Friday, October 29, 2010

MacGyver Mom

Do you remember MacGyver? I used to love that show. Give the guy a piece of gum, a rubber band and a Swiss army knife and he could break out of jail, save the world and rescue the damsel in distress all in a one-hour episode.

I think most moms are a lot like MacGyver. And I know your kids see you that way. Most moms I know can fix a broken Silly Band, pack a lunch, find a lost shoe and impart important wisdom -- all before 8 o'clock in the morning. Most moms have a mental filing system that files away important information like the fact that you saw your child's favorite toy stuffed under the couch or the fact that your daughter's homework got left on the table. Then, when you are asked, it all comes back, and you can tell your child exactly where it is. I don't know about you, but most of the time I can track down whatever my child is missing, but half the time I can't find my own car keys.

When it comes to training up our kids, those MacGyver-like skills come in handy. One of the goals of this blog is to encourage you and offer you ideas for training your kids in a Godly manner, but it's meant to be a jumping off point for you. If there's an idea here that works with your kids, that's fantastic. But, hopefully, the ideas here are also triggering your own creativity in teaching your children. Each one of you is unique, and you are raising unique kids. Psalms 139:14 says "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

God created you in exactly the right way to be able to train up your child, whom He also created in a fearful and wonderful way. Too often, we look at other parents and their children and wish we were in their shoes. We wish we were as creative or as pretty or our kids were as well behaved or as smart as their kids. But God made you the perfect mom for your child. He gave you all the tools you need to train your child. He gave you the exact amount of patience, love, creativity and humor to be able to parent your child exactly as he or she needs.

So, today, I'd love to hear some MacGyver mom stories. Share with the rest of us a creative way that you have taught a Biblical truth to your kids. If you've taken one of the Everyday Truth ideas and used it with your kids, let us know how it worked and if you made any changes. Share your creativity with the rest of us so we can all add it to our MacGyver mom stores of knowledge.

And if anyone's MacGyver mom skills actually extend to fixing a broken Silly Band, the rest of us would love to know.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Be a Good Coach

I spend an awful lot of time watching children practice sports. With a soccer player and a hockey player in our house, we spend four nights a week just going to a practice of some kind. Sometimes practice is pretty boring. The coaches tend to run the same drills over and over again.

My youngest daughter isn't a huge fan of practice. She loves being on the ice, but she doesn't enjoy the repetition of the stick-handling, passing and shooting drills. She would much rather just scrimmage all the time. I keep having to remind her that practice is all about learning skills so that when she is in a game she doesn't have to think about what to do. It will just come naturally.

Parenting is a lot like being a coach at practice. We need to instill habits and values into our kids now so that when they hit the ground running in the game of life, they'll have the tools they need. Helping our kids create spiritual disciplines in their lives like a daily time with God, prayer and scripture memorization will help them to follow Christ when the going gets tough.

When life is tough, we tend to react based on what we already know. That is not the time to suddenly be seeking God. We need to seek God in the everyday moments of our lives so when crisis comes, we don't have to think about how to react.

Psalm 119:133 says "Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me." If our children haven't spent time with God and don't know God's word, they can't follow Him -- nor would they have any reason to do so. No one will blindly follow someone they don't know, especially if that person is asking them to pass through a storm. The more time our children spend getting to know God, the more they will understand who He is and desire to follow Him, even when the going gets tough.

So, grab your coaching hat and your whistle and try some of these ideas to help your children establish some spiritual disciplines:
  • Get a new game. Set it up and tell your child to play it without reading the instructions. There will be much confusion. After a few minutes, read the instructions and play the game with your child. As you are playing ask your child how difficult it was to play the game. Point out that life is much like playing the game without knowing the rules. If we don't spend time with God to learn about Him and what it means to be a Christ-follower, then we can't live the way God wants us to. Ask your child about different ways he can learn about God. Talk about how important it is to spend time with God every day, using prayer, Bible reading and scripture memorization to understand how God wants to help us behave.
  • Help your child choose a time during the day to spend with God. We do ours in the morning because it fits best with our schedule. Choose at time that works for your child. Make sure your child has a Bible that they can read, a devotional book and an understanding of prayer. You may want to help them the first few days.
  • Start memorizing scripture together as a family. Pick a verse of the week and work on it every day at mealtime or bedtime. Talk about how if you know scripture from memory, it can help you during the week. If it's already "hidden in your heart" like Psalm 119:11 says, God will use it to help you decide what to do in instances when a Bible is not available. Keep track of the verses you learn and offer your kids prizes for reaching certain milestones.
Remember that the younger your child is, the shorter their attention span. Keep your expectations at an age-appropriate level. It may be enough for your child to spend five minutes with a picture Bible and a short prayer. Older kids can spend time reading a devotional and doing an activity. Help your child set up a daily time with God that is appropriate for him.

Encourage your children in their daily time with God, and set an example for them -- because that's what a good coach does.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Busted plans

I got up yesterday morning intending for it to be another typical day -- me and my husband off to work and the girls off to school. That plan was interrupted by the knock on my bathroom door as I was taking my shower. A wan little face appeared in the crack of the door, followed by the dreaded words, "My tummy hurts."

A month ago I would have greeted those words with dismay but would have taken them in stride. But five weeks into my seven-week temporary job, I didn't really want to hear those words. My perfectly ordered day where I would go to work, pick up my girls and two of their friends after school, supervise homework, eat dinner and take my oldest to soccer practice imploded before my eyes.

This was also our first experience with a sick kid and two jobs. We had to quickly figure out who was staying home for how long, inform the neighbor that I coudn't watch her kids after school like I had promised and work out who would take my oldest to soccer practice so the sick child didn't have to go out. It all worked out, but it got me to thinking about planning.

Plans are a good thing. They give us direction and organization in our lives. Some people like plans more than others. We all know people who have a hard time coping when their plans have to change. Maybe you're one of those people who have a panic attack when plans go awry. Then there are those people who never have a plan and seem to fly through life by the seat of their pants. These people drive the planners crazy, and the planners drive the non-planners crazy, as well.

Whether you are a planner or not, you need to keep in mind that we can make plans but we always need to be open to God changing those plans. If we become so stuck in our plans that we refuse to change course when God asks us to, we will miss opportunities to serve God and be blessed by Him. Sometimes God will ask you to make a big change -- like selling everything you own and bringing clean water to the people of Belize. Other times He might ask you to make a small change -- like cancelling your plans for the evening to spend time with a broken-hearted child. Whatever He asks you to do, don't be so tied to your plans that you can't make a detour when God asks. Proverbs 16:9 reminds us of this as it says "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." And Proverbs 19:21 states "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails."

Help your kids to be open to God's leading in their lives:
  • Talk with your kids about what they have planned for their day. Start asking them how they would change their plans if their friend got hurt or someone in their class needed help. Point out that having a plan for the day is a good idea, but God sometimes puts people in our paths that need our help and that requires a change in plans.

  • Give your child a task to plan -- it can be a party, an activity or just the schedule for the day. After they have it all planned, throw a kink in the works -- you're double-booked, you can't afford the event, you need to add extra people. See how your child handles the change. Talk with her about alternative options and point out the benefits of those options. Help your child understand that just because her plans got messed up doesn't mean it's the end of the world -- there are blessing to be had in all the options.
Children who can adapt to a changing situation are much more likely to be able to see where God is working and join Him there. They won't be so tied to their own plans that they can't change what they are doing to join God in His work. God's plan is always better than our own plans, even though it may not seem that way at first.

