Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How Do You Get a Smile Like That?

Give her all of the ice cream she can eat! When we go on our yearly trip to Old Salem, North Carolina we always make sure one of our meals is for ice cream at Mayberry's Restaurant. This year Abigail and Susannah realized what a great tradition it is.

Their bean and bacon soup and hot chips are the reason we go back for the second meal.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Things my children have taught me...
  • Ask questions
  • Look at a persons face
  • Grow
  • Talk to people
  • Don't talk
  • Hugs help a lot of things
  • Resting is important
  • I don't know a thing about parenting 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Old Salem

It's a rare thing to get all of us in the same place for an extended time. We got two nights in Old Salem to just play and enjoy our family.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A spoonful of sugar...

Did I mention a spoonful of sugar? This is one sweet baby!
A little honey goes a long way...

You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.....whoever wanted to catch flies. The point is, if you wanted to catch flies, you should be nice to them.

The idea is - be nice.

I may agree with everything you say, but if you say it with an attitude or in a mean spirited way, I will shy away, even disagree. That's just human nature, if someone is mean, we aren't going to like them.

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:39
As Christians we aren't required to "like" people, but we are called to "love our neighbor as ourselves." Don't you think it's easier to show that love by being nice? That's the point of good manners isn't it? Just to be nice.

Now I could get into a long battle of discussions about how one word or action or another might be nice for you but isn't for another. Our society is so on its head that we do have a hard time knowing what's kind and what isn't.

For example, Hannah has to carry her own chair in the presence of two young men often. Obviously, she is capable of carrying her chair, but it is heavy. One day someone made a comment about her chair. She answered that she thought that was what gentlemen did - carry a lady's chair. The two assumptions that she could arrive at were - one, she isn't a lady or two, they weren't gentlemen. Their response? They thought that she would feel "empowered" if she carried her own chair. Anyone who knows Hannah knows how funny that is. She appreciates gentlemanly manners as much as anyone!

But since this blog is for ladies, I don't need to spend time teaching men about manners. (I do wish I could sometimes, but, oh well, I'll leave that in God's hands.)

My point is really clear- be nice! Some people are facing REALLY hard things. As Christian women we can brighten a moment of their days by kindness. You know what might make you feel better on a bad day? Then give that to someone else, anyone else?

Practical things you can do?

  • Offer to return the shopping cart of a more with small children
  • Replace the empty toilet paper roll
  • Smile at random people in a store
  • Speak to small children cheerfully
  • Offer to carry something heavy for someone
  • Stay off of your cell phone in public
What would you find to be a nice gesture?

Friday, October 10, 2014

In Between Age Kids Part Three

I'm not ready to end of the conversation of raising children at the ages of about seven to twelve.

We have to know that there is hope to raise our children to do what's required of them. Scripture makes some pretty bold claims about raising children that we can lean on. The Word of God is Sufficient to bear the weight of our questions.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
This isn't an absolute promise without conditions, but it is very encouraging. I cannot say that because a child rebelled means that the parents didn't raise him "in the way that he should go." I refer to this verse to be an encouragement to actually - train your children.

I am in this parenting job for the long haul. Obviously, Abigail is still only two. It's important that I think clearly about how to raise the children. 

Ray and I don't spend much time talking about our philosophy of parenting these days. In the early years, I'm afraid a lot of our child training was done "by the seat of our pants." But I think we have come to agreement on some of these things that have helped us.

 - Pray for them. God is the only One who can rescue your children from their own sin. Pray for their salvation, their character, their behavior and their protection.

 - Both parents need to agree on the big stuff. How damaging would it be for the mom to undermine the dad's decision to sneak their daughter out to a dance that he didn't approve of?  You know what the big stuff is. Don't let it slide.

If God gave you a godly husband, side with him - every time, in front of your children. Talk later if you need to disagree. Children are smart and learn quickly to play you against one another for their own benefit.

Lydia at 11 with a great heart for God.
On the little stuff? Well, how's this for parents being of one mind? Abigail knows that I don't like for her to eat sweets, but Ray hides lollipops around the house for her to find. Every time she finds one, she runs to me grinning and saying, look what Daddy left for me. I have to smile and let her have her fun with her Daddy.

 - Teach them what they need to know. I can't say this enough, don't assume children know what you expect. You don't have to be the drill sergeant parent that micro-manages every move, especially at the middle age years. But clear instrusctions are important.

 - Let them learn things on their own. This doesn't contradict the last statement, but builds on it. Children need to think through things and figure out how to take care of themselves. Sometimes they just need to spend every last dollar they have to realize that they really didn't need to buy that battery operated hand held gadget that sits in the floor of their closet.

