Thursday, March 31, 2011

Opening Day

I've been looking forward to today for nearly a month. The girls don't know it yet, but I'm pulling them out of school early, and we're going to the baseball game. It's Opening Day of baseball season, the unofficial start
of spring -- except it's about 30 degrees out, and they're predicting rain showers.

This weather really wasn't what I pictured when I bought the tickets. I had visions in my mind of 70 degrees and sun. I'm sure the warm, sunny weather is on it's way -- it just isn't going to get here today.

Life is sometimes like today's Opening Day. Cloudy and stormy on days that we thought were going to be sunny and bright. Some of the biggest blessings that God has for us sometimes start with a storm in our lives. But God uses those things for good. He stretches and grows our character, and He creates good out of difficult circumstances.

The next time things don't go as planned in your life and your children's lives, use it as an opportunity to teach your children that God brings good out of the storm.
  • If a game gets rained out or your child gets sick and can't go to a party to which he was really looking forward, us it as a learning opportunity. Find some good in the situation and point it out to your child -- he gets to do something else fun instead of the game or he gets to watch lots of TV when he's sick. Help your child see that good can come out of the storms of life.
  • Make it a point to look back at a difficult circumstance when you have come through the other side. Talk with your kids about the good that came out of the situation. Point out places where your family grew stronger and places where God was at work even though it was difficult to see.
  • On days when it seems like the sun will never shine again, days when the whole world seems to be against your child, hold them close and let them know they are loved. Remind your children that God loves them with a neverending love. Share with your children the story of the Israelites who went through exile and despair, yet God said this to the Israelites in Jeremiah 31:1-3, "'At that time,' declares the LORD, 'I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.' This is what the LORD says: 'The people who survive the sword will find favor in the wilderness; I will come to give rest to Israel.' The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.'"
No matter the circumstance, God loves us. Just like with baseball, though the season may start dark and gloomy, sunny days will come at some point. And we may just look back on that dark and gloomy day as the starting point of something good.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Shake It Up

I have to admit that this week is making me want to turn in my mommy card. I'm behind on deadlines. My youngest has turned mouthy and decided she only has to obey when she wants to. My oldest is in the middle of math assessments, which means she's likely to burst into tears at the slightest provocation. I unexpectedly had a child home yesterday, which was the only day this week I had to work on my freelance projects. And, I'm getting a cold.

Sometimes the mommy grind gets old. We lose sight of the fact that these children are precious treasures because all we see are the difficult moments. And it often seems like these moments follow moments where we've been on a mommy high. I know a week ago, I didn't feel this way. All of this has come crashing in in the past two days.

I don't know when I'm going to catch up to my deadlines. I don't know when my youngest is going to decide it's easier to obey than to suffer the consequences. I don't know why testing stresses out my oldest so much. And I really don't know when my head is going to unstuff itself.

I do know that we need to shake things up a bit. We need a moment out of the hustle and bustle and frustration where we can just enjoy each other. Our moment is coming tomorrow. The girls and I and my dad are headed to baseball's opening day (shh, it's a surprise). I'm going to pick my girls up from school early, and we're going to spend the afternoon eating peanuts and Cracker Jacks and not caring if we ever get back.

You know what? The weather forecast looks awful -- 54 and rainy. Our local baseball team isn't very good. But I bet we have fun. I bet we forget about deadlines and crankiness and enjoy the time together. Ten years from now, we're not going to look back on this week and remember the orneriness of my youngest, the tears of my oldest or the looming deadlines. We're going to look at each other and say, "Remember when we went to Royals opening day in the rain?"

God tells us that our children are a blessing. Psalm 127:3-5 says "Children are a heritage from the LORD,
offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." In the daily grind of parenthood, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that our children are a blessing.

Sometimes we just need to take a moment to remember that they are a blessing. When circumstances conspire to make us want to hand over that parenting card, we need to find a time to remind ourselves of the blessing that they are. Whether it's a snowball fight, an unexpected trip to lunch, a quick game of tag or pizza and a movie at home, create moments in your life that remind you that you are blessed to be the parent of your children.

Because children grow up quickly. The days you think will never end are over far too soon. The moments you spend with your kids knowing you are blessed are the ones that you and they will remember.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Evidence of God

"I can't see!" is a cry we hear frequently from our youngest. She's a petite little thing and often finds herself the shortest person in the room. In a crowd, it's often tough for her to see what everyone else can see. Lucky for her, despite being almost 8 years old, she's still light enough to pick up. Many times, if there's something cool to see, we'll pick her up or find her something to stand on to make her taller so she can see whatever there is to see.

Kids always want to see what's going on. Not being able to see is a source of great frustration for my youngest. She'll do just about anything to be able to see what's going on. Kids are concrete thinkers, which can make it tough for them to grasp the reality of God. Sometimes, we need to lift our kids up so they can "see" God.

We are asking our children to believe in something they can't see, and we have to be careful to help them distinguish God from a fairy tale. It's easy for kids to get confused because we read them stories from all types of books, and then we read them Bible stories, too. We need to be careful to make the distinction between fiction stories and the Bible. From a young age, we want to make sure we're telling our children that all the stories in the Bible are true.

It's hard to understand that God is real when you can't see Him. Hebrews 11:1 says "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." Without faith, we can't have a relationship with God, and faith can be a big concept for kids to understand. Do your best to make God real to your kids even though they can't see Him.
  • Point out the evidence of God. God's creation is all around us. Have your child go out in the yard and find three things that God made. Talk about each thing and point out how amazing it is that He made such a variety of things.
  • Help your child think of times when God has helped them. Make a list of times that God has answered prayers or been present in your child's life. Thank God for being real and caring about us.
  • Take your kids outside on a windy day. Point out that you can't see the wind with your eyes, but you can see the evidence of it all around you. Talk about how God is like the wind. We can't see Him, but we can see the evidence that He exists all around us.
Be sure to act like God is real in your own life. If you tell your kids to have faith in something they can't see, but then you choose to rely on your own strength and ignore God, your kids won't see any reason to put their faith in God either. Rely on God and put your faith in Him. Remind your children that He is real and we see evidence of Him everywhere. Give your kids a boost, and help them to "see" a God in whom they can put their faith.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Memory Monday: I Blew It (1 John 1:9)

I spent Friday and Saturday night at our church's women's retreat. The theme for the retreat was "Rejoice!" I came home Saturday night tired but feeling refreshed and renewed. Then I promptly blew it as a parent.