And the blessing in yesterday's busted plans? I got to spend the afternoon and evening with my youngest watching TV and snuggling -- and that's worth way more than three hours of missed work.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ingredients for Growth

We know a lot about how the human body grows in our house. On one hand, I have a child whom I can't keep clothed because she's growing so fast. On the other, I have a daughter who's endocrine system (the system in your body that controls growth) needs a little help. My oldest grows like a weed. Just this fall I've had to replace her entire wardrobe of pants because she's outgrown them. And don't even get me started on how often we have to buy shoes for the child. All the right ingredients are there for her to grow, and grow she does.

However, we have the exact opposite issue with my youngest. Her body doesn't produce the correct amount of growth hormone. Despite the fact that we feed her a well-balanced diet and everything else she needs to grow is in place, that missing hormone would keep her from growing if we did nothing. So, six nights a week we administer a dose of growth hormone to help her grow.

Just as my youngest can't grow well without the extra growth hormone, our kids can't grow spiritually, socially and emotionally without the right inputs from us. If we stand in the way of our children's growth by always protecting them from hurt or not offering them spiritual guidance, they won't be able to grow in these areas. We want our children to grow like the Bible tells us that Jesus did in Luke 2:52, "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."

Sometimes it's hard for us parents to step back and let our children grow. Growing isn't always easy. Sometimes it hurts. When kids grow physically, sometimes they get growing pains where their limbs will hurt. The same is true when they grow in other ways as well. If we keep them from anything that might hurt them, we remove opportunities for them to grow.

Now, I'm not advocating that we intentionally throw our children into painful situations, but sometimes its best to see if your children can work out an issue with a friend or if they can solve a problem for themselves. If you jump in and fix everything for them every time they might experience some hurt, you keep them from growing.

Illustrate this concept with your kids by planting a flower.
  • Ask your children what you need to plant a flower and gather those supplies. Make sure you have a pot, a seed, dirt and water.
  • Help your kids plant their seed in the pot. Make sure the seed has enough water and sunlight to sprout.
  • When it sprouts, point out to your children that the seed had to push its way to the surface to get to the sunlight so it can grow. Talk about how sometimes we have to push through difficult things -- a fight with a friend, a mean kid at school or learning to be comfortable with who we are -- so we can grow.
  • Put your child in charge of watering the seedling. Point out that rain doesn't always seem like a good thing. It's wet and sometimes cold, but to the flower, rain means growth. Without the rain, the plant can't grow. Talk to your children about how tough times in our lives are like rain -- the death of a loved one, difficulties at school or even the loss of a dream -- but without those tough times, we wouldn't grow like we need to. If everything was perfect all the time, it would be hard for us to have compassion for others going through difficult circumstances. Tough times also help us to rely on God and not on ourselves.
  • As your flower grows and blooms, remind your children that despite the hard work and the rain that the flower had to go through to grow, it became a beautiful bloom. We are like that, too. When we come through life's storms, we are always more beautiful on the other side if we allow God to help us grow through the trials.
I want to be clear that while it's OK to let a some challenges into your kids' lives, don't abandon them completely. Step in when things get beyond their age-appropriate ability to handle it. And, always be available for advice and comfort to help them handle the situation in which they find themselves.

Create the appropriate growth environment for your child, just as you did with your flower. Then, nurture them and watch them bloom.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Memory Monday: Romans 14:13

There's some strange-looking kids in the Fairchild house this week. My youngest has been transformed into the video-game character Mario and my oldest is looking a little thin -- much like a skeleton. We've been working on costumes because Halloween is next Sunday.

It always seems when we hit this time of the year that divisions appear in the ranks of Christ followers. Some see nothing wrong with letting their kids trick or treat on Halloween while others want nothing to do with the holiday. Each side has good reasons for their decisions and can use scripture to back up those decisions.

The debate generally continues straight through Christmas with the discussions about whether including Santa Claus in your Christmas celebrations detracts from Jesus. Many times these divisions within the ranks of Christian parents can cause hurt feelings.

In our house, we trick or treat on Halloween, and Santa makes a visit to our home on Christmas Eve. But I have friends who do neither, and some who don't trick or treat but think Santa is OK. So, who's right and who's wrong? In my opinion, no one.

The Bible is really clear about some things -- murder is wrong, Christ is the only way to God, and Jesus died for our sins. However, it gives no clear direction on other things, like Santa and Halloween. In my opinion, you should do whatever you feel is best for your family, making sure you base your decisions on time spent in prayer and God's word.

What we should not do, though, is judge others who may think differently. When Christ followers start judging each other on things on which there is no clear-cut answer, we break up the unity of the body of Christ. Today's memory verse speaks directly to that issue. "Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way." Our understanding of what causes a stumbling block to another person may differ, but if each of us is, to the best of our ability, trying to follow what God is telling us, then we have no right to judge one another.

This passage of scripture was addressing a difference of opinion over what foods to eat. Some people believed that Christians should only eat "clean" foods listed in the Law, while others believed that all food was permissible. The controversy was causing great division in the church. The problem was not the food, but the judgmental nature of the Christ-followers on each side of the issue.
While the points of division have changed, the problem remains among Christ-followers today. As we head toward the holiday season, starting with Halloween, keep this verse in your heart. Remember that while you may differ with another Christ-follower in how you approach the holidays, you are not to judge them. Instead, we are called to love each other. Healthy debate of the issue is great and thought-provoking for all parties. Judgmental condemnation over an issue like this is hurtful and divisive. If you agree on the important stuff -- Christ died to bridge the gap between our sinful selves and God, and He is the only way to God -- then judging someone else on the small stuff serves no purpose.
So, whether you will have skeletons and video-game characters wandering your home or you will be participating in your church's Sunday evening activities on Halloween, be loving and respectful of those Christ-followers who make a different choice than you.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Sneak Peek

I can't believe it's almost the end of October. Halloween is next week (and I haven't even had any candy corn yet!) and Thanksgiving and Christmas won't be far behind. I know the holiday season is always busy for everyone, and it can be hard to find the time to keep our focus where it belongs -- on God.

I always find it frustrating every year that during the holiday season -- when we're focusing on being thankful and the birth of Jesus -- that somehow God gets pushed to the side. We have school programs, Christmas parties, relatives visiting and Christmas shopping to do on top of our already busy schedules. At least in our family, it often seems like we simply squeeze God into our lives instead of putting the focus on Him.

I've been praying about how to make Everyday Truth the most useful for you during this busy season, and I hope you'll like what I've come up with. During the month of November, we're going to focus on giving thanks to God. Each day I'm going to post a devotional that you can do with your kids. Each day's devotional will be based on a name of God. As we go through the month, you and your kids will learn a lot about what God's character is. (Don't worry Memory Monday fans. I'll work a memory verse in on Mondays.)

God is such an abstract concept for so many adults and children alike. We tend to give him attributes based on what our own father figures were like. But, so many times, we create a picture of God that isn't accurate. By studying the names of God, we can create a true picture of who God is, and we can use that picture to be thankful for all that He has done and promised to do. I hope you and your kids will make it a point to start or end your day with Everyday Truth.

After Thanksgiving, we're going to tackle Christmas. From the Friday after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve, we're going to look at the different pieces of the story of the birth of Jesus. Each day you'll get some practical tips on keeping the focus on Jesus during the busiest time of the year. I promise these ideas won't add stress to your life or take much time, but they will help keep your family focused on Jesus' birth throughout the month of December.

