Monday, May 31, 2010

Summer Fun

I love summer. With both my girls in school, I look forward to spending summer days with them and getting to pour into them all the things I choose -- not things dictated by the school curriculum or the amount of time we have between school and soccer practice. Don't get me wrong, we have some incredibly long days in the summer, but mostly we just have fun -- and we might learn something along the way, too.

I want my girls to look back on their summers when they're grown, and say "That was so much fun. I want to do that with my kids." I want those memories to include times with their friends and times with just the four of us. I also want them to look back as adults and think about all the things they learned in the summer.

Wait, you're saying, that's a tall order for just three months of the year. It may seem that way, but with just a little bit of planning and creativity, you can provide your kids with summers to remember for years to come. All this week, the blog posts are going to focus on fun things to do with your kids in the summer that include ways to teach them some Everyday Truths while they're having fun. Some of them will take more planning and time than others, but my prayer is that some of these ideas will spark your own creativity.

Remember, that the most important part of summertime activities is the fun. John 10:10 tells us that Jesus said that He came so that we may have "abundant life." That abundant life includes joy and laughter, and summertime calls for lots of it.

Today, we're going to focus on planning your summer. If you spend a few minutes (ok, maybe half an hour) planning out your summer, then you'll be sure to include all those things you've thought about but never done. If you put it on the calendar, you're way more likely to go ahead and do it than if you just say "We'll do that sometime this summer." Here's the steps I follow to planning our summers.

1. Decide what you want your kids to get out of the summer. What do you want to emphasize -- friendship, family, learning new skills, trying new things, etc. What truths do you want your children to learn this summer?

2. Get out a calendar -- I use Microsoft Outlook -- and fill in the things you know are going to happen -- vacations, camps, vacation Bible school, etc.

3. Choose activities that fit with the things you want to emphasize over the summer and add them to your calendar. For example, if you want to encourage closer friendships for your kids, you'll want to schedule lots of activities with friends. If you want to teach your kids about giving to others, then you need to set up opportunities for them to help at a food pantry or plan a garage sale and give the money to missions.

4. Include some "Just for Fun" activities that don't necessarily tie into your purposes. Some of those activities may turn into some of the most teachable and memorable moments of your summer.

5. When you're done, pray over your calendar. Ask God to show you if you've missed something that He wants you to do, and ask Him to bless your activities and offer you plenty of opportunities to open your children's eyes to His presence.

6. Be flexible. Just because you put it on the calendar, doesn't mean you have to do it that day. If God brings a different opportunity into your life on that day, just shift things around a bit. Don't be so tied to your schedule that you miss out on something spontaneous.

The rest of this week, we're going to look at some fun, easy ways to bring God's Truth home to your kids in a fun way during your summer. Hopefully, you'll find some activities that you'll want to add to your calendar of summer fun.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Be Intentional

When my girls were first born, we stood in front of our church family and dedicated them to God. We promised to raise them in the church and teach them about God. That was a touching moment for us, as parents, but in the day-to-day grind of life (especially after I had my second child) some of that joy for teaching my girls about God got lost in the struggle some days just to get a shower.

One morning I woke up and realized that Emma was 4, and I had let so much precious time slip through my fingers. My girls are 22 months apart, and the first two years were a constant struggle. Carolyn was 2 before I felt like I had any sense of routine in my life. When I realized that there was so much I wanted to teach the girls, I realized an important fact -- I have to be intentional about teaching my children about God. I have to think about what I want to teach them, so when the opportunity arises, I can use it.

Being intentional doesn't mean you have to sit down and plan out a 30-minute Bible lesson for each day. It just means that you've spent some time thinking about what concepts and truths you want to work on with your kids. If you've spent time thinking about it, you can recognize times when you can reinforce those truths in short conversations or activities with your kids.

So, how do you go about being intentional? Think about each of your children. Think about their personalities, their learning styles and their behaviors. Make a list for each child, if you like. Identify the things you want to work on with each child. Not every child is the same, and the behaviors and truths you want to work on with one child won't be the same as the ones you want to work on with another child. Pull out your Bible and see what it has to say about those truths because if you don't know it, you can't teach it to your kids. Now, set a time period over which you want to work on those concepts.

For example, this summer we are working on speech and thoughts in our house. Both of my girls are struggling with respect for others in their words, but each girl needs a different approach. With one of my girls, we are working on attitude and tone of voice, and with the other, we are working on the actual words that come out of her mouth. For the next three months, this is the one truth that we will be working on consistently. Hopefully, by the end of the summer, God will have worked a change in their hearts, that is evidenced in the words that come out of their mouths.

If we set out to be intentional in teaching our children God's Truth, then God will be faithful to provide us with the opportunities to do so. It's our job to "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). We need to make sure we are taking that job seriously and being intentional in our training.

Be sure to check the blog next week for some great ideas on ways to have a fun summer while being intentional in teaching your kids about God.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Watch Your Words

When Emma and Carolyn were babies I couldn't wait for the days when they could talk. Instead of screaming every time they wanted something, I longed for the moment when they could say, "May I please have a cracker." In my little dream world, it never dawned on me that the request would probably sound something more like "Give me a cracker! I'm hungry!" Somehow, bickering and insulting one another never made it into my dreams either.