I met my family at my oldest daughter's indoor soccer game. She had played an outdoor game in the snow earlier in the day, and her indoor game finished about the time she usually goes to bed. I was exhausted from staying up late the night before and teaching twice on Saturday. She was clearly exhausted from the sleepover she'd had while I was gone and playing two games that day. The combination did not end well.

As we were driving home from soccer my girls took turns telling me about the past two days. My oldest daughter told me she had forgotten to take the stuff to school for her science project and had gotten a 0 for the assignment. She also told me that her friends had given her some of their stuff but when her teacher asked her if she had brought her own stuff from home, she told him the truth and got the 0.

Did I take advantage of this opportunity to praise my child for taking her lumps even though a small lie would have saved her grade? Did I take a moment to encourage her for telling the truth instead of taking the easy way out? Nope. I took the opportunity to lecture her on responsibility, and after she went to bed, I wanted to smack myself.

God had given me a moment in which I got to see how everything we've been trying to teach our daughter about honesty has paid off. He offered me the chance to support and encourage her to do what's right even when there are no rewards. And I passed it up to focus on the less important issue.

Sure, my daughter needed to be reminded of the fact that she needs to be responsible for her homework, but what she really needed was to know that she had done the right thing in telling the truth. She looked to me to provide that for her, and I blew it.

So, what do we do when we mess up? Because it is inevitable that we are going to blow it on a regular basis. We pick ourselves up. Ask for forgiveness and move on.

Yesterday, I apologized to my daughter and offered her the praise and encouragement I should have offered her in the first place. We did talk about how she needs to be responsible for her assignments, but we didn't dwell on it.

I also asked God to forgive me for completely screwing up the opportunity he had given me and asked him to continue to offer up situations for me to teach my kids. The wonderful thing about God is that He forgives us and separates our sin from us, if we ask. 1 John 1:9 says "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

Memorize this verse this week and know that God is faithful, even when we blow it. If we ask, He will forgive us and offer us new opportunities.

So, if you've blown it with your kids this weekend. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, ask both God and your kids for forgiveness and be intentional in looking for the next opportunity to love and guide your children.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone (Part 2)

Yesterday, I wrote a post about relying on God's strength, not our own. Sometimes when I write a post, God, with His timely sense of humor, checks to see if I really practice what I preach. My morning yesterday was an excellent example of that.

I had the wonderful privilege of being invited to share with a local MOPS group yesterday. I had spent Wednesday afternoon preparing for my talk. I had some pretty handouts, a nifty PowerPoint presentation and a pretty polished presentation. I was feeling pretty good about things when I went to bed on Wednesday night.

Thursday morning, I sent my girls off to school and gathered all of my things. About 20 minutes before I needed to leave, I ran downstairs to print off my notes. To my horror, I discovered that my notes were nowhere to be found. They had disappeared into the electronic abyss.

Sitting in my chair, I looked heavenward and said "Are you serious? That verse I wrote about had better be true!" So, I sketched out a quick outline, said a fervent prayer that God would fulfill His promise in 2 Corinthians 12:9 and make His strength perfect in my weakness and went off to speak.

The morning went really well. The ladies in the MOPS group were engaging and welcoming, and not once did I feel nervous or lost as I spoke to them. I didn't give the most polished presentation. Instead, I spoke from my heart and shared some things I hadn't planned to share when I planned my talk. God showed up and you could feel His presence in the room. By the time it was over, I was actually feeling glad that God had thrown out my plan and gone with His instead.

You see, I know that God was busy yesterday, kicking the platform of my pride out from underneath my feet. He knew what those MOPS moms needed to hear, and it wasn't exactly what I had planned. He knew that I was relying on my own knowledge and ability more than I was relying on Him, so He stepped in to give both me and the MOPS moms the reminders that we needed.

Yesterday morning, I had two choices: I could rail at God and try to put my plan back together or I could surrender and go with His plan. When you're faced with those choices, I want to tell you it's always better to go with God's plan.

Ephesians 3:20 tells us "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!" God can do great things through us, but we have to get out of the way and let Him work. Sometimes he has to bring us to a place where our pride is in tatters and our choices are limited. But know this, God always shows up.

He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. When God changes our plans, He's often trying to teach us to rely on Him and let Him provide us with the strength and grace for the task. While I truly thought God was off his rocker yesterday morning, He left me with no choice but to trust in His grace and strength. When I did, He did so much more through me that I could "ask or imagine."

While I'm grateful for the lesson, I'm hoping I've learned it well enough that the notes for my talk at our church's women's retreat this weekend don't disappear into that electronic abyss as well. But if they do, I know God will show up and take charge.

If you have something that you're doing that you're relying on your own strength to tackle -- a tough parenting situation, a project at work or even a lesson you're getting ready to teach -- give it to God and ask Him to provide the grace and strength you need. Hand over your pride and watch God work.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

I have a friend who has a speaking engagement this weekend. She's an amazingly talented public speaker with a heart for other women. God nearly always speaks to me through her when I hear her speak. Yet, she tells me she's never comfortable speaking to a large group of women about God. It's way outside her comfort zone.

You see, she's always afraid she doesn't know enough about the Bible to be able to answer all the questions that will come her way. She's worried that she'll get it wrong. Yet, every time she speaks, God shows up in big ways.

Every time God asks us to step outside of our comfort zone, He is stretching and growing us. He is forcing us to rely on His strength and grace, not our own. When we get out of God's way and let Him do the work, He can do amazing things.

I'm often way outside my comfort zone when I write this blog and speak to mom's groups. I'm concerned that people will look at my kids and hold them to a higher standard. I'm sometimes reluctant to share the things God tells me to share because they make me vulnerable to hundreds of people I've never met. It's always uncomfortable to stand up in front of a group of people that I don't know and share what God has given me to share.