I'm really looking forward to sharing the holidays with all of you, and I hope Everyday Truth will be a part of helping you create a Christ-centered holiday season for your family. I can't wait to get started.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Loving Obedience

I didn't want to get up this morning in time to write this blog. I really wanted to stay in my nice, warm bed for another half hour. Between work, hockey games, soccer games and other commitments, it's been a long time since I've gotten to sleep past 6 a.m. Getting up was tough, and it was so tempting to just stay in bed. What would it hurt to skip just one day of posting?

Apparently, God knows that one of you really needs to read this post this morning because He prodded me out of my cozy bed. This post was half-written in my head by the time I got up. In fact, I had incorporated it into my dream last night. I know that writing this blog is an act of obedience to God. Despite the fact that I don't always know what to write or how to say what needs to be said, I know that if I am faithful to show up at my keyboard, God will provide the words. It's not a matter of doing it because I want to; it's a matter of being faithful to what God has told me to do and letting Him work.

Obedience is an important concept to pass on to your children. We need our kids to understand that when God asks us to do something, all He asks is that we faithfully obey whether we want to or not and whether or not we see the purpose in it. If we are faithful, then God will bless our obedience.
  • Share the story of Noah with your children. You can find it in Genesis 6-9. This may be a familiar story to your kids, so let them tell you the story. Remind them that many scholars think that it had never rained before the flood. Ask them how hard they think it must have been for Noah to build a huge boat when the idea of a flood was not something he could really understand. Ask them if they think people made fun of Noah for building the ark. Point out that Noah's obedience resulted in Noah and his family being the only people who were saved from destruction.
  • Give your children a particularly distasteful chore to do -- cleaning the trash cans, picking up dog poop, cleaning the toilets. Don't allow them to argue with you about it, and tell them you expect it to be done well. When they are done, give them a special treat of some kind. Tell them that you are rewarding them for their obedience. Explain that God rewards us for our obedience even when we don't understand why we should obey. Over and over again in the Old Testament, God tells the Israelites, "If you obey, then I will reward you." One example is Exodus 19:5, "Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession."
  • Our obedience stems from our love for God. Tell your kids that you are going to play a game. They have to choose whom they want to obey. Give them two choices like Mom or the mean girl at school or your teacher or your dog. Make some of the choices fun, some wrong and some right. See which ones your kids pick. Talk about what makes them want to obey the people that they chose. Then ask them why they think we should obey God. Share John 14:15 with them "If you love me, you will obey what I command." Obedience is an outgrowth of love. If we love Jesus, then we should be willing to obey Him. Sometimes we can't see the importance of what He's asking us to do, but if He asks, our love should lead us to obey Him.
Remember that true obedience comes from inside you, not from someone putting pressure on you. If we want our kids to submit to God with joyful hearts, then they need help understanding how love and obedience are related. Be sure to share some times with your kids when you haven't wanted to obey what God has asked. Give them examples of how you were rewarded for your obedience.

And the next time God prods you to get out of bed early to do something for Him, do it. You never know how you'll be blessed.

Don't miss tomorrow's post. In November and December, I'm going to be doing some exciting things on the blog. I'm going to offer you a sneak peek tomorrow. Don't forget to check in.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I love a good surprise. I'm one of those people who won't even go looking for my Christmas presents because I want to be surprised on Christmas morning. I love surprise gifts, surprise visits and surprise compliments. They all make me happy.

Last night, on the way to soccer practice, my youngest daughter started to tell me something about a friend of hers, but then said "I can't tell you; it's a secret." Now, secrets are different than surprises and every child needs to know the difference between a good secret, or surprise, and a bad secret that can end in someone getting hurt.

I want to address the topic of secrets today because I think it's incredibly important for our kids to know the difference between a happy surprise and a harmful secret. Unfortunately, there are people in this world who will use a child's willingness to keep a secret to abuse that child. You want your kids to know that keeping secrets about being hurt or about their friends being hurt is wrong.

This is a tough conversation to have for some parents, but if we're not open and honest with our kids about it, we put them at risk. Ephesians 5:11-13 says "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible." By teaching your kids to not keep secrets about things that can hurt them or others is biblical. We are to expose the "fruitless deeds of darkness."

Please don't hesitate to talk with your kids about child abuse. Sometimes we hold back because we don't want our kids to be afraid of everyone, but you can talk with your kids and set up parameters for keeping happy secrets and telling a trusted adult when it's a secret that shouldn't be kept. And we can do it without making them afraid of everyone.
  • The next time the topic of secrets comes up, use the moment to talk with your kids about what constitutes a good secret and a bad one. Share Ephesians 5:11-13 with your kids, and ask them what they think would constitute a "fruitless deed of darkness." Talk about how some secrets are a way of keeping things hidden because they are wrong. Explain to your kids that they should never keep any secret about someone, including themselves, if it involves that person getting hurt or possibly getting hurt. Help your child identify trusted adults that they could talk to.
  • Give your children different situations, and ask them if it's a secret they should keep or one they should share. For example, ask them if they were planning a surprise party for their dad would that be a secret to keep or share. Then ask if one of their friends told them that a friend of their mom's was hurting them if that's a secret they should keep or share. Keep playing out situations in a non-threatening way to help your kids think through a situation before it happens.
  • Talk honestly with your children about the fact that some adults abuse kids. Let them know that if an adult ever hurts them, touches them or makes them uncomfortable that no matter who that person is or what that person tells them, they should tell an adult that they trust. Reassure your kids that most adults in the world are not out to hurt children.
By teaching your kids to make wise choices about keeping secrets and presenting it to them in a non-threatening manner, you are teaching them a biblical truth and protecting them at the same time. Find an everyday moment to have this conversation even if it makes you uncomfortable. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

More Pumpkin Patch Fun

My post yesterday got me to thinking about the pumpkin patch. Despite our struggles over actually choosing a pumpkin, heading to the pumpkin patch is one of my absolute favorite activities to do with my kids. We've been to the pumpkin patch on beautiful fall days, and we've been to the pumpkin patch when it is snowing. No mater when we go, we always have a great time sharing time together as a family.

My city-slicker kids love climbing in the wagon hooked to the back of the tractor and trekking out to the field where the pumpkins are grown. It gives them a glimpse of how our food is grown and what life on a farm entails. We pet the cows and play in the hay bale maze.