 - Be willing to follow through. And this is where things get hard! We can give the instructions, but if we aren't willing to make sure it is done correctly, then we would do just as well to not have bothered. Walk the child through the task, several times if it's needed. Then lay out the expectations. If it isn't done according to your specifications, then it's disobedience that requires consequences.

Consequences for disobedience fall in categories. Is the child in need of extra grace today? Did she have something happen that is impairing her thinking? Have I given too many responsibilities? A child who constantly "forgets" to do something may actually have some of those things going on.

We also have to ask ourselves some hard questions and be honest about sin issues that may have developed.  There could be issues like lack of care for the family, laziness, manipulation, or sheer defiance. Scripture is order at this point! Give them the Word - Colossians 3:20, Ephesians 6:1, Deuteronomy 12:28, Ezekiel 20:21.

Practically speaking again, when I have seen a pattern of "forgetting," I try to focus on that child. She would be my "partner" wherever I go, walking with me through everything on a given day. Now this is harder if you aren't actually with your child a lot, but your presence in a child's life shows him that you aren't giving him something that he can't do. Walking with my girls through hard stuff helps them see things like:
  • it isn't as hard as they may have thought.
  • I'm willing to get my hands dirty.
  • I haven't asked them to do anything that I'm not willing to do.
  • doing some jobs might even turn out to be fun. 
  • how silly it is for me to walk with her to her closet to put away those shoes.
  • if a job doesn't get done, the whole family has to deal with it.
And by spending that time with my child, I can see what's really going on. Often it has been that they just don't see the point. It is hard for girls to see the point of washing dishes three times a day. Or, why make the bed if we are just going to unmake it again tonight? When these intelligent thinking children see "the point" they are usually motivated to move forward with the request. 

And if your children have any compassion and see that you are the one who trips and falls over their shoes, they are more likely to put them away the first time.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

In Between Age Kids - Part Two

When children start thinking more deeply about things discipline and punishment needs to change. It seems like the "brighter" the child, the earlier this might happen.

I said discipline and punishment need to change because they are two different things. Punishment is part of discipline, it is what happens when there has been a failure in discipline. This failure could be the fault of the parents, the child or both.

For an example - You expect your child to take out the trash. You cannot expect it to be done if there hasn't been some discipline involved. You certainly wouldn't want to punish a child for not doing what he didn't know that he was required to do or if he didn't know how to do the job. So you go through the steps of teaching him. Discipline involves training, that's what the word means, to train. The basic steps to teach a child a job -
  • make sure there is physical capability. (Is the child tall enough to reach the trash can?)
  • explain the task clearly. (Pull the bag out of the inside can, tie it up, place it in the outside can.)
  • walk the child through the task. (Watch him take the trash out, explain anything that needs to be clarified, like - close the lid on the outside can, replace the liner on the inside can.)
  • make sure he knows when he is required to do the job and how to keep track of that.
  • say thank you for a job well done.
Honestly, all of that is common sense. You don't tell a three year old to go bake a cake and expect a cake. But those steps are the basic foundation to teaching your child to live in this world.

(Okay, the first and foremost thing to teaching your child to live in this world is to show them Christ and give them a proper worldview. Speaking to the practicalities of living in a home with other people, those are about as basic as you can get.)

After all of that has been taught, what do we do if the child just continues to "forget?" I would take a guess that there would be a million different answers if we asked a million different people. There are some very creative people in the world who have come up with some doozy of consequences for disobeying children.

I know one lady in her sixties now that would sleep in her teenagers' bedrooms at night until they got home just to make sure what time they came in. This creative mom also had her son apologize on the loud speaker to the entire school because he yelled at a referee during a football game. Her son is a well respected leader in the community now, so I think she did a pretty good job.
Siblings learning to navigate life together.

Fitting the punishment to the transgression is a tried and true method of discipline. If your child forgets to feed the dog, she should skip a meal. She doesn't pick up her clothes off of the floor, then she has to wear them all day - all of them. Siblings fight with each other, tie them together. Your daughter refuses to sit still at the meal table, then she stands at her spot through the entire meal. Stuff like this can happen without abuse, without humiliation and without embarrassment. The entire world doesn't need to know she "forgot" to take out the trash.

Honestly, the child should be embarrassed if he is in contestant sin. If he isn't, then there may be some bigger problems.

There are child advocates who would go crazy at some of this stuff, I know.  We must parent with a loving hand that teaches kindness, forgiveness and self-control. You don't teach those qualities if you don't discipline and punish without them.