Yet, in those times when I obey and lay my struggles and concerns on the line, God always shows up in mighty, mighty ways. He uses the moments I'm most uncomfortable to teach me the most. The more I have to rely on Him for strength and wisdom, the more room I give Him to work in my life and the lives of others.

This lesson doesn't stop with us, though. Often, our kids are asked to step outside their comfort zones. God may ask them to share their faith with their friends. He may ask them to stand up for an unpopular child in their class. He may ask them to try out for a sports team or audition for a role in a play.

We need to help our kids understand that if we never step outside our comfort zone, then we deny God a chance to use us. God is not interested in our comfort; He is interested in our character. To stretch and grow our character, He sometimes needs to make us uncomfortable.

Help your kids overcome their reluctance to step outside their comfort zone.
  • Share with your kids some examples in your own life of when you stepped outside your comfort zone and God used you.
  • Remind your kids that God always provides the grace and strength that we need. Share 2 Corinthians 12:9 with your kids. "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me."
  • Illustrate this verse by placing a large cup and a small cup on the table. Tell your kids that the cups represents days in their lives. Fill the cups to the very top with water. Tell your kids that the water represents God's grace and power. Explain that God gives us enough grace and strength for each day. Some days we need lots of grace and strength, so the cup is big. Other days, we don't need as much, so the cup is smaller. But God gives us enough grace and strength for the things we are facing that day. He doesn't overflow our cup and expect us to save some grace and strength for tomorrow or next week. He doesn't underfill our cup so we are struggling under our own power. He gives us exactly what we need for the day we are on.
  • Encourage your kids not to let fear keep them from doing the things that God has asked them to do. Fear has no place in our lives, even when we are stepping outside our comfort zone. 2 Timothy 1:7 says "For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." Help your child give his fear to God and step out in faith that God will give him the power and strength he needs to step out of his comfort zone.
Remember that often it is when we are most uncomfortable that God is able to use us the best. Rely on His power and strength to step outside your comfort zone -- and watch Him do amazing things.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mercies in Disguise

I heard a new song on the radio the other day called Blessings, sung by Laura Story. The words to the song so stunned me that I nearly had to pull over the car to listen. If you haven't heard it, check it out here:

The words to the chorus are:

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops

What if Your healing comes through tears

What if a thousand sleepless nights

Are what it takes to know You’re near

What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

I know that God uses difficult things in our lives to help us grow, but this gave me a whole new perspective on the tough stuff that happens in life. Now, God never causes bad things to happen to us, but He doesn't always stop things from happening. The consequences of sin are that we live in an imperfect world with death, disease and tragedy.

But this song made me stop and reflect on the fact that sometimes it takes those things to get my attention. Sometimes in order to get as close to God as possible it takes a tragedy for me to draw near to Him. Sometimes the trials of this life are His mercies in disguise. I look back at moments in my life when I've dealt with stuff that at that moment I could not possibly believe I would find good in, but I find that those are the moments when my relationship with God grew the most.

If you look back on those moments in your life when you were at your lowest, you will probably find that God was right there with you, carrying you along. You may have felt closer to God at your lowest low than you did at your highest high.

Teaching our kids to look for God in the midst of trouble is an important part of helping them mature as Christ followers. Following Jesus doesn't put some magic shield around us that keeps us from dealing with any of the tragedy that happens in this imperfect world. Our kids need to know that God is there in the good times and the bad times, and they can rely on Him on all the time.
  • When things don't go your child's way, remind them that God is always near. Draw your child a picture of a fork in the road. Explain that every time we hit a crisis, we can go down one of two paths. We can walk the road with God or we can walk away from God. God never moves, but we choose to walk beside Him or far away from Him. Walking the road with Him doesn't mean that the crisis will go away, but it does mean we can draw on God's wisdom and love as we walk that road.
  • When your child is in the midst of a crisis, pray with her. Show her how to ask God to be with her and to help her deal with whatever comes her way. Ask God to be visible in the way He shows His love to her. Ask for wisdom in dealing with the issue.
  • After the crisis has passed, help your child identify ways in which he grew through the crisis. Talk about anything good that has come out of dealing with the issue. Ask your child how he feels about how God helped him throughout the crisis. By identifying the ways in which God used something bad to create something good, you help your child see God at work. Remind your child of Romans 8:28, which says "All things work together for good for those who love Him."
Whatever crisis you're facing today or will face in the future, keep in mind that sometimes difficult things allow us to see God more clearly and feel His presence more keenly. They are His mercies in disguise.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Who Are Your People?

Our church is doing a series called "Sent." The idea behind the series is that we are all ministers, and God has put us in a certain place at a certain time to minister to a certain set of people. This past Sunday, one of our pastors asked the question "Who are your people?"

There's a big map of our metro area in the foyer of our church. We're supposed to stick a pushpin in the place where we plan to minister. I'm having trouble deciding where to put my pin because God has clearly told me that "my people" are you, the readers of this blog and the women's groups to whom I speak. You don't fit neatly on our map because you range from being my next door neighbor to being someone who lives in Nigeria. I hear from a reader of this blog at least once a week, either through e-mail, comments or the Facebook page, and I love it. I love having the opportunity to pour God's love and wisdom into your lives.

But, like our pastor on Sunday said, you have different people than I have. You have people in your life on whom you can pour out God's love. God has called you to minister to a certain group of people in your sphere of influence. Those people may be your children and their friends. It may be the people with whom you work. It may be the people who live on your street. Or it may be a worldwide audience that you can reach through the World Wide Web. Whoever they are, they are "your people."

One of the religious leaders of the day asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. Jesus told them "'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.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40) If we are seeking after God, then we will love Him and love our neighbors -- otherwise known as "our people."

If you aren't sure to whom God has called you to minister, spend some time with God asking Him to show you who your people are. Because you definitely have a set of people to whom you are best equipped to minister. Figure out who they are and take steps to be a part of their lives -- put yourself in a position to show and share God's love to them.