As I was writing yesterday's post, I was struck by just how much we can teach our kids while we're in the pumpkin patch. Pick one or two of these for this year's trip to the patch, and save a few of them for next year.
  • If your kids live in the city like mine do, this may be their only exposure to a plant that grows on a vine. Use the experience to illustrate John 15:5, which says "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." Show your kids how each pumpkin is connected to the vine by a stem or a "branch." Without the vine, the pumpkin will die. The vine brings important nutrients by way of the branch to the pumpkin. Jesus said that He is the vine. He provides everything that we need. We are the branches that bear the fruit. Our fruit is the fruit of the spirit and the people that we share Jesus with. Without Jesus we can't do any of those things. Jesus is our strength and our provider. Just like the pumpkin relies on the vine, we rely on Jesus.
  • If your pumpkin patch has a maze of any kind, walk through it with your children. When you get lost, ask them what would be the easiest way to find your way to the exit. You could go back to the beginning, but then you would be in the same place you started. You could keep wandering around aimlessly trying to get out or you could ask someone who has been in the maze before to show you the way out. Explain that the maze is like our lives sometimes. Sometimes we don't know which way to go, what decision to make. But, God knows where we are, and He knows which way we should turn. Just like you can ask someone to show you the exit of the maze, you can ask God to show you what decisions you should make.
  • Show your kids the different types of pumpkins. There are carving pumpkins, pie pumpkins and decorative pumpkins. Some pumpkins are white and some are orange. Just like people, God made different pumpkins to serve different purposes. The white pumpkin isn't prettier or better than the orange pumpkin, and a pie pumpkin isn't better than the carving pumpkin. They are simply different, with a different purpose to fill. God has a purpose for your child as well, one that only they can fill. If they try to be a pie pumpkin when they are supposed to be a carving pumpkin, everyone will be miserable.
  • Show your kids some pumpkin seeds. Show them how little the seed is in comparison with the fruit it becomes. Tell your kids that God's word is like the pumpkin seed. We can share a little bit of it with our friends. We, along with other people, can water that seed with love, prayer and some more of God's word. Sometimes that seed will turn into fruit and that person will become a Christ-follower. If we do what Psalm 119:11 tells us to and hide God's word in our heart, then, like a pumpkin, we have "seeds" inside of us that we can share with others. When those people that we share with become Christ-followers, they can share their "seeds." Before you know it, we have a whole pumpkin patch full of Christ-followers -- all from one little seed.
I recommend that you not try to share all of these on one pumpkin patch trip. Let your focus be on having fun and enjoying the day with your kids. Just take a few minutes to share a bit of God's truth with your kids during an everyday moment in your life. Ten years from now, you might be surprised to find out that your kids have never forgotten the lesson you taught them in the pumpkin patch.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Memory Monday 1 Peter 2:9

Last weekend, after our assortment of hockey and soccer games, we took the kids to the pumpkin patch. This is a yearly ritual in our family -- one that nearly always ends in an argument with my youngest. She always wants to buy the biggest, tallest, most magnificent pumpkin in the patch. My wallet does not ever want to buy that pumpkin -- thus the argument. We only get one pumpkin that is big enough to carve each year, then the girls get to pick a smaller pumpkin to decorate with markers and construction paper. It's the big pumpkin that causes all the drama.

Our pumpkin patch trip usually ends with my youngest stomping off or in tears. I've yet to figure out how to keep this task from becoming a power struggle with her. This year was no different. She chose a pumpkin that probably would have cost $20 all by itself, and we spent 10 minutes trying to persuade her of the merits of the smaller pumpkin we had chosen. Nothing we said could convince her until we pointed out that her pumpkin had a flaw -- one small hole. After we pointed out the flaw in her pumpkin, she was persuaded that the pumpkin we had chosen was going to be OK.

I have discovered when we are choosing pumpkins, it's not the fact that my youngest doesn't like the pumpkin we choose; it's that she wants to choose her own. The fact that she chose the pumpkin makes it valuable to her. Just as the fact that God chose us makes us valuable to Him. This week's verse, 1 Peter 2:9 says "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."

Every child needs to know not just that God loves them but that God chose them to be a part of His family. And it's not just children that need to hear this. Many adults have a hard time believing that God would choose them to be a part of His family. God loves each of you, and He chose you to be a part of His family. You are chosen and set apart by God, part of a holy nation.

If you haven't yet made your pumpkin patch trek this year, take a moment while you're there and use a couple of pumpkins to show your children that God chose them -- with all their faults and flaws -- to be part of His family.
  • Choose three pumpkins -- one "perfect" one, one slightly flawed and one rotten. Line them up and ask your child which pumpkin he would like to take home. He will probably choose the perfect one.
  • Explain to your child that while we are drawn to the perfect things, God chose us even though sometimes we look like the slightly flawed pumpkin and and sometimes we look like the rotten pumpkin. Despite that God chooses to offer us a place in His family.
  • Remind your child that God can take the imperfect (us) and turn it into something beautiful that He can use.
As you learn your verse this week, place a small pumpkin someplace where you and your kids can see it to remind you that God has chosen the imperfect pumpkins in the patch -- you -- to be a part of His family.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Be Ready

Do any of you have kids who are outgrowing clothes faster than you can buy them? We tried on all the clothes in my kids' closets two weeks ago and weeded out the ones that didn't fit. Just this week my oldest comes out of her room in a pair of pants that fit two weeks ago, and they ended an inch above her ankles. Seriously? The clothes budget really can't handle a child who grows a 1/2-inch a week.

We're pretty sure this latest growth spurt is fueled by some hormones, and I've been struggling with how to have some pretty important conversations with her about the changes her body will be going through in the next couple of years. She's stuck in that in-between stage where in some ways she wants desperately to be grown up, but in others she wants badly to remain a little girl. I've read all the parenting books and talked to some of my friends, but mostly I've been praying that God will give me the right opportunities to talk to her in a way that doesn't intimidate her or scare her about the changes of puberty.

Last night, I got just such an opportunity -- in the car, on the way home from soccer. It was actually a fun conversation. We kept it light but the conversation included some important information she needed to know. It opened the doors to future conversations that might be a bit more serious.

I came to the conclusion after our conversation last night that one of the most important pieces of being a parent is being ready to tackle any subject at any time. I didn't get into the car last night after soccer thinking we were going to discuss bras on the way home, but when the topic came up, I was ready to jump on it and use the time to impart some valuable information to my daughter.

Sometimes the best moments and conversations are the unplanned ones. But to take advantage of those moments, we have to be ready -- and we have to be listening. The key to following the instructions in Deuteronomy 6:6-9 is to be ready to teach your children in any moment. As parents, there are a few simple ways we can prepare ourselves for these precious conversations with our kids.

  • Spend time with God each day. If you aren't connected to God, then when your kids need you to teach them, you won't be ready. You need to be spending time in God's word each day and talking with him regularly. If you're not growing in your faith, it's going to be tough to help your kids grow.
  • Make memorizing scripture a part of your week. You can do it on your own or with your kids, but the more scripture you know, the easier it will be to present it to your children. Psalm 119:11 tells us "Your word I have hid in my heart that I might not sin against you." The more scripture that is in our hearts, the more we can recognize and avoid sin.
  • Pray about the things that you would like to talk about with your kids. Ask God to create the opportunities for you to talk with your kids. Then, be ready to recognize the opportunities when He gives them to you. Remember, that many times those opportunities may not look like what you had planned, but they are what God has planned.
The most effective conversations you will have with your kids are the ones that you didn't plan. But, only if you're ready.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rescued From the Darkness

I don't know how many of you watched the rescue of the Chilean miners yesterday, but I spent a good portion of my afternoon watching as that rescue capsule went up and down through that little hole in the ground, bringing those men who had been trapped back to the surface. It was amazing and brought tears to my eyes.

Watching the rescue of the last miner with my girls reminded me that we can use simple events in our lives to share truth with our kids. The rescue of the miners provides a perfect picture of hope and redemption that mirrors the way Christ rescued us. This is a great opportunity to weave a discussion of Jesus into an everyday conversation about this event. You can use this uplifting story with your kids to provide a visual picture of what it is that Jesus did for us. So, grab your newspaper or play the video footage on the web and share this story with your kids. Use it as a visual reminder of how Christ pulled us out of darkness and into the light.

