Tag Archives: faith

Entering Back In

I believe that I am ready to write again.  I’ve spent the first four months of this year really listening to the voice of God, to my family, and to my heart.

I feel more grounded and yet more humbled.
I feel less opinionated and more teachable.
I feel more ignited and stirred.

A handful of the many things I’ve learned:

It is OK to be still.

It is good to listen.

It is equally good to worship with abandon.

A heart of worship overflows to others around, even if they’re not faith-filled.

I hope that today you are able to be still, to listen, and to worship.

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Are the Best Things in Life Free?

What do you love that is actually free?

“The best things in life are free.”  This is one of those phrases that parents say to their kids to teach them to value the little things in life or to teach them to be grateful.  Even as adults, we pass this phrase around as if it explains our gratitude for the small things that come our way.

Especially in this holiday season, you’ll probably hear someone say this phrase in reference to spending less on gifts, or in reference to doing volunteer work.

Love.  Memories.  A child’s smile.  Getting a good grade on an exam. Friendship.  A great marriage.  Making it through the first year of a business start-up and living to tell about it!

While each of these may fall into the “best things in life are free” category, I beg to differ with whether or not they are actually free.

I can speak from experience that having a great marriage definitely does not come freely.  It takes commitment, forgiveness, communication and a whole lot of hard work.  Getting a good grade is not a free gift – ask my college daughter going through her first finals week.   Finding the love of your life is a costly proposition for some.  Patience, heartbreak, relational skills, and prayer…

The truth is, anything that is worth something, costs something.

The cost may be intangible, but costly nonetheless.

Dedication. Commitment.  Sacrifice.  Money.  Time.  Tears.  Prayers.  Hope.

Often times the things that don’t have a high monetary value actually require the most work.

When do we value things that truly are free?  Whatever we come by easily or cheaply, we will also value little.  A dandelion inherently has little value compared to a rose because they are so easy to come by.

This holiday season, stop to let the enormity of the “free” things that come your way sink in.  Some cost you a lot financially, and others are precious gifts given to you after years of hard, committed work, after dedication to an ideal or dream, or after years of tending to seeds.  So take a moment to feel, deeply breathe in and wonder at the blessings that you have.

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Curbing the Competition

Today, my home is filled with the unbelievably loud antics of my kids playing with each other.  Most of the time it is goofy wrestling (and believe me, that’s not just the boys).  Sometimes it is the made up family game of “Can We Make Them Laugh Hysterically”, with one of my kids who laughs really easily as the main target.  It could also be playing card or board games, playing on the Wii, or any number of activities.

It wasn’t always this way.  Just a few years ago, the kids were constantly operating in strife, angry with each other, so easily offended, and very competitive.

One of the tactics that we employed to end the sibling strife was to cut down on the competition.  One of the phrases that we heard around the house was, “That’s not fair.”  If you hear that statement floating around your house, that is clue that there might be comparison between your kids, and comparison births competition.

As I analyzed where the competition was coming from, I realized that I was treating my children as a group.  When we went anywhere, we went as a group.  If we went grocery shopping, my goal was to get all 4 into the store, get all 4 to keep their hands to themselves, and to have all 4 not screaming at the same time. Keeping them alive, safe, and quiet was a huge task, and thinking of them as one unit instead of four little individuals allowed me to wrap my brain around my overwhelming goal.

I called them my herd.  My herd went in, my herd went out.  My herd went to bed, my herd got up.  For me it meant that each one had been grouped as a collective to make my job easier.

Recognizing this, I started to change the way that I talked and thought.Instead of giving time to the herd, I started pulling each one aside for individual time.  Instead of planning my days with all of them involved in every activity, I started scheduling outings so that I could take just one or a couple with me.

I also started calling them out individually.  Instead of calling them all to dinner, I started by inviting each individually to come.  Instead of assigning a general clean up time, I started assigning specific chores to specific people, listing them out by name.

What each child wants is to feel individual, unique and special.  When you treat them as individuals and focus on each child alone, you’ll be surprised at how much comparison and competition is limited in your family.

I’m not saying that this simple change of thought – from the herd to individuals – will stop all arguing and fussing in your home, but I am suggesting that it is a good place to start.  After all, we like to be thought of us special and contributing something unique to the family.