But don't stop there. Teach your kids to be ministers as well. Your kids have "people," too. They come into contact with other children and adults that you don't. Your kids don't have to preach from the street corner, but they can be effective in loving their "neighbors," too.
  • Talk with your kids about the idea that God has put them in a certain place at a certain time to minister to a certain set of people. Encourage them to look for opportunities to show God's love to others.
  • Make a list of things that your kids can do to help others that will carry out the commandment to "Love your neighbor as yourself." Then encourage your kids to pick one thing off the list every day to do for someone else.
  • Talk with your kids about the fact that the church is not a building. The church is the people. God calls the church to minister to the rest of the world. We do that by being a picture of God's love to the people with whom we come in contact. Romans 10:15 says "And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'" We want our kids to have beautiful feet and bring the good news of Jesus to their "people."
As you go throughout your day today, view the people with whom you come into contact as "your people." Answer the call to minister to those people. As your family steps out the front door, begin today to have "beautiful feet" as you identify and love "your people."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Memory Monday: Overextended (Matthew 11:28)

I had a minor meltdown this weekend -- over a paper towel holder. The paper towel holder in our kitchen broke several months ago, so my husband went out and bought a new one. For some reason, almost every time I tear off a paper towel, the roll falls out of the holder. Usually, I grumble a bit and put the paper towels back in the holder. On Saturday, however, I was trying to clean up the kitchen (which I really didn't want to be doing), went to get a paper towel and the roll fell down. So, I did the logical thing and promptly burst into tears.

Now, clearly the issue was not that the paper towels keep falling down (although it is annoying, especially since no one else in my family seems to have the same problem). The issue was that I was tired and overwhelmed. My to-do list for last week and this week is a mile long. I'm in the middle of meeting deadlines for the biggest freelance project I do all year, I'm speaking to two different groups this week, my girls head back to school and activities and I was trying to get everything sorted and tagged for the semi-annual consignment sale I take part in.

To put it simply, I am overextended. I simply don't have enough time and energy to do all of this well, so I'm burning the candle on both ends trying to get it all done. I don't know about you, but when I get overextended, the people that take the brunt end of  my tired crabbiness are the people that I love the most -- my husband and kids.

My girls were on spring break last week, and I wasn't a very good mom all week. I really just wanted my girls to entertain themselves so I could get all of my work done. I didn't look for and take advantage of the teachable moments God sent my way. I was way too busy trying to do everything else. So, when my girls got into fights with each other or didn't pick up after themselves, I was more likely to grumble or yell than I was to take a moment to teach. My bad.

Guess what else I wasn't doing last week? Spending daily time with God. I wasn't taking the time to let God fill me up, so I could fill others up with the overflow of His love. I was trying to do it all myself. I was clearly not very successful. Sure I was tired and overburdened, but Jesus was really clear about what we should do with our weariness. Matthew 11:28-29 says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I don't know about you, but I could sure use some of that rest. When we take our cares, worries and weariness to Jesus, He carries the load. When we're doing the things that He wants us to do and not the things that everyone else asks us to do, we carry an easy and light load. It's when we start piling on all those things that seem good but only sap our energy and time that we create a heavy load for ourselves.

  • As you memorize this verse this week, take a minute to examine your schedule. Are you weary? Are you and your kids overscheduled? Have you taken on burdens that you were never meant to carry? Turn your schedule and your commitments over to God and ask Him to help you sort out what He wants you to do. Say no to everything else.
  • Find time every day this week to let God fill you up, so you can fill up others with His love. Don't be discouraged by your to-do list. When we let God have the hours in our days, He can get us through that mammoth list with grace and love (and no tears over the paper towels).
  • If you had a crummy attitude with your family last week, or even yesterday, turn it over to God and ask Him to help you do better today. Don't dwell on what you failed at yesterday. Look at the possibilities found in today.
  • Lastly, practice saying "No." Consider every request in the light of if it's something God is asking you to do. If it's not, then say "No."

I'll be working on all of these things this week. I hope you'll join me in getting rid of those burdens and weariness and taking up the light and easy yoke that Jesus offered us.

Friday, March 18, 2011


My youngest doesn't like to wait. My husband and I often tell her that we're not sure which line she was in when God was handing out patience, but it clearly wasn't the patience line. When she wants something, she wants it now. We spend a lot of time reminding her that sometimes we have to wait for the things that we want.

I don't know anyone who likes to wait. I've never seen anyone look at a long line and break into celebration because they're going to have to wait. Our impatience often carries over in our requests to God. We want Him to answer our prayers in the way that we want -- right now. Yet, sometimes, God asks us to wait.

Those waiting times are important. When we wait on God, He can teach us things that we can't learn in any other way. He can teach us to temper our impatience. He can help us to learn that His way is always best. Waiting forces us to rely on God and not on ourselves. God uses the waiting times to mold us into the people that He needs us to be to carry out our purpose in His plan.

I'll be honest. I hate to wait, too. I always look for the shortest line at the grocery. I hate even the thought of having to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles because the lines there take half a day. I don't like to wait for answers. I'm even impatient when I have to wait for a book to come in at the library.

Yet when I look at my life, I see that it was in the waiting times that I relied on God the most. Waiting, especially when the answers are important, forces us to look to God for strength and answers. A child in the hospital, a job on the line or a dream in the works all make us impatient, yet many times put us in a situation where waiting is the only option with nowhere to turn but to God. It is in the waiting times that we are often broken and available to be used by God.

So, the next time you or your children have to wait, use the opportunity to remind them and you of the ways that God can use the waiting times.
  • The next time your child is waiting for something big -- a birthday party, a trip to the pool, a friend to come over -- and is impatient, remind her that waiting often makes the event seem that much better because we get the opportunity to anticipate the event. Waiting gives us the opportunity to plan and enjoy the time leading up to a big event.
  • When your child is waiting for something important -- test scores, acceptance into a camp, a call to tell them they made the team -- help her understand that waiting is a time to rely on God. Whether the answer is what we want to hear or not, God has a plan. When we rely on Him during the waiting, we're prepared for any answers because our strength comes from Him.
  • When your child is waiting on God for an answer to prayer, remind him that God hears us when we pray, but sometimes He asks us to wait. Psalm 38:15 says "LORD, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God." God's plan sometimes requires that we wait. Sometimes God wants to teach us patience. Sometimes He wants us to acknowledge that He is in control. And sometimes we need to wait simply because all the pieces aren't in place yet.
  • When your family is in a waiting mode, memorize Isaiah 40:31. "But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." Remind your family that waiting on God makes us strong.
Whatever it is that you or your family is waiting for, remember that God uses the waiting time to make us strong and teach us to rely on Him. Waiting may not be fun, but sometimes it is necessary.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Season for Conflict

I love the sounds when the weather turns warm -- the sounds of children playing outside. Usually my yard is filled with the sounds of my girls and the two neighbor laughing and talking. But I've noticed every year at the beginning of spring, I hear a lot of another sound as well -- arguing.