  • Read a newspaper story or watch the video of the men being rescued with your kids. Ask your kids what they think it might have been like to be trapped for 69 days not really knowing if anyone was going to be able to get them out. Tell your kids that before we knew Christ, that is what we were like -- trapped in our sin with no way out.
  • Ask your kids what they think it might have been like down in the mine. For 17 days, the miners had no lights but the small ones on their helmets. They ate a tablespoon of tuna fish and a little bit of milk every 48 hours. They had no idea if anyone on the surface was even still looking for them. Their situation probably seemed hopeless. They were trapped with no way out. That's what life is like without Jesus. We are trapped in our sin, completely cut off from God. We live in darkness.
  • On the 17th day, though, those miners heard a blessed sound -- the sound of a hammer cutting through the rock. They knew they had been found. Can you imagine the joy those men felt when they heard that hammer? Each of us can hear the sound of God's hammer. Revelation 3:20 tells us "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." Jesus knocks on the door of every heart, offering a chance to be rescued from the darkness.
  • Even after the men in the mine knew that they were found, they had to wait to be rescued. Ask your kids what they think it must have been like to wait for two months for someone to get them out of that mine. How do you think they passed the time? Do you think there were moments of despair that they would ever get out? Sometimes in our lives, we walk through dark seasons. Times where we can't see the light, and we wonder if God has forgotten us. It seems as if there is no way out even though we know that God is in charge. In these times, we're a lot like the miners waiting to be rescued. We believe that Jesus saved us, but we have a hard time seeing how He's going to use the despair and trial we're experiencing. In those times, like the miners, we simply have to have faith that God is in control, just as the miners had faith that, even though they couldn't see the rescuers above them, they were working hard to rescue them.
  • Ask your kids to imagine the moment that the drill broke through the mine ceiling, finishing the shaft that would take the miners to the surface. Ask them how they would have felt. Then have them imagine being the first one to step into the capsule that would take them to the surface. That first miner took a leap of faith to get in the capsule. It had never been pulled up with anyone inside it. No one was absolutely sure that it wouldn't get stuck or break on the way back up. Just like the first miner, we have to step out in faith to follow Jesus. We can't see Him. Trusting Jesus takes faith. Hebrews 11:1 says "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." That first miner had hoped for rescue, but he still couldn't see the people rescuing him. Just like the miner, we can't see Jesus as He rescues us from whatever pit we are in, but faith allows us to be certain that he is there.
  • Last, watch the miners faces as the capsule is opened at the top of the rescue shaft. Study the joy on the faces of the miners as they see their loved ones again for the first time. These men truly understand what it means to be rescued from certain death, and the joy they feel at being rescued is all over their faces. The rescuers had to give all the miners sunglasses because the light at the top would have been too bright for their eyes after living in darkness for 69 days. That is what it is like for us when we accept God's rescue through Jesus. We step out of a world full of sin and darkness and into the light of Jesus. The joy we receive from knowing that Jesus rescued us from a lifetime separated from God is incomparable. Our world has gone from dark and dreary to full of light and joy.
Be sure to rejoice with your children that these 33 men were rescued yesterday. It truly is nothing short of a miracle. Pray with your kids and thank God for providing the resources and ingenuity that allowed people to create the machines and gear needed to get all these men safely back to the top. Then, thank God for rescuing you from a lifetime in a pit of darkness and separation from Him.

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Get Some Rest

    As I've mentioned before, I've gone back to work nearly full-time for the next month or so. I'm doing a temporary, fill-in job for the publishing company I worked for before I had the girls. I'm enjoying the challenge, but I find it's absolutely exhausting trying to keep up with all the girls' activities, the household chores and working. My hat is off to those of you who do this every day. I will definitely be glad to go back to my part-time, freelance lifestyle.

    Today, I have the day off. Yesterday, we finished putting together the largest newspaper of the year, which gets shipped off to the largest trade show of the year. After not working in an office for more than nine years, I worked seven of the past eight days. (And, yes, I wore shoes for all of them.) I've never been so glad to see a day off as I am to see today. I get the chance to catch up on some of my freelance work, do the laundry, find my kitchen counter somewhere under the piles of school papers and run some errands (I'm sure the library will be happy to see that week-overdue book). I'm also planning to take a little time to just relax.

    Life can be a whirlwind most of the time. That's not necessarily bad, but we need to be reminded that everyone needs some rest sometime (yes, that includes parents). Study after study has shown that getting the appropriate amount of rest makes you healthier and even smarter.

    Have you ever watched the show, "The Amazing Race," on TV? It's a reality show where 12 teams race around the world. It's a favorite in our house. I think the biggest factor on that show between winning and losing is fatigue. Fans of the show call it "killer fatigue," where people make dumb decisions because they are exhausted. We've all experienced that in our own lives.

    God knew that "killer fatigue" can lead to bad choices. He understood the value of rest. In Genesis 2:2, the Bible tells us "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work." Now, God doesn't have any trouble with "killer fatigue," so why would He need to rest? I think it was to set the example for us. Work hard, then rest.

    Too many of us and our kids are running on empty. "Killer fatigue" is taking its toll. Neither you nor your kids can function in a state of constant sleep deprivation. Making rest a priority in your home for both you and your kids will lead to a happier home with parents and kids who are able to make better decisions and relate better to one another.

    "But, we're so busy," you cry. "We can't do it." This week we've been talking about values. If you make getting enough rest a value in your home, you'll put a priority on it. You might have to make some tough choices sometimes, but it will pay off in the end. Take some steps this week toward making getting enough rest a priority in your home.
    • Have a set bedtime for your kids. Explain to them that getting enough rest is important for their health and their ability to make good decisions. My kids complain almost constantly that their bedtime is too early. Yet, when we put them to bed, they go to sleep. That's a sure sign that it's not too early. Remember that some kids require more sleep than others. I have one in my house that can't function on less than nine hours of sleep, while the other one can get by with seven.
    • Try to have some time during each week where you have nothing scheduled. It can be any time, but let that time remain unscheduled. Let your kids use that time to entertain themselves. This stretches their imaginations and gives them time to do the things they find most relaxing.
    • Don't forget to leave some time in your week for the things that relax you. Find some time to read a book, listen to music, exercise -- whatever it is that makes you feel rested and relaxed.
    • Talk with your kids about the importance of rest. Ask them to give you examples of how they feel when they are tired. Ask them if they think they can do their best when they are tired. Share Genesis 2:2 with them and talk about how God thinks rest is important. Ask them to describe the difference in how they feel when they are tired and how they feel when they are well-rested.
    So, this week, give yourself and your kids a break and make sure that everyone has some time for rest.

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    What's in Your Heart?

    I don't know about your kids, but my kids are all about the Silly Bandz craze. They leave the house for school every morning with so many of them on their arms that you can hardly see their wrists. For whatever reason, these little rubber bracelets shaped like things have become an important part of my kids' lives. I can motivate them to do almost anything by promising to buy them a pack of Silly Bandz.

    Yesterday, we talked about how rules are an extension of our values. We want our kids to follow rules so they can learn the values behind them. Today, I want to extend that conversation and talk about how our values are guided by our hearts. Just like my kids can be motivated by a pack of Silly Bandz, what we seek in our hearts creates our values. We need to be sure that our hearts are set on the right things or our values, and thus our rules will be out of whack.

    Matthew 6:19-21 says "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Our actions are always guided by that on which we set our hearts. The Bible is clear that our hearts should be set on God. In Matthew 22:37, Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God.

    We want God to be the first thing that our hearts are set on. When we put other things in God's place, our values become skewed. If we love money more than God, our priorities will be on the things that will make us more money. If we love our friends more than God, our priorities will be on things that bring us more popularity. Any time we put something in front of God, we make it an idol. Our heart becomes set on it, and it begins to have control in our lives.