But we cannot raise our children to think that the world revolves around them. They must learn to live in society - peaceably and working with others.  As parents we cannot raise them to think that they will not be held accountable for their own sin.
For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.(Romans 2:12-13 ESV) 
Our children must obey the law, whether it is the law of the Bible, the law of the land, or the rules of the home. God is the only One, True, Righteous Judge, but He did give us our own children to raise according to His laws. 
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. (Colossians 3:20)

Friday, October 03, 2014

Parenting Those "In Between Age" Kids

I need some serious parenting advice, and I believe you're just the person to help me...
I am having trouble with disobedience from a certain 9 year old.  We've tried ...  We've taken away... We talk to him constantly about why he has to obey- what the Bible says about obedience, what is required of him and the importance of being obedient.  I'll ask him to do something and he'll say, "yes, mam" and then "forget."  I know the disobedience is his sin, but I feel like I'm failing in teaching him.  I know he's not going to obey perfectly every single second of every single day, but right now I'm struggling to get him to obey at all when I ask him to do a task/chore.  He always "forgets"...  How do I keep him from forgetting?  Any advice/help will be greatly appreciated!  Thanks so much!
Two of my favorite girls who are navigating those in between years beautifully.
When this note came to me I thought, "Oh sure, I can answer that one." I was ever so humbled! My next thought was, "I have no idea. When you find out, let me know!" The note came weeks ago and I still can't really form an easy answer. I think the answer to this is very complex and will take a long time. I know that's not really encouraging to this parent because her child is the nine year old. She doesn't have the years it takes to figure it out.

My favorite resource for parenting children this age is Age Of Opportunity by Tedd Tripp. The first few chapters are so convicting and have helped my thinking so much that I have actually only read the book through once. But because I have five daughters that have passed this age, I've read through those first few chapters at least five times.

But today, I want this parent and others who are in the midst of raising children in this age group to be encouraged. These middle years are so full of amazing things for them. They are beginning to think more deeply about life and everything else.

Staying close to them and involved in their lives, knowing what makes them tick is really important right now. Teenage years are zooming very close. They aren't to be dreaded unless you loose your child's heart now.

So for this parent - while I go back and walk myself through my own parenting class, try to stay encouraged, be diligent in your teaching and pray more than ever for his little heart.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

"I Don't Want To Be Tolerant!"

This is no Punk Rocker, just a girl who likes the guitar!
Spoken by a guest speaker at our church, I knew what he meant. He was saying that he didn't want to be tolerant of sin.

With all of the talk of tolerance in our society, I can understand the Christian's aversion to the very word.

But if we aren't careful we will move in the wrong direction. The world says be tolerant of everyone-regardless of what they do, unless of course they're Christians.

However, as Christians we are to be tolerant of those different than us. In our home we have artists, writers, mathematicians, athletes, and drama queens. What if the athlete mocked the artist for not pursuing something more worthwhile? What if the historian claimed that writing isn't a real job? (I actually heard that once!)

We are so busy about making disciples that we often forget what we are disciplining others to do. The definition of a disciple is one who follows Christ. Are we training others to follow Christ or ourselves?

There is a sense in which we want others to follow us as we follow Christ.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. I Corinthians 11:1
But would Christ say, "Personally, I don't like that, so you aren't allowed to do that?"(Insert whatever "that" is, as long as it isn't sin.)

This is especially true of parenting. What are issues parents lay down rules about that may not be scriptural? We aren't talking about sin issues that the Bible speaks clearly to or even rules that might help a family function better, but laws of preference for the sake of convenience (to the parents.) I could think of several easily - clothing, hobbies, books, food, silly words, hair styles, color preferences. (Yes, we know someone who forbids anyone to wear black because it's the color of sin!)

Think about people in general that you see on a day to day basis. For me, I see the young clerks and baggers at Kroger often. Because a certain young man has gages in his ears is no excuse for me to avoid him. While he worked at Kroger, I actually tried to go through his line to check out just to talk to him. Was I being a creepy old woman stalker? No! Somehow, I found out that he has a baby the same age as Abigail. I was able to mention how gracious God is to give us the good gift of children even when we didn't deserve it, that God knows best in timing of His good gifts. I was able to witness to him gently and where he was at the time.

The teenager in the car who listens to her music too loudly isn't hurting you and probably isn't in sin, she just has different preferences than you. Please don't look at her like she is going to die and go to Hell. The loud babies at the table beside you aren't trying to annoy you, they are learning how to live in a world of adults. The mother wrestling with her small children isn't neglecting discipline of her children, she's probably trying to keep them from drawing too many unapproving looks.

So the next time you see a person covered from head to toe in tattooes and green hair spiked on his head, don't automatically think, "Sinner!" Don't avoid the sullen girl at the coffee shop, she might need your smile at the moment you see her. 

And you might need the encouragement that a rowdy group of teenagers can give when they admire your two year old singing.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Where Would You Like to Sit?