After spending the winter indoors and not playing together as much, each spring the girls have to re-learn how to deal with disagreements and misunderstandings. Yesterday was one of the first really nice days we had. I was working inside while the girls were playing. All of a sudden I heard my youngest yell something and stomp up the steps. When she came to the door, I was waiting for her. We had a short talk about the tone of voice in which we talk to our friends, and then I marched her back outside to apologize to her friends and her sister.

A short time later, my older daughter came in crying because one of the girls had accidentally hit her with a stick. We cleaned up the injury, and she went back outside. As she went out, she said to me "I don't want to play that game any more." (I thought that was a pretty good idea since I'm never in favor of games that include whacking each other with sticks.) Unfortunately one of the other girls didn't hear the whole statement and thought she said "I don't want to play with her anymore." So, not five minutes later, three of the girls were back in my house needing me to help sort out the issue.

As much as the interruptions were frustrating for me and as tempting as it was to say "Why don't you all play by yourselves," these moments are opportunities for me to teach my kids how to appropriately deal with conflict. If they can learn to deal with their disagreements with others at this age, their lives will be so much easier as they get older. When your children have disagreements with friends or siblings, take the time to teach them appropriate ways to untangle their disagreements and misunderstandings.
  • Remind your children that the only thing they can control in a disagreement is their own reactions. They can control the tone of their voices, what they say in response to another person and their actions. Share with them that Proverbs 15:1 says "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Help your kids understand that when we yell at someone or say not nice things to them, it doesn't make them want to do anything that we ask.
  • Even in the midst of disagreement, we should put others first. Luke 6:31 tells us "Do to others as you would have them do to you." Even when we are upset, we need to treat others as we would want to be treated. When you see behavior from your child toward another child that is inappropriate, ask your child how it would make them feel if the other child had done that thing to him.
  • Give your child tools to handle conflict. Encourage them not to use "always" and "never" statements. When we use those words in a statement, it's rarely ever true. No one always or never does something all the time. Instead, equip your kids with "I feel" statements. Encourage them to say things like "When you do that, I feel ..." This is less accusatory of the other person, but still allows your child to deal with whatever issue is the problem.
  • Don't let disagreements fester. I have girls, and little girls have a tendency to hold a grudge. They can go for days without speaking to one another over something silly. When we let anger and disagreements fester, they only get worse. That's why Ephesians 4:26-27 says "In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." It's not unusual for our doorbell to ring after the girls have had a disagreement with the neighbor girls, and we'll find the neighbor's on our doorstep ready to apologize. The same is true for my girls. We encourage them to go right the wrong right away rather than letting it sit until the next day.
  • Don't hesitate to get involved to help your children solve their conflict. Modeling appropriate conflict resolution is the best way for your kids to learn it. Be gentle and bring some humor in to diffuse the situation when possible.
As the spring turns to summer, I hope that my kids will begin to use their conflict resolution skills and I'll have to be involved less often. But until then, we need to be ready to step in and teach, even when our kids' conflicts interrupt our tasks because this is a skill that can only be taught.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I have to be honest, as a parent, one of my favorite verses in the Bible is Ephesians 6:1, "Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right." I don't have any trouble working that verse into my conversations with my kids.

It might appear that Ephesians 6:1 gives parents complete authority. Tell your kids to do something, and God says they have to obey. However, context is everything when we're studying God's word, and if you keep reading in Ephesians 6, you come across another verse that I don't like quite so much. Ephesians 6:4 says "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."

Too often, I fail at not exasperating my children. I give orders without instruction. I expect perfection when I'm not perfect. I let anger get in the way of offering instructive discipline.

God gave the instruction for children to obey their parents, so that our children could learn to submit to His authority. The parent-child relationship is an earthly picture of our heavenly relationship with God. By putting parents in authority over their children, God set up a great teaching tool for learning to submit. But if we abuse that authority and expect obedience without love and understanding, we don't give our kids a good picture of godly authority and submission.

There are times when your kids need to obey you without question. If you yell "Stop!" because a car is coming, your children need to stop. There's no time to explain that a car is coming. When our children are very young, it's enough for our kids to know that mom or dad said don't do that, but as our kids get a bit older, they begin to question why they need to follow our instructions.

If we fail to teach our kids that obedience to parents is a form of obedience to God, and we refuse to offer up some reasons for their obedience, we exasperate them with our demands. Sometimes, "Because I said so" is an OK answer. Other times, it's important for us to explain some of the reasons behind our requests. God gives us this example. When He asks us to do things, sometimes it will be very clear why we need to do that thing. God tells us not to lie. It's easy to see that lying has consequences and can cause lots of hurt. God sometimes asks us to jump into situations where it's not easy to see why we need to be there, but He still expects obedience.

Help your kids understand why obedience to you is important.
  • Remind your kids that God commands us to obey Him. Obedience is important to God because if we won't follow what He asks, we can't fill our spot in His plan.
  • Talk with your kids about the reasons that God gave them parents. Talk about how He put them in your care so you could care for them, love them and protect them. Sometimes doing those things requires that they obey you.
  • When possible, explain the reason behind your requests to your kids. Don't reason with them or rationalize your request, simply give them an explanation. Expect them to obey the request even with the additional information. Don't let your kids turn it into a debate.
Remember that learning to obey you is an essential part of your kids learning to obey God. But the only way they can learn that lesson well is if we do our part to keep from exasperating them along the way.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spring Cleaning

We're on spring break this week, so I'm taking advantage of having the girls home and using some of our time to clean out their rooms. We're going through closets, drawers, bookshelves and under beds. We're getting rid of toys we've outgrown, clothes we've outgrown and books we no longer read.