    Before you look to teach this concept to your kids, examine your own life to see if you have put anything in front of God in your life. Are you seeking after Him or has your heart led you down a different path than the one that follows God? Are you letting some other "thing" take God's rightful place in your heart? Do you have rules in place that reflect values that aren't important to God? If so, examine the reasons for those rules and see if you really want to enforce them.

    You can use a quick demonstration to show your kids the importance of keeping your heart focused on God.
    • Have your kids choose a point in the distance -- a tree, a fencepost, etc. You choose a point in the opposite direction. Have them walk toward the point you chose while looking at the point they chose. It will be really difficult for them to get to the point you chose in any sort of straight line. Talk with them about how hard it is to go in one direction when your sights are set on something else. Share Matthew 6:21 with them and talk with them about how when we set our hearts on something, that thing will guide our actions.
    • Offer your kids a small prize for doing some action. Make them do something crazy that they wouldn't normally do. After you give them their prize ask them if they would have chosen to do that crazy thing on their own. Talk about how because their heart was set on the prize, they chose to do something outside the norm. While that's not always a bad thing, when our hearts our set on the wrong things, we can end up doing wrong things that we wouldn't normally do.
    • Talk with your kids about setting their hearts on God. Explain that when we put God first, we are more likely to do things that are pleasing to God. Ask your kids what types of things they think they will be more likely to do if their main goal is to please God. Help them list off the types of actions that God finds pleasing.
    Keeping our hearts fixed on God keeps us moving forward in the process of becoming more like Jesus. It directs our values, our rules and the atmosphere of our homes. This week, work to keep God in His rightful place in your life: first.

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Memory Monday: Matthew 22:37-39

    Does it honor God? Does it help others? These two simple questions can help you teach your kids values. Everything Jesus did, and everything found in the Old Testament law is summed up in these two questions.

    Our church is doing a sermon series on Raising G-rated Kids in an R-rated World. Yesterday's sermon focused on teaching your kids values. Our pastor yesterday suggested that the best way to teach values to your kids, which is what this blog is all about, is to reduce all the rules you have to these two questions. That's what Jesus did in today's Memory Monday verse. In Matthew 22:37-39, he says "Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

    Jesus took thousands of years of tradition and law and distilled them into two simple commands -- love God and love your neighbor. He kept the commands simple and easy to remember. And He based those commands on a value.

    While rules are important and set limits for our kids, we need to follow Jesus' example and remember to focus on the values behind the rules. We need to know what the most important values are in our life and base the rules in our households on those values. As our children learn the values, we'll find that they need fewer rules.

    If it sounds like I'm advocating that you have no rules, I'm not, but remember that if children only follow rules because they have to, they will just be rules. They won't learn anything from them and will just see them as restrictive. If you use the rules to teach values, eventually your children will rely on the value to guide their behavior. Use these ideas to set up rules in your home that reflect the values you want to teach.
    • Sit down with your spouse and decide what big values you want to emphasize. Start with the two that Jesus taught in this verse. You may want to distill those values down into smaller chunks like respect for others, helping others, telling the truth, etc. Decide what rules you need to have in place to reflect those values. Try to keep your list of rules as short as possible, depending on the age of your kids. Younger kids will need more rules because they don't already have a grasp on the value. Remember, the goal of having rules is to teach children a value. If you have rules in your home that don't reflect a certain value, it might be time to examine why you have that rule and whether it's worth enforcing.
    • Draw up a contract for your family. Have it clearly state the values in your home. It can be a simple document that simply lists the things you as a family value. For example, it might read something like this, "We, the Fairchild family, promise to: treat others with respect, honor our parents, refrain from lying, help others, play fairly, honor God and love each other." Have everyone sign the document and hang it somewhere where everyone can see it. When your kids break a rule based on a value in the contract, remind them of the action they agreed to in the contract. Having them sign the contract places responsibility for their actions on your kids and lets them know up front the values that your family thinks are important.
    • Use the questions "Does it honor God? Does it help others?" frequently. When your children are trying to make choices or they have made a poor choice, use these questions to help them understand why certain behaviors are wrong. This takes the emphasis off of the rule they broke and puts it squarely on the underlying value you want them to learn.
    As you learn this verse this week, don't forget to apply those questions to the things you are doing in your life. Do your actions honor God and help others? If they don't, you can talk until you're blue in the face about those values to your kids, but your own actions will undermine your teaching. Give your kids a good example to follow as you work to move from just enforcing rules to teaching them the values behind the rules.

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    To Shelter or Not to Shelter, That is the Question!

    A couple of months ago, we decided to introduce our girls to a movie we had loved when we were kids -- The Goonies. In my memory, this was a cute movie about a bunch of kids who stumbled onto a crime, then captured the criminals. I had forgotten about the cuss words and the potty humor. I cringed every time those kids on the movie opened their mouths. After the movie was over, we had a quick conversation about how we don't talk like the kids in the movie. I got two "I know, mom" responses and we went on with the evening.

    The whole scenario, though, brought up the question of how much should we shelter our kids from things like movies, books and music. Some families I know don't allow their children to watch anything that they haven't seen first. One of my friends reads nearly all of her daughter's books before she allows her daughter to read them. Other families I know don't seem to have any rules. Their kids are watching R-rated moves at the age of 7.

    It's a tough subject because there are no clear-cut answers in the Bible. Philippians 4:8 tells us "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." That list is a fine concept, but each of those things is subjective. Do you throw out an entire movie with a great message because it has a cuss word in it? Do you not read a work of great literature because you don't agree with the lifestyle the author lives? Do you prohibit your kids from listening to a song because the artist that sings it wears skimpy clothing at her concerts?

    It's a tough call as parents as to how much or how little to shelter our children from the influences in the world around them. If we shelter them too much, we leave them unprepared to navigate the world themselves, but if we expose them to too much, we run the risk of snatching their innocence away from them. If there are no rules and no filters, we leave our kids to navigate the treacherous waters of society alone, but if there are too many rules, we run the risk of making the forbidden seem better than the allowed.

    Personally, I think the answer lies somewhere between the two extremes. You know your kids best, and you know what they can and can't handle. Make your decisions based on your kids' personalities and temperaments. In our house, we set limits based on age and responsibility levels. Right now, my kids are allowed to watch G and PG-rated movies and play E and E10 (with approval) video games

    We also have a no limits policy on books. If you want to read a book, and we think it's not appropriate agewise, we'll put it aside and wait until you're old enough. If you want to read a book that we think the subject matter is questionable but it's age-appropriate, we'll read it together and discuss it.

    We try to strike a balance between setting some limits for our girls without making things more attractive by making them forbidden. This may not work for everyone, but, so far, it's working for us.

    I truly think this is one of the biggest challenges that Christ-following parents face. Our job is to help our kids filter the stuff the world throws at them. We need to stand in between them and the world, only letting in the things for which they are ready. We can't always control what they see and hear, but we can help them understand it and put it into a Christian perspective for them.

    To help your kids understand why you set limits on the things they see and hear, give them a colander and some sand with rocks in it. Have them filter the sand through the colander. When they are done, they should have rocks left in the colander. Explain that the sand is the stuff that is good for them to see and hear. It's age appropriate and it won't hurt them. Tell them that rocks are stuff that they either aren't ready for or could hurt them. Explain that you are the colander. It's your job to be a filter for things. As they get older and more responsible, the holes in the colander get bigger and more subjects can get through, but you still act as a filter. Explain that when the colander filters out the rocks, it's so the sand will be softer and smoother. As a parent, your role is to weed out some of the bumps in the path to make it easier for your kids to navigate life. The colander is a great visual for kids to understand your role in helping them to filter the world.

