themselves with you.

If you don’t completely understand your pensive child, ASK them questions about what they are thinking and then just listen. Then appreciate their little insights and tell them so.

 

 

Taking Time for Little Things

Have you ever been surprised by what makes your kids happy?

They’re excited by little things.

Soap bubbles galore while doing dishes.

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Animal sightings in the yard.

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$2 glow in the dark star stickers for the bedroom ceiling

Picking wildflowers.

Skipping rocks.

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Riding bikes, playing in the yard.

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Eating lunch on the back porch.

Swinging, climbing trees.

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Motherhood isn’t as hard as we make it. It we’d just maximize our own enthusiasm for life, our kids would surely follow suit, because they’re easy to please and enthralled by life.

Children catch your enthusiasm for life, mom. (Or they catch your complaining about life. They’re great mimickers.)

When did we get so busy that we no longer notice the sunset? When did we become so enthralled in the here and now that we miss little things, like bubbles, stars and people. How did life become so heavy that we fail to smile and choose joy?

“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God…” is an attitude adjustment verse for me.

Being fully engaged with the little people all around you is a privilege. It’s no accident. You’re here to point them to Him. And if you’re too busy to notice them, their little interests, and enjoy life with them, then your job is going to be impossible.

If you are living life like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, relax! God’s in control. He’s spinning the planets and holding us all together.

Today, take time for little things. Give thanks. Make your thankfulness and enthusiasm for life contagious. Laughter begets laughter. Wonder begets wonder. And while you’re enjoying the little things with your little ones, remember to point them to the good and gracious God who gave us a the little things freely to enjoy. Everyday talk about God is often the most effective way to train hearts.

Have a great day!

Generation ME

My husband and I were challenged at a youth workers conference to read a book entitled Generation Me: Why  Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled- and More Miserable Than Ever Before. Weird thing was, that I actually had checked that very book out of the library and brought on the plane to read on the way to the conference. Spooky!

Generation Me is a look at the current state of teens (actually up to age 30 because apparently they never grow up now a days.)

Author Jean Twenge did research by comparing standardized personality questionnaires given to college students which have been  used by personality psychologists since the 1950’s.  The questions remained the same all these years, but she found that the answers to the questions shifted dramatically . She decided to compare the answers given in the 50’s to the answers given by todays college kids. And she went on to document this shift in this incredible book.

The teens raised by those whose parents went through the Depression Era had a totally different mindset than the kids of today. They did things for the benefit of the entire family. Kids today have been taught to do things to please themselves. Fifty years ago, it was not uncommon for men to worked dead end jobs to keep food on their families tables. The mindset around work today is to be personally fulfilled–and if we are not, we move on.  Back then, families stayed together more often because it was better for the kids. Today, if parents aren’t happy, they do what is best for themselves.

I won’t give too much of the book away, because if you are a parent, you really should read this–although this is not a book to leave lying around on the coffee table or to let your children loose on. It contains several graphic examples of just how far our teens have come. :/

What was disturbing to me was the fact that I could see myself in so many of the attitudes of the current generation. And I didn’t even realize it. And when you read this book, you discover how incredibly selfish we have raised our kids to be. Years ago, instilling self esteem was  a big concern among mothers. Today’s children, however, have always been told how amazing they really are. And they believe it. And that is where is gets scary.

Colossians 2:8

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Even when we are drenching our minds with scripture, we still pick up the vain philosophies of this world.

We are bombarded with these messages every day. When my girls were little, they used to participate in a little violin performance to raise money for a scholarship fund at the music school they attended. On the brochure, it said “Twinkle, Twinkle, You’re a Star.” I informed my girls that they were not stars, but servants of others,  and that to have that kind of mindset is selfish. Oh yes. I am THAT kind of mother.

Consider these messages and then weigh them with scripture.

Be your own boss!Submit one to anther.

You Can Be Anything You Want to BeI know the plans I have for  you.

The greatest love of all is to love yourself.–Love your God first and then your neighbor.

Indulge!Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me.

Be Strong!When I am weak, then I am strong.