In the family of God, He knows us.  He says that He knows the number of hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7), that we’re the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8), and that He will provide for us (Matthew 6:26).   He says that we were wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and that He knew us before we were born (Jeremiah 1:5).    I could go on and on – the Bible is full of references to how He special He thinks that we are.

Give it a try!  Make a practice of treating your kids, or kids around you, as unique and special individuals, without trying to treat them all equally or the same. Tell me how it makes a difference!

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What is Parenting Success?

How do I, as a parent, define success?  The question is a really valid one, and one that deserves to be part of a parenting philosophy that guides your actions.

Do you define success by whether or not you’ve been completely consistent throughout the day?  Throughout the child’s life?

Is success defined by kids that bring you honor by their behavior?

Is success defined by kids that make it through adolescence without a major mistake?

Is success defined by kids that are followers of Christ?

Or could it be something completely different?

Let me suggest that successful parenting could be defined not by the product that you produce, but the process of daily parenting.

Because my faith in Jesus guides every aspect of my life and all decisions with my family, I believe that my faith in Jesus should guide my parenting. Therefore, to me, successful parenting has less to do with the outcome of my child’s behavior, and more to do with whether or not my daily parenting brings glory to God.

When it comes down to it, my amazing children all have their own wills and their own stories.  I do believe that I have influence over the choices that they make, but I certainly don’t have control over their lives.  Since that is the case, the definition of success should be based less on whether or not my kids succeed based on a certain standard, and more on whether or not I’ve brought honor to my faith along the way.

Obviously, because I believe so strongly in finding parenting mentors, and because I’ve read and written quite a bit about parenting, I think there is a lot to being well equipped for the job of parenting.  I strongly believe in doing research and studying for this position.  However, a lot of advice and a lot of information in books revolves around the idea that, if you follow specific steps to parent, or if you model your parenting around various philosophies, your children will turn out great.  The implied message is that if your kids don’t turn out as you hoped, or as you were promised in the book, you did something wrong.  You didn’t work the system specifically enough.

I’ve known way too many fantastic parents who did everything “right” but ended up with kids who followed the “wrong” path.  One of the best speakers I’ve ever heard, a pastor whom I highly respect, had a brother who spent his adult life in jail.  The same parents, the same parenting process, a completely different result.

If your instinct is to make yourself feel better by trying to figure out where other parents made their parenting mistakes, what inconsistencies must’ve been in play, what signs they might’ve missed, then you’ve defined parenting success differently than I have.

What I have seen, both in scripture and in life experience, are examples where the right philosophy and methods were used without netting good results, but God was still glorified.

If that is the case, then don’t be so quick to judge yourself (or others) if your kids:

…don’t listen and obey the first time.

….throw temper tantrums repeatedly.

….don’t treat others with kindness even though you’ve given them plenty of opportunities to do so.

…don’t choose the right friends.

…don’t follow the spiritual path you’ve dreamed for them.

Those issues shouldn’t determine whether or not you’ve had success as a parent.

So how do you know if you’re succeeding or not?

I propose that the starting point to answer that question is looking at whether or not your process of parenting glorifies God in each and every parenting opportunity.

If you have to correct your child, did you do it lovingly?
Did you do it with patience?
Were you self controlled?
Did you set the right example?
Did you act out of the spirit instead of the flesh?
Did your behavior point your children to God?

Of course, the above standard is simply a goal – we are not going to be perfect. And the good news is that even our imperfections can point our kids to God if we follow through with humility, ask for forgiveness, and model that though we might fail, we’ll keep on trying through His strength.

Please don’t misunderstand me…I care desperately how my children turn out.  I believe that we should forever be working towards training and leading them.  I find comfort in Proverbs 22:6 where it says that if we train up our children in the way they should go, then when they’re old they’ll not depart from it.

However, when it is all said and done, it is not about me or my kids, it is about God.  If He has been glorified by my actions, whether they be successes or failures, then I have been a success.

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10 Survival Tips for Introverted Parents

Being an introvert can make parenting a challenge.  As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I had a personality/giftings expert tell me that, based on my personality alone, I should never have kids.  I function best with plenty of solitude, being able to start and complete a task in one sitting, and to have my day structured and organized.  In short, I am an introvert.  In this expert’s opinion, child raising and introvertedness create a difficult pairing that is almost too great to overcome.