    No matter where you are in raising your kids or what size the holes in your colander are, always remain available to act as a filter for your kids. Don't be afraid to keep them from something you know they are not ready for. God gave you the role of colander. Be a good one.

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Impulse Control

    My youngest was at a tailgate party for her hockey team last week when one of the little boys on her team said to her "Girls playing hockey is stupid! You're stupid!" Now, before I go on with this story, keep in mind that this is my child who has never backed away from a fight, and by any measure, those were fighting words. Keep in mind, also, that she had a the perfect weapon -- a hockey stick -- in her hand. However, on this night, it appeared that everything we had been trying to tell her about hanging on to her tongue and not letting other people bother her, had sunk in. She looked at the little boy, said "So, what?" and walked away.

    I wasn't there to witness this breakthrough moment in my child's life, but I was so incredibly proud of her when she told me about it. I was even more proud when she told me, "I wanted to say, 'I think you're stupid,' but I didn't." In this one instance, my youngest had mastered the fine art of holding her tongue and taking the high road.

    Too often, we speak or act first and think later. We act on our first impulse, which in tension-filled situations is rarely the right one. Think of all the hurt feelings and fractured relationships that could have been prevented if one person in a situation had simply taken three seconds to think before they acted or spoke. Adults who should know better often don't practice this in their relationships and broken homes and hearts are often the result.

    Before we talk about our kids, today, take a moment and examine your own response to situations. Is it your natural reaction to speak first and think later or do you take a moment to look at the situation and decide on the best response? If you struggle with this, ask God to change your actions so they honor Him.

    James 1:19 says "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." The key word in this passage is slow. Too often, we are quick to speak and quick to take offense. If we simply slow down and take a moment to think, we will be able to either defuse a tense situation or simply walk away from a volatile one.

    Proverbs 10:19 tells us "When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." Being quicker to hold your tongue than to speak is the sign of a wise person. We want our children to be wise in their choices, so we need to teach them how to control their impulses and think before acting.
    • Institute a three-second rule. Encourage your kids to count to three before they decide to say or do  something. They should use that time to think about whether what they are about to say or do is the right thing to do. Have them use the criteria found in Ephesians 4:29 and Philippians 4:8 as a measure for their actions.
    • Show your kids how just taking a few seconds to think can make a huge difference in the result. Set up a quick obstacle course in the yard (it can be as simple as weaving in and out of some cones). Don't let your kids see the course until after you have given them instructions. As soon as they approach the course, they have to run it -- no time to think or plot a strategy. Time them on a stopwatch. Then, let them run it again, but give them a minute to look at the course to decide the best way around it. Time them again. They're second time will usually be faster. Talk about how taking time to think about a situation allows us to choose the best way to navigate through it -- just like with the obstacle course.
    • Prepare your children for different situations they might face by talking about them beforehand. Ask your kids what they would do if someone was picking on them or being mean to one of their friends. Plan strategies for dealing with a situation with tact and grace. When they are faced with those situations down the road, they will have already thought them through with you and will be better equipped to handle them.
    Employ these principles in your own life, so your kids have a model for how to deal with a touchy situation. This week, consciously take time to think before you act.

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010


    I love that so many of you have joined me in this journey of raising our kids together. I hope that Everyday Truth is a valuable resource for you and that you find practical tips that you can use to make a difference in your child's life. Every so often, I run across an amazing resource that offers new ideas or just really practical ways of approaching issues with your kids.

    Today, I want to share some of my favorite resources with you. I hope you find them to be as useful in your home as they have been in mine. I get no benefit from sharing these with you. The publishing companies aren't paying me to push their products. I've found these three books to be immensely valuabel in my own journey to raise my children by the guidelines found in Deuteronomy 6:6-9.

    • Mom's Ultimate Guide to the Tween Girl World by Nancy Rue. This is the best book I've read about the challenges facing tween girls. If you have a 9- to 12-year-old girl, you need this book. It has practical ways to talk with your tween girl about the issues facing her without being overbearing. It also offers practical activities to do with your daughter that will give you some insight into who she is becoming. I love this book.
    • Parenting Beyond Your Capacity by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof. This book will challenge the way you view the role of church in your children's lives. The main idea is that the family (represented by red) and the church (represented by yellow) can work together (making orange) and have a much greater impact on a child's life than each one working alone. This book will make you rethink how you partner with your church.
    • Spiritual Growth of Children from Focus on the Family. This book gives you a comprehensive look at what most children are capable of learning and understanding at different ages. While every child is different in what they can understand at what age, this book gives you a good place to start with your own children.

    I'd love to hear what your favorite resources are, be they a book, a CD or a web site. Leave a comment and share them with all of us.

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    This is What It Means to Be Held

    A friend of mine posted this video on her Facebook page the other day. If you've never heard this song, Held, by Natalie Grant, be sure to listen to it. We've all faced moments in our lives where the world seems to be falling down around us. We have no idea how we're going to make it through the next moment, much less the next day, week or year. The lyrics of this song are a beautiful reminder that though God never promised us an easy life with no heartbreak, He did promise to be there when the world falls apart.

    My favorite part of this song are the words:
    Who told us we'd be rescued?
    What has changed and why should we be saved from nightmares?
    We're asking why this happens to us who have died to live?
    It's unfair.
    This is what it means to be held.
    How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life and you survive.
    This is what it is to be loved
    And to know that the promise was when everything fell we'd be held.

    It's so tempting to think that because we have chosen to follow Jesus, that the logical extension of that is that God would make everything right in our world. But the truth is that not only does this imperfect world hold sickness, death, dissension and hurt, but the Bible even tells us that we will suffer for knowing Jesus. Philippians 1:29 tells us "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him."

    No matter what you've been through or what you will go through, God's hands are there to hold you. Whether it's the loss of a child, the dissolution of a marriage, the loss of a "normal" life because of a sick or disabled child or any other event that caused the "sacred" to be torn from your life, God is there. He's there to hold you up, to surround you with His love and strength. He's there to give you the strength to put one foot in front of the other when all you want to do is sink to the ground and never get up again. He's there when the pain is so great you feel like you will never live a normal day again. And He's there when you begin to notice again that the sun does still shine, and while your heart has been changed forever, your smile isn't lost forever. He's there when the pain begins to fade, and you step forward into a life that's different than the one you thought you were going to have. He's there every step of the way, holding you up and leading you on, making you stronger and using your pain to touch someone else's life somewhere down the road.

    Deuteronomy 31:6 says "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." The Israelites were marching into battle in this situation, but the promise applies to us, as well. God has promised to never leave or forsake us. Only because of that promise can we be strong and courageous, even in situations that leave us weak and gasping for breath. God's strength, not ours, carries us through.

    And as much as we hate it and would like to protect our kids from it, there are going to be times in their lives when it feels as if their lives are falling apart. There will be times when something "sacred" is torn from their lives, and they'll feel like the world is ending. It may be the illness or death of a friend, a sick teacher, parents getting divorced or the death of a grandparent. We need to make sure that our kids know God is there in the good times and the bad times. Before a crisis hits, we need to teach our children that God is always there, no matter where we go or how far away He may feel. He is always at our side.