We cleaned out my oldest daughter's closet yesterday. I was amazed at the number of things we got rid of. She is definitely growing up. To some degree, it makes me sad that we're cleaning out a lot of the toys in her room. The Polly Pockets and the Littlest Pet Shop toys are in a pile to be sold at the upcoming consignment sale. We have a stack of stuffed animals that are going, too. Those toys have been replaced with sketch pads and drawing tools, Nintendo DS games and craft supplies.

As they mature physically, our children begin to outgrow childish things. Their interests change and they choose new things that hold their interests. If we kept every toy and book my kids have ever owned, we wouldn't have room for anything new. My kids would be stuck with things that no longer hold their interest, things that don't fit their maturity level, and things that don't help them stretch and grow.

The same is true as we mature spiritually, as well. As our children grow, we need to give them more spiritual meat just like we switch out their toys and books. If we continue to give our children a steady diet of simple truths and don't begin to add in meatier topics, we don't give our children the wisdom and understanding they need to navigate the more complex world around them.

1 Corinthians 13:11 says "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me." Paul understood that part of following Christ is growing in our wisdom and knowledge of Him. As we mature spiritually, we become more like Jesus. If we refuse to grow spiritually, then God can't use us in the way He would like.

I'm not encouraging you to push your children to grow up before they are ready. I think the world does enough of that for us, but when your children are ready to tackle some tougher issues like why bad things happen, how to deal with difficult people or sex, don't hold them back by not giving them the spiritual wisdom they need. If we don't guide our children through the rough waters of maturing, they'll find someone who will. And we might not like what those other people have to say.

Help your children grow. Help them understand what God has to say about the tough subjects.
  • Educate yourself on those tough topics before your kids get there. Read up on what the Bible has to say. Seek wisdom from other Christ-following parents who have already walked the road you're on.
  • When they begin to ask questions, answer them at an age-appropriate level. Don't ignore the topic or your kids may decide you're not someone they can talk to about tough topics.
  • Always rely on the Scriptures as the base source for wisdom. No matter what some parenting book or blog has to say about a topic, if it doesn't line up with Scripture, it's not worth using.
  • Be open to talking about anything even if it makes you uncomfortable. If your kids are asking questions about a topic, they already know something about it. You have an opportunity to help form their opinions on the topic. Don't pass it up.
As difficult as it is for us sometimes, we have to let our children put aside childish things as they grow up. We wouldn't really want them to stay little forever. Help guide your children as they mature both physically and spiritually.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Memory Monday: Looking at a Piece of the Puzzle (Isaiah 55:8)

Today is the first day of spring break. My kids are sleeping in, and we are looking forward to a week of very few plans and lots of relaxation time. I had big plans for my kids to spend the week playing outside and just enjoying some time off. Until my oldest fell out of a tree on Saturday and hurt her arm. We now have a temporary cast, a sling and a trip to the doctor tomorrow to decide if her elbow has a hairline fracture or if it was just a bad sprain.

This was not exactly what I was thinking of when I was planning spring break. I'm beginning to think it's not a vacation in the Fairchild house unless someone gets sick or hurts herself. So, we're modifying our plans, and I'm trying to come up with things we can do inside to keep my girls entertained (did I mention that it snowed last night, too?).

As my plans for spring break imploded, I was reminded that God needs us to be flexible. Often, his plans are not my plans. While I find it frustrating when my plans get changed, I usually find that He has better plans than mine. I can't begin to understand how all the things that happen fit into God's grand plan, but I only get to see a small part of the picture. God sees the whole picture.

Today's Memory Monday verse reminds us of this. Isaiah 55:8 says "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD." God doesn't see the world the way we do. He sees everything in light of how it will bring Him glory. He wants us to continually become more like Jesus. Sometimes that means that we need to be less comfortable and more flexible so that He can use us in great ways. There are things that we can only learn when we are uncomfortable and stretching and growing.

As you memorize this verse this week, remind your kids that God is more interested in our character than He is in our comfort. It is only when we are open to His plans and becoming more like Jesus that we are ultimately useful as part of God's plan.

Give your kids a visual picture of what we see versus what God sees when it comes to His plan. Work a puzzle with your kids. Take a piece out of the middle. Tell your kids that this puzzle piece is the amount of God's plan that we can see. By itself, the puzzle piece doesn't make a whole picture, but when we put the puzzle piece into the puzzle, it makes an entire picture. God can see the whole puzzle, but we can only see our particular piece, which might not always make a whole lot of sense on its own. We need to trust that God understands the big picture even if we can't see it.

If something happens this week that stretches your patience or changes your plans, remember that God needs you to be flexible so you can fill your place in His plan. He might be working on your character so you can be of more use to Him.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lessons I Learned from My Daughter's Hair

If you're like me, you woke up this morning to the news of a huge earthquake in Japan and a possible tsunami on the West Coast. Please take a moment to pray for those in Japan and those in the path of the tsunami. Everyday Truth has some regular readers in Japan. Pray for them as well. If you're one of those regular readers in Japan, give us a shout out to let us know how you're doing and how we can pray for you.

Some of you will face questions today from your kids about why God lets disasters like this happen. Check out this post on Explaining the Unexplainable for some tips on talking to your kids about tragedy.

My youngest got something in her hair yesterday. Now, that might not sound like a big deal, but my youngest has thick, corkscrew curly hair. To make matters worse, her hair is in desperate need of a haircut, which means it is at its thickest. Some mornings, it's tough to get a pick through it, much less a fine-toothed comb. Top that off with a tender-headed kid, and you can imagine how my afternoon went yesterday. By the time we got done, she was in tears and I was frustrated.

After everyone was in bed last night, I started thinking about how sin is a lot like the stuff my youngest got in her hair. It gets stuck in our lives, and sometimes it's really hard to get out. Once Satan gets a foothold in our lives through sin, he doesn't want to let go easily. And unlike the nasty stuff in my daughter's hair, sin can masquerade as something nice. It can be enjoyable and tempting. In the end, though, it will lead us to the same result I experienced yesterday -- frustration and sadness.