Stand Up for Your Rights!– Turn the other cheek. If sued for your shirt, give to them your coat also.

I Don’t Get Mad, I Get Even! Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you…turn the other cheek.

Do What’s Right for You!Let us consider one another.

Do What Makes You HappyIf you love me, you’ll keep my commandments. I do the will of my Father.

My husband also agreed, that he could see some of these tendencies in himself, and we both had parents who had taught us otherwise. It seeped in, despite the best of teaching. So, I would encourage you today to evaluate the messages we accept, even unknowingly, and weigh them with scripture.

As believers, we need to be loving God and serving others, and I think that if we thought about ourselves a whole lot less than all of those slogans above encouraged us to do, we would have less time to think of  ME, ME, ME and  more time to serve others well.

A One Size Fits All Parenting Tip

Yesterday we talked about the one size fits all parenting strategy that  God prescribes for us in Psalm 78.  here  We are to teach our kids about God’s mighty acts, so that they will remember to hope in God and to obey Him.

I don’t know about you, but I easily forget things.

I am a huge list maker. If it doesn’t get written down, it doesn’t get done.

So, to me, this whole concept of remembering to teach in everyday life is something that I need to work to achieve.

I write myself reminders. I post scripture. I use other mind prompts, because I know that I am so prone to forget.

And I don’t want to forget, because when we forget to teach our children, they loose their grounding and their hope.

Just like when Israel failed to live and teach what God prescribed. They lost their grounding, and headed into sin.

They complained, craved things God didn’t want them to have, wallowed in self pity, distrusted and falsely accused God.

They focused on their :

  • past- “Remember what we used to eat in Egypt,” instead of focusing on the blessing and provision of daily mana from God.
  • problems- “We have no water!” instead of remembering the God who provided water in a dessert and from a rock.
  • desires- “We want meat,” and then questioned God’s power by asking “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?” instead of praising Him all that He had provided and trusting in His presence.
  • idols- Even though they had seen God part the Red Sea, provide food that rained from heaven and water from a rock, they still worshipped idols of stone, wood and gold–not to mention their own lusts.

God gives us an inside look into their hearts while they were acting this way: (Ps. 78:32,36)

In spite of of all this, they still sinned: despite his wonders, they did not believe.

But they flattered him with their mouths; they lied to him with their tongues: Their heart was not steadfast toward him, and they were not faithful to his covenant.

They sinned. Did not believe. Flattered. Lied. Wavered. Unfaithful. Not a pretty picture of God’s people, is it?

Today, we may not crave meat and water, and we may not serve idols of gold and wood, but I believe that many times we are still like the Israelites.

We  dwell on our  problems, we cling to what we crave , spend inordinate amounts of time worshipping our “idols”– money, success, power, respect, friends, etc… instead of setting our hope in God and his goodness.

And when we cling to anything but God, usually God disciplines us, sometimes by allowing us to have what we actually desire (which can be scary) or by taking away all of the things we are grasping for.

I love Romans 8:32 .” He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

Our heart skips a little beat when we read this, knowing that God delights to give us good things. Good, we think, expecting the “good things” to be the things we desire and crave, as though God is some genie or magician ready to do our bidding.

But, what happens when the “things” that God gives us includes  trials and withholding things that we desperately want?

I love this quote from Lydia Brownback’s book Contentment. “Can we not be content if part of the “all things” includes some withholding? For the daughter of God, any withholding is itself a provision, and we can experience it with joy when we know that the withholder loves us.”

and ” Sometimes we get the wrong idea about how God satisfies us. He doesn’t come to us on our terms, taking the role of a surrogate for the things or the relationship we lack. HE comes in place of those things, giving us something even better.”

God always gives us what is good for us. And instead of worrying or despairing, fuming or complaining, let’s thank Him and lead our children to thank Him as well.

So, today, REMEMBER to teach your children about the wonders of God. This should be part of our everyday talk.  Tell them how He has helped you personally. Tell them of your answered prayer and His faithfulness. Don’t let your home be a place of “poor me” stories and  an “if only” legacy. Leave your children a vibrant heritage of a hope in their personal, loving God.

 

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