Or rather, where would you like to see your daughters sit?

Several weeks ago, we had a family night for Sarah's last night night at home. We ate supper at Atlas Pizza in Gainesville. (It was yummy and reasonably priced, by the way.)

The place was packed with lots of different types of people and groups.  I have thought about that night many times since then.  Our family was one one of the three obviously larger groups sitting together at one table. It was clear that we were a family with two parents and children of all ages. We had two large pizzas to share and Abigail moved from sister to sister to sit with everyone and to sample as many drinks as possible.

Another group was a table of about ten athletic girls and a coach. They weren't dressed in uniform but still clearly a team of some sort. They were interacting with one another, laughing and talking. All dressed in "regular" shorts and shirts, nothing crazy, nothing immodest, but nothing that jumped out to say "look at us." Actually, I didn't even notice they were sitting right beside us until their food was brought. They all had ordered individual pizzas and calzone type meals. (Another clue they weren't too related.)

The third large group in the restaurant nearly shut the place down when they made their entrance. A group of ten or twelve high school girls walked in to a table near the back that had been set up for them. They all looked similar, from their hair styles to their high heels. Long hair swishing, short shorts, and lacy tops. All very poised, feminine and beautiful, they were celebrating one of the girls' birthday. Immediately, several large pizzas came out, they ate and got quiet. I glanced back at the table and was struck by what I saw. Every girl at that table had her head down and a strange glow on her face. Every girl was looking down at her phone, every one! The table beside them had a set of parents and a couple of brothers. When they were done, they got up, dropped off presents at the parents' table and left in the same manner as they entered, with a grand exit.

I was so sad! Sarah actually knew the birthday girl at the the party table. I wanted to run to her and ask her how she felt. Did she enjoy the meal, did she "tweet" what a great time, or post photos to Instagram? Or was she secretly wishing someone would make eye contact with her and ask about her life?

I know social media can be a good thing, but the more I see, the more I don't like. We are alienating ourselves from the world trying to "stay connected".  My family isn't that different. Abigail knows how to take a selfie, send a snapchat, and check email. (She has even made some pretty big purchases from Amazon, but I'm hoping that was an accident.)

It's so sad to me that we know more about the Facebook world than we do about our own families. We know why our friend in Washington State is angry at her local school board but aren't sure why the person in our own house is crying. What's wrong? I think we have become accustomed to looking down. Then we we do finally notice, we are shocked that no one told us. Should we have tweeted that she is hurting? Did I need to snapchat that there are serious fears in someone's heart?

Ray has talked about the posture of our country and I'm afraid it isn't getting better. It seems a little different in my own home but I'm afraid not that much different. Our family rule is for no electronics at the meal table, however, if a family member isn't there, I'll answer their calls every time. And there is a certain head of household who always sneaks his phone in to conversations. Even the girls who don't have their own phones know what's going on with their friends much more often than I think they should.

What's the solution? Should we ban all devices from our lives? I think not, even though I did hear of a well known pastor recently who doesn't even own a computer. Our only hope is Christ. Serving The Lord and Savior will change our focus.

When we focus on Christ more, we will notice those around us more. We will see an extra bounce in the step of a happy girl or the slumped shoulders of a discouraged parent. The tears that slip out won't go unnoticed either.

If I'm not checking Facebook, I might realize that the dishes didn't get done, and that wasn't because of laziness.  It may be because of a struggle under hard work. I might notice my two year old doing the "potty dance" before it's too late.

Somehow the strange glow that is showing up on faces at the tables around us needs to be transformed. Focus on Christ and his Word is the only way.....

A walk around town included crossing Gainesville's bridge to no where. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Occupied With Joy?

... because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:20 ESV)

How can I be occupied with joy if I can't catch my breath? I'm over committed and feel like I am not  doing anything really well.  Haven't I said this before? Where is that promise to myself that I will learn to slow down and purposefully enjoy the gifts that God has given me?

Well meaning people (ahem, my family) will have some great ideas of how I should spend my days. If I'm not careful, I could be running back and forth from one to the other, not completing anything and not helping anyone. Oh, wait! That's how I feel most times at the the end of the day.

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 ESV)
This is my life, my toil... to love and serve my family.

It is good to find enjoyment in my toil. It is amusing to see my two year old playing in a sink of dirty dishes. It is satisfying to hear my eleven year old explain what communism means. I can even feel somewhat accomplished to explain a little algebra to my fourteen year old.
Abigail and Susannah "helping" in the kitchen actually brought much joy, and a lot of mess!
Knowing that this is the "lot" that God has given me, helps to keep my perspective. I don't really have wealth and possessions, but I can enjoy what I have.