However, this is the reality in most homes with more than one child. Almost from the time siblings can speak, they argue with one another. Sometimes I think my kids enjoy arguing with each other. While a bit of sibling discord is to be expected in any household that contains siblings, you can take those moments of discord and turn them into a two-minute lesson on how words are powerful and can sometimes hurt more than a punch in the arm.

The next time your kids start flinging mean words at each other, call a halt and give them each a travel size tube of toothpaste and a paper plate. Let each kid squeeze all the toothpaste out of her tube onto the plate (they will love doing this). When they have all the toothpaste on the plate, tell your kids to put the toothpaste back in the tube. They will look at you like you are crazy. Talk with them about how our words are like the toothpaste -- once they are out of our mouths, we can't put them back in, so we need to be careful with what we say.

Share with your children James 3:5-6: "Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell." Our tongue is like a spark in a dry forest. It can cause a large fire that can't be put out if we are not careful with what we say.

Another great verse to use with your kids is Ephesians 4:29: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." My kids have memorized this verse, and when I hear them hurling insults at each other or speaking in a disrespectful manner, I ask them to tell me the verse. Then I ask them if what they were saying was useful for building others up. Usually the answer is no. The great part about this method is that it's not me telling them to use respectful speech, it's God. His Word becomes the teacher.

This is something that we are working hard on in our house this summer. But that means I have to watch how I use my words, too, because children learn what they see and hear. I can tell them to use respectful speech all I want, but if I'm not doing it, my words are worthless. Let your children know that you are working on your speech and you want them to hold you accountable as well. Work together as a family to improve everyone's speech, and you'll find it draws you all closer to each other and to God.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Finding God in the Sporting Goods Store

I find that God can remind us of His presence in the oddest places. My 7-year-old daughter plays ice hockey, and the other day I took her to get fitted for her first set of hockey equipment at Play It Again Sports. Carolyn is the only girl in her age group in the hockey program, which can be tough sometimes because none of her friends really understand her excitement about it. As I was standing in the hockey gear, looking lost (because while I can tell you all about the difference between icing and off sides, I don't really know much about what the hockey players wear under their jerseys) a female store employee came up and asked if she could help. I explained that we were there to get Carolyn fitted for hockey gear. She replied that she was just the person we were looking for because she had been playing hockey for 15 years. Carolyn was so excited to meet an older girl who plays hockey. The more we talked, the more I realized that meeting this young lady was a Divine appointment. It turns out that she gives private hockey lessons for less than what we were paying, and there's another girl in the class that she teaches. Carolyn is going to spend her summer being coached by this young lady.

This was one of those everyday moments that we, as parents, can either chalk up to "Hey, that was neat" or we can take two minutes and turn it into a reminder for our children about who God is. Carolyn and I talked about how God put that girl in that store at that moment so we could meet her. The number of things that had to line up just right for us to meet could only have happened if God had planned them. Not five minutes after we left, the girl who had helped us went to lunch. If we had been just a bit later, we would have missed her.

Now, in the grand scheme of things, meeting another girl who plays hockey may not seem like a big deal. But it is a big deal to Carolyn. In our area of the world, there just aren't that many people who play hockey, much less girls. This one encounter let me point out to Carolyn that God cares about everything in her life, even hockey. We just had a short conversation about how much God cares for us -- even about the little things.

We need to make our kids aware from a young age that God has a hand in everything. His presence probably won't be signaled with trumpets and fireworks but may be found between the hockey sticks and elbow pads. As parents we have to be aware of the moment and look for God in it. Then, we have to be intentional about pointing out God's presence to our kids. When we begin to be intentional about looking for God in the everyday, we become much more effective at sharing about God and His promises with our children.

So, as you go about your day and your week, look for God in the everyday moments of your life. You might be surprised at where you and your kids find Him.

Monday, May 24, 2010

What is Everyday Truth?

Welcome to Everyday Truth. I never thought I'd be writing a blog about parenting. Heaven knows my kids are far from perfect. Today is our first day of summer vacation, and I've already broken up more fights than I care to count. And, yes, I've already heard the words "I'm bored." (I offered her a toothbrush and a pail of soapy water to clean the bathroom, and she decided she wasn't quite so bored.)

However inadequate I often feel as a mom, God has placed a desire in my heart to share with other parents the simple truth that we are to teach our children God's words and truth as we go through life. Too often, we think that our kids need to have some big, spiritual experience to really grasp the truth of the gospel. Because we don't feel like we can provide the "wow" experience for them, we neglect to teach them the way God directs. Deuteronomy 6:7 says, "Impress them (God's words) on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." The Bible is pretty clear that we are to teach our children about God as we go about our lives. We don't have to drop everything and say "Now we are going to learn about God." We can incorporate it into our lives as we go to soccer practice or at the dinner table or as you tuck your children into bed.

This blog stems from a Bible study I created and taught this spring at my church. The ladies who took the study inspired me with how they took the principles we talked about in class and applied them to their families. We were all sad when our time together came to an end. This blog is an extension of that study. My prayer is that this blog would become a forum for sharing how each of us teaches our children about God as we live our busy lives. You'll be surprised to find that you will sometimes learn just as much as your children.

My plan is to share with you some of the adventures of our lives that have resulted in great activities and conversations that have led my kids to think about God. I'll also share some of our favorite traditions and activities that pull our family's focus back to God.

I'm in no way an expert on parenting, just a mom who loves Jesus and wants her kids to love Him, too. So come walk along the pathways of life with us and share in our moments of Everyday Truth.