The other thing about sin is that it rarely stays in just one area of our lives. Once it gets its claws into one area of our lives, it wants to spread to other areas. And then it's even harder to get rid of. The only way to get rid of it is to turn it over to God, and let Him work on it. Psalm 103:12 tells us "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." But, we have to ask God to forgive us for our sin and to help us stop sinning. 1 John 1:9 promises "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

Help your kids understand what sin looks like in their lives and how it can spread if we don't confess it to God.
  • Give your kids a coffee filter or a napkin. Drip some water with red food coloring in it on the coffee filter or napkin. Watch the stain spread. Talk with your kids about how sin is like that water on the coffee filter. It starts as a little spot, but if we don't get rid of it by confessing it to God and asking for His forgiveness, it can start to take over our lives, just like the red water spread across the napkin.
  • Take a square of fabric or an old T-shirt and use a permanent black marker to draw on it. Then ask your kids to get the stain out. Give them some soap and stain remover and have them scrub the stain. Talk about how it's impossible to get the stain out ourselves. Sin is like that. We can't get rid of our sin without God's help. When we repent and confess our sins to God, He removes them and forgets about them.
  • Read Psalm 103:12 with your kids. Get out a map of the United States, show your kids how far it is from the West Coast to the East Coast. Talk about how God separates our sin from us even farther than that because east and west will never meet; they just continue on into space. Ask your kids how that makes them feel to know that God forgives us and doesn't hold our wrong actions and thoughts against us.
Sin keeps us from getting close to God, just like the stuff in my daughter's hair kept the comb from going through it easily. But God has a simple remedy for the sin that gets stuck in our lives. Repent and confess it to Him, then stop doing it. Ask God to show you where sin is stuck your life. Then ask Him for forgiveness and the strength not to repeat it. Don't let sin keep you from enjoying the abundant life that Jesus promised.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

God Said "Go"

Wednesdays are crazy days. My oldest usually has Girl Scouts and soccer back to back, my husband sometimes has a meeting in the evening and I teach a class at church. Some nights it's a struggle for me to pull it all together, and I wonder if it's really worth it for me to teach on such a busy night.

Every time I wonder that, I end up sitting in class with the amazing moms and dads who are so eager to hear what the Bible has to say about parenting, and God reminds me that this is what He sent me to do. I always leave encouraged, knowing that God is making a difference in the lives of parents and kids. And who knows how those families are going to change the world for Him?

Some mornings I would rather not get up and write the blog. It's super tempting to snuggle under my blankets and catch another half hour of sleep. Usually, on those days, God blesses me with some great comment or email from a reader, and I know His word is making a difference in a family that I may or may not know.

You see, God called me to this mission field. He spent my whole life preparing me to fill this role in His plan. I wouldn't have picked this particular ministry at this particular time in my life. I'm still not sure why God called me. I'm really sure that there are people who are smarter and way more qualified than I am.

I look at all God has done in the past year and a half since He told me to write a Bible study, and I am amazed. I see the lives He's touched and the changes He's made in my life and in the life of my family, and I am amazed. I look at the things He is asking me to do in the future, and I am amazed. God has gotten a hold of my hopes and dreams and directed them for His purpose.

God has prepared each of us to fill a specific role in His plan. The last thing Jesus told His disciples was "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:19-20) God is calling you to go and make disciples. He calls some to leave home and go overseas, but He calls some of us to "go" in our own neighborhood. Your "mission field" may be the kids in your neighborhood. It may be the lady who lives next door. Or He may be calling you to take the first step on a journey to a worldwide ministry. But, there's no doubt that He is calling you to "go" in some form.

God is also calling your kids to "go." He may be asking them to befriend the friendless child in their class. He may be asking them to serve some underprivileged kids by collecting books or foods. But there is no doubt that God is calling them to "go" and serve, as well. Help your children find ways to serve others in their community. Help them lead a food drive for the homeless. Point out needs when you see them and figure out ways you and your kids can meet them. Take every opportunity God gives you to share His love.

God is going to put someone in your family's path today that has a need that needs to be met. You or your kids can meet that need. It might be a friend who needs you to share a word of encouragement. It might be a child who needs to hear that God loves them. It might be a homeless person who needs you to buy them a meal. Look for the opportunities to "go" that God gives you today. Then jump in and "go."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Making Choices

I took my oldest daughter shopping for shoes about a month ago. Apparently the big thing in shoes for kids her age are DC skate shoes. I had never heard of these shoes before, so I went online to see what they looked like -- and almost choked on the price. I also didn't much care for several of the styles that looked like they had graffiti sprayed all over the heel of the shoe.

We talked about it, and I told her she could have the shoes if she was willing to pay the difference between what I thought was a reasonable amount of money to pay for shoes and what the shoes actually cost. I also had to approve the style. We spent several hours hunting for these shoes. When we finally found a store with a decent selection, it took us another 45 minutes to agree on a price and a style. Finally, we left the store with a pair of shoes with which everyone was happy. My oldest only had to pay $10, and I thought the shoes were acceptable for school and other activities.

Two years ago if my daughter had wanted those shoes, I would have looked at her and said "No," and we would have gone on our merry way to Target to buy sneakers. But, as she gets older, I have to let go of some of the decisions and begin to let her make them. As far as the shoes went, everyone ended up happy with the decision. She loves her shoes and hasn't had any second thoughts about her purchase.

But not every decision that we allow her to make ends up so happily. Sometimes she regrets a purchase. Sometimes she has to deal with the consequences of choosing poorly -- whether she's tired because she chose to go to a sleepover on a busy weekend or she fails a test because she chose not to study.

As my daughter much too quickly approaches the teen years, it's tempting to hang onto the decision-making responsibilities. I still get the final say on most things at this point, but if I don't let go of some of those decisions and let her get some practice making decisions, then she won't know how to make wise ones. The temptation is often to save our kids from the natural consequences of their decisions, but when we do that, we rob them of the opportunity to learn to make wise decisions. The consequences for a bad decision are much less at 10, than they are at 23.

You are still available to offer guidance and discuss your child's options with them, but you allow them to fail. Unless the consequences will be disastrous beyond measure (someone gets hurt or property gets damaged), letting them fail teaches your children valuable lessons they can't learn in any other way.