While I wholeheartedly agree that being an introvert and being a parent create unique challenges, I also believe that it is absolutely possible to do, all the while remaining sane.  There are a few strategies that I’ve found can be put in place to help the process go more smoothly.  I wanted to take a minute today to submit several ideas that I’ve found that make parenting as an introvert a bit easier.

#1  Require a no-unnecessary-noise zone.
One way for me to cope well is to keep noise to a minimum.  I recognize that having kids around intrinsically means there will be noise, and often times fun and noise go hand in hand.  I realize that I can’t have (and really don’t want) a completely noise-free zone.  However, we do have a rule that there will be no unnecessary noise.  Unnecessary noise means things like tapping, yelling, repetitive mouth sounds, loud singing, etc.  The phrase, “No unnecessary noise…” is heard often in our home.

#2 No two noisemakers going at the same time.
This relates closely to point #1; however, it zeros in specifically on things that make noise that might compete with one another, such as:   TV, computer game sounds, radio, toys that make noise, instruments, videos, singing, etc.  In our home, no two noise makers are run simultaneously.  And yes, there have been many fights discussions as to whose noise maker wins out – but in the end, it is better for me to wade through the dispute and have a relatively quiet place to reside.

#3 Mandatory nap/quiet time.
This suggestion incorporates creating emotional and physical moments of rest. When my four were little, we had mandatory nap time.  As they grew older, we shifted to enforcing a mandatory quiet time.  That time included reading books, resting in bed, or drawing.  Any activity that involved me or involved a potential fight between the siblings was nixed.

#4 Early bedtime.
Of course the time is negotiable, but having your kids go to bed early gives you space to rebuild your reserves for the coming day. My kids’ bedtime was always 7pm.  Even as they got older, we still maintained that time.  (Even until they were 10 or 11, they still went to bed at 7.) They could read in bed, listen to tapes in their rooms or play quietly, but they knew that I was “off duty” at 7pm. Since the time that my kids have barely been able to have real discussions, we have talked about how their early bedtime was much more about my need for replenishment than their need for rest.  I explained that it was motivated by my personality, and that I would be a better mommy if I had time in the evenings to recharge and refuel.

#5 Having kids stay in bed in the morning until an agreed upon time.
Even from the youngest of their ages, my kids have had a set time when they could get up.  When they were really little, they were to stay in their beds until we came to get them.  As they got older and could tell time, they knew to stay in their rooms until the designated time arrived.   That gave me a predictable beginning to my day, and allowed me to get mentally and physically prepared to handle the busyness that was to come.

#6 Have the day planned.
For me, having a structure/schedule is essential to my peace of mind.  Looking at the day as a blank slate is paralyzing; therefore, having a general agenda planned is so helpful.  Taking the few minutes that it takes to plan out events is well worth the mental energy saved throughout the day.

#7 Plan quiet activities for yourself (journaling, walking outside, etc).
Having activities that provide refilling, that fuel the introvert within you, are so key to being able to stay positive and pleasant throughout the day.  Find those things that restore your soul and regularly participate in them.  Plan your day with those elements included.

#8 Find activities to do with your kids that replenish you.
It is important that you recognize which activities throughout the day fill you or drain you.  The activities that both entertain my kids and replenish me are reading to them, playing board games, going on walks, etc.  I encourage you to think through the activities that you do with your kids and pinpoint which ones have a better chance of being replenishing to you.  When you plan your day, plan more activities that fall into that replenishing category.  Recognize which activities are draining, and if trying to creatively craft (or something like that) stresses you out, schedule it in very limited amounts.

#9 Use your introverted strengths.
As a whole, introverts are good with attention to detail and researching. Schedule your day so that most of your energy is spent moving in your strengths.  In one of my previous posts, I talked about how one of my daughters wanted Valentine’s Day cards handmade.  Not considering myself very creative, I realized that I could use my strengths of research to look up what handmade crafts might be available on the internet.  Instead of stressing over completing a task that took me out of my natural abilities (which is always draining), I found a way to use my strengths to see her project completed.

#10 Be intentional about face time with your kids.
If you spend quality time with kids – make eye contact and listen actively – they will feel really heard and connected to.  Parenting children who truly feel heard makes the parenting interaction so much easier.  Throughout the day when they get annoying, try to stop and intentionally listen to them (instead of brushing them off or making it clear how busy you are).  You might just see that the escalation of distress will cease.