    • Play hide and seek with your kids. When you finish, talk about who had the best hiding place and how hard it was to find them. Ask your kids if there's any place that they can go that God won't be with them. Ask them how they know that God is with them. Talk with them about the ways that God helps us through tough situations (sometimes He provides friends to rely on, sometimes He just give us a peace in our hearts). Remind your kids that God is always with them, even when you can't be.
    • Place a heavy brick or concrete block in front of your child (be sure it's something he can't lift on his own). Ask him to lift it and carry it a certain distance. When he can't, offer to help him carry it. As the two of you carry the block, talk about how the block represents something difficult in life. Talk about how your child couldn't carry the burden of the block himself; he needed help. Remind your child that God wants us to rely on His strength to carry us through difficult times, just like he relied on your strength to help him carry the block.
    • If your child is going through something difficult, pray for her. Try to think of a time when she could see God's hand in her life and remind her of how God's strength and love saw her through that difficult time. Sometimes remembering what God has done for us in the past can help us see His hand in the midst of an impossible situation.
    It's hard to watch and know how to help our kids when they are confronted with tragedy in their lives. The best thing we can do is be a picture of Jesus for them. We can wrap them up in our loving arms and provide the physical holding while God provides the strength. But the best thing we can do for them is to pray and place them in God's loving hands -- letting them experience "what it is to be held."

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Memory Monday: John 15:13

    We had some unexpected visitors for dinner last night. My next-door neighbor sliced her hand open and had to go to the emergency room to get some stitches, so her three girls spent the evening at our house. Our girls are all close friends, so the girls all thought it was an unexpected party. When she got home from the ER, my neighbor told me about a woman that she had seen there. The mom had brought her middle child in because he had hit his head. She had two other children with her as well, one in a stroller.

    My neighbor and I were talking about how glad we were that we had each other to depend on in situations like this one. However, my neighbor made the point that a couple of years ago, she might have been in the same situation as that mom at the ER tonight, with no one to call for help. That's a tough place to be as a parent. No matter where you live or how close your family lives to you, you need to cultivate friendships where you can call someone in the middle of the night for help. I'm blessed to have several friendships like that and even more blessed that some of them live in my neighborhood.

    Friendships like these model the description of friendship found in our verse for this week, John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." We're not often called to actually give up our physical lives for our friends, but laying down our lives may mean changing our plans to accommodate an unexpected crisis in a friends' life or even just taking the time to listen when your friend needs a sympathetic ear. Whatever it is, the joy you'll find in laying down your life for a friend is unmatched. And the relationship that forms when you do is much deeper than the superficial level we sometimes mistake for friendship.

    Begin teaching this precept to your kids when they begin making friends. Teach them to put others first, and show them the rewards of "laying down" their lives for their friends.
    • Give your kids three pieces of paper with the following words written on them, one on each piece of paper: Jesus, Others, Self. Ask your kids to put the papers in order of importance. The correct order is Jesus, Others, Self. If your children get the order correct, ask them to explain why they should put others before themselves. If they did not get the order correct, help them put the words in the correct order and talk about why Jesus and Others should be above ourselves.
    • Have your child think about one of their good friends. Ask her what makes that friend a good friend. Make a list of the qualities found in a good friend. Ask your child to think about whether she is an example of those qualities. Talk about situations where her friends might need her to be a good friend. Talk about what she might do in those situations. For example, you might ask her what she would do if someone was mean to her friend and her friend was upset. Or ask her what she would do if she had plans to go to the movies with another friend and her friend was upset because her grandmother had died unexpectedly. The point is to make your child realize that being a good friend sometimes requires us to be inconvenienced to help another person. In those cases, our attitude is everything to our friends.
    • When your child puts his friends first, be sure to ask him how it made him feel to help his friend out. Point out that despite the inconvenience to your child's schedule, helping a friend nearly always leads to a more meaningful friendship because that friend knows that he can count on your child. In laying down his life for his friend, your child has been a picture of Jesus to his friend.
    Remember that the best way to teach your kids about friendship is to model a good friendship for them. If you don't have close friends for whom you are willing to lay down your life, convincing your children to lay down their lives for their friends will be a difficult task.

    Friday, October 1, 2010

    Have an Open Door

    Our house has an open-door policy. If you're a friend of my child, then you are welcome here. However, once you cross the threshold of our house, I will treat you just like I treat my own children. I will expect you to obey the rules of our house and to treat others with respect. I'm not afraid to sit you in a chair for five minutes or take away whatever toy you were arguing over. I might even impart some Godly wisdom to you. We've never had a friend not want to come back.

    You see, I view my kids and their friends as my mission field. Right now, God has not called me to serve him full time in the heart of Africa or the wilds of the Amazon. He has given me two children who are my primary mission field. Whatever friends they bring into our lives become a part of my mission field as well. My prayer is that you would view your kids and their friends as your mission field as well.

    Make your home a welcoming place for your kids to bring their friends and let them bring them over frequently. When your kids ask if someone can come over on the spur of the moment, don't worry about whether your house is spotless or if you have enough food to feed everyone. If you have nothing else planned, say yes. I guarantee your kids will be happy with a bag of popcorn and a hot dog shared with their friends. My house is rarely spotless, but I've never had a kid say to me, "Wow, your house is a mess." They're usually just busy making it messier.

    By making your house a comfortable place for your kids and their friends, you create relationships with the people who have influence in your children's lives. As your kids get older, they become more and more interested in what their peers think. If you have those kids in your home all the time, then those kids know where you stand on important topics.

    Some of your kids' friends are hungry for an adult to be interested in them. You may be the only person in their lives who can teach them about Jesus. Take advantage of the opportunity to create relationships with your children's friends. You may turn out to be a huge influence on their lives.

    Matthew 19:14 says "Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.' " We want our homes to be so welcoming to our kids and their friends that we help draw these "little children" to Jesus. Here are five simple ways to have an impact on your kids and their friends:
    • Encourage your children to invite their friends over. Make time in your schedule for that to happen. When you go on some of your outings, encourage your kids to invite a friend along. You can learn a lot about your kids' friends when you take them somewhere with you.
    • Always keep some kid-friendly food on hand. Our house always has a package of hot dogs and a box of macaroni and cheese in it. I know that if I have extra mouths to feed unexpectedly, nearly every child will eat a hot dog and mac and cheese.
    • Create relationships with your kids' friends. Get to know what they like and don't like. Ask them about their activities and interests. Listen when they talk to you. Every child needs adults outside his own family that he can trust. You can be that person for some of your children's friends.
    • Don't change the way you interact with your kids when they have friends over. If you would normally intervene in a situation and offer some sage advice, do it even if your kids' friends are there. I've been known to break up an exchange of less-than-desireable words between my kids and their friends with a tube of toothpaste and an object lesson about how we can't put our words back in our mouths just like we can't put toothpaste back in the tube. It's important for your kids' friends to see what you believe and how that impacts your family.
    • Occasionally plan a special activity for when a friend is over. It can be something simple like making cookies or giving the kids big pieces of posterboard and letting them each draw part of a huge picture. Then hang the posterboard all over your wall. Make time spent at your house memorable, so your kids' friends will want to come back.
    Whatever you choose to do, go out of your way to be an influence for Christ on your kids and their friends. There's an old song that says "you're the only Jesus some will ever see, you're the only words of life some will ever read." Invest some time and energy in being the hands and feet of Jesus to the precious children that come through your front door.