As you loosen the reins on decision-making, keep these things in mind:
  • Choose age-appropriate places for your child to make decisions. A 3-year-old can decide which shoes she wants to wear. A 15-year-old can go shopping by herself, knowing the parameters you find acceptable.
  • When your child is struggling with a decision, be available to help him see all the options and their logical consequences. When we arm our kids with information, they can make better decisions.
  • Always talk about how God feels about the issue. Use scripture to back up the godly option. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." Scripture is designed to help us make good decisions.
  • If your child makes a poor decision, don't offset the consequences. Do sit down with them and discuss what happened and why. Help them decide on what would have been a better option and what the logical outcome of choosing that better option would be.
  • Encourage your children to take their decisions to God before they make them. God is the source of ultimate wisdom, and He will never not give us wisdom when we need it. James 1:5 says "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."

    Today, take a look at whether you are giving your child enough decision-making power. Remember to keep the decisions age-appropriate, but give your child the opportunity to make decisions. If we want our kids to make good decisions, we have to let them begin practicing that skill while we are around to be a sounding board and a source of wisdom. If we hold onto the decision-making reins too long, our kids will begin to feel stifled and rebellious. Avoid that by helping them to make good decisions on their own.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Take a Time Out

Parenting is the only job I know of where you are thrown into the job with no training or experience. It's a 24-hour, 7 day a week job that comes without a training manual or a review system. Oh, you can read all the books you want and listen to all your friends who have kids, but until that child is placed in your arms, you really have no idea what you have signed up for.

No amount of reading will prepare you for the fear that comes with the first time your kid gets really sick or the joy you feel in their accomplishments. Nothing prepares you for the overwhelming love that you feel for that small bundle of squirming childhood. No one can tell you how hard it will be to leave your child with a sitter for the first time -- even when that sitter is your mom.

And no one tells you that there will be days that you want to throw your hands up in the air and quit. No one mentions the days that you will walk through like a zombie because you stayed up all night with a sick child. There's no warning sign that tells you there will be days when you are stretched to the limit of what you think you can endure.

Yes, parenting is a job like no other. The rewards are great, but the job can wear you down. If we let it, parenting can become the sole focus of our lives. We can lose our own identities because we are so wrapped up in our children. Many marriages fail after the children leave home because for the past 18 years mom and dad were so busy investing in their children that they forgot to invest in their marriage.

You all know that I think the primary calling of a parent is to raise our children to know God, but I don't think that children should take first place in your life. God gets that position. If you're not spending time with Him every day, then He's not first. I struggle with this because it's so easy to say, "I'll get to it later." Then, it's the end of the day, and I still haven't spent any time alone with God. If I don't schedule my time with God like I schedule doctor's appointments and sports practices, I don't do it. Matthew 6:33 tells us to "Seek first the kingdom of God." That means the first thing that goes on my calendar should be my time with God.

Second place doesn't belong to your children either, if you're married. That spot belongs to your spouse. Too often we get this one wrong. Kids needs are often immediate and urgent. They tend to take precedence, especially when the kids are small. But, if you're letting your kids' needs always take precedence over time with your spouse, that's an issue. Find some time in your life for your spouse. Either start putting your kids to bed earlier or have them sleep later. There's nothing wrong with sending your kids to bed a half hour before their regular bedtime to read in bed so you can get some time with your spouse.

Be protective of your time with your spouse. Make sure your kids know that time alone for mom and dad is important and it needs to be an emergency before that time is interrupted. Genesis 2:24 says "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh." This isn't just referring to coming together physically. It's talking about becoming one in every sense of the word. If we don't invest time in our spouses, we can't work together in our marriage or our parenting.
Make time to get away. We go away for our anniversary every year. We don't usually go very far or for very long (with some exceptions), but we make a point of spending at least 24 hours away. We love getting to spend time together without someone interrupting our conversation every second sentence. It gives us a chance to get on the same page and set some goals for the year.

After your spouse, is where your children come in on the priority scale, but that doesn't mean that your kids always get to come before you. So often we give up things that we love (and are often good for us) because there just doesn't seem to be time for them. Make it a point to put something in your schedule for you -- even if it's as simple as setting aside half an hour a day to exercise or read a book. Take the time to connect with friends. If you aren't taking a little time for yourself during the week, it's tough to be an effective parent. If your batteries aren't charged, then you won't have anything to give to your spouse and your kids.

Spend some time today praying over your priorities and get them aligned in the proper order. There's nothing wrong with taking a short time out from parenting to focus on your relationship with God, your spouse or even to just refresh yourself. When our priorities are in order, we are being filled with God's strength, modeling a healthy marriage for our kids and keeping ourselves healthy. Our kids benefit immensely from all of those things. So, take a time out today and put your priorities in the right place.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Memory Monday: Be Prepared (1 Peter 3:15-16)

Good Monday morning. My husband and I are spending a long weekend celebrating our anniversary, so I'm using the blog this morning to rerun one of my favorite Memory Monday verses. The topic of preparing our kids to defend their faith has been on my mind lately, so I wanted to share this with you again. If you already memorized this verse, use today as a review. If you missed this one, take the time to learn it. Enjoy learning to "Be Prepared," and I'll meet you back here tomorrow with a new blog.

I don't have any boys, but I've always loved the Boy Scout motto, "Be prepared." That motto reminds me of my favorite TV show of the late '80s and early '90s -- "MacGyver." There's a guy who was always prepared. If he had a Swiss Army knife, a wad of bubble gum and some duct tape, he could build a tank. God actually calls us to be the MacGyvers or the Boy Scouts of Christianity.

1 Peter 3:15-16 says, "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." God calls us to be prepared to always stand up for Him and to share the good news of Jesus with others.

Not only are we to share our faith with others, but we are to do so in a manner that attracts rather than repels. Too many so-called Christians have missed the second half of this set of verses where it talks about sharing our faith with gentleness and respect. It's not our job to force people to accept Christ. It is our job to be prepared to share the reason for our hope whenever and where ever the topic arises. The most effective way to share your faith, though, is not in a Bible-beating manner but as a genuine expression of love for Christ.

It's not our job to condemn anyone. It's simply our job to be part of the dialogue. God is responsible for changing hearts. We are just to be open to being the tools that he uses to bring the good news of Christ. When we try to make ourselves responsible for