Your unique personality, whether it be a demonstrative extrovert or a reserved introvert, is a gift from God.  As a parent, you have unique gifts that you pass on to your kids, and understanding your personality and working with the gifts that you have make you more effective in your role as a parent.

Let me know what other techniques you use to thrive as a parent!

 

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Filed under Family and faith, Parenting

The Art of the Great Mentor

We all need guidance.  Our lives are complicated and challenging, and we are all asked to perform roles in which we have limited or no training. Whether that role be in our work, in marriage, as a parent, with our finances, culturally, with our cooking, etc., we all are in over our heads in some area.

When I got married, I knew that I needed guidance on how to create a great marriage.  To this day, we still are in contact with the pastor who performed our wedding ceremony, and he is a great source for accountability and counsel.

When I had kids, I definitely knew I was in over my head.  I knew what kind of kids I wanted to produce, but I wasn’t sure of how to accomplish that feat.  One of the first things that I did as a new mom was to set up a lunch date with an experienced mom who’s kids I greatly respected.  With my infant in hand, I asked this lady if we could create a relationship between us where I asked her my parenting questions.  She agreed, and I did.  Over and over and over.

For those of us who aren’t physically close to family (or for those who don’t have family that they want to emulate), we need to establish relationships that serve as family for us.  We need to have people from whom we draw for the various roles we fill in our lives.  We need to have people in our lives to guide us.  And because we play so many roles, we need to be open to having many mentors, or many people to whom we turn for advice and counsel.

The mentoring relationship won’t happen on its own.  It is important for you to have specific, measurable objectives and to find a mentor you will respect and trust to help you reach their goals. Once the partnership is under way and working, it is up to the partners to make the relationship thrive.  It takes time to find people who are both willing and able to help give advice.  It takes time to establish relationships based on trust and respect to whom you can go.  But believe me, it is worth it.

So how do you find a mentor?

* Take some time to think through the areas in your life in which you are struggling, or not performing the way you’d like to.

* Think of people who are doing that task well and who you respect in that area.

* If you already have a good relationship with that person, then make the ask. Be clear with them what you’re asking, and let them know why you’re asking specifically them.

* If you don’t have a strong relationship yet, then start making strides in that direction.

“I’ve learned… that the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am.”  – the late Andy Rooney

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Maneuvering Net-less Flight – The Beginning of our Homeschool Journey

It seems that in so many areas of my life, I am flying without a net.  What I mean by that is being in situations where you make a choice to go against the traditional route of society, often times resulting in no one to blame your failure on but yourself.  Some of those flying-without-a-net areas were chosen for me, and some of them I chose myself.

Educating my children at home is one of those areas.  While homeschooling is much more accepted these days, it is still an arena in which the success or failure of the children rests heavily on the shoulders of the parents.  And then there is the conversation about what success or failure really is…but that is a topic for another day.

When my oldest was 4/5 and getting ready to enter her educational journey, I could tell that she would have a little difficulty with learning if we chose a traditional education path.   She is an artist who gathers her information more from her senses than from linear, academic thought.  She is a really smart girl, but I had a hunch that she might struggle in a traditional setting where the main way to source information is visually.  I knew that I wanted to give her as much a head start as I could.  I didn’t intend to homeschool past the earliest of grades, but just long enough to make sure that she knew the basic math skills and knew how to read.

The first couple of years I spent as much time researching homeschooling as I did actually educating my daughter.  I interviewed everyone I knew that home schooled, and spent much time researching on the internet.  I answered some of the big questions of homeschooling (like socialization and salt/light), realized that I really loved teaching, and developed my philosophy around home education.  By the end of those first years, I was committed to home education, not only for the entirety of my daughter’s educational journey, but also for each of the kids that I would continue to have.

Along the way, I have collected scores of curriculum opinions, have tried many varieties of schedules, worked on various methods of chores, started and ended many subjects, had many character discussions with my kids, learned a ton about learning styles and methods, had many stellar moments, and had many collosal failures.

I have gone through the journey of helping my eldest graduate from high school, take SAT tests, and get accepted into colleges.  And presently I am continuing to educate my three remaining kids, as well as lend as much support as needed to my college daughter.

Flying without a net isn’t the most comfortable position to take.  There is risk, there is the fear of failure, and there is loneliness.  However, if it works, there is also great satisfaction and growth.

“Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller

“Don’t be afraid to take a big step. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.” — David Lloyd George (Prime Minister of England 1916 – 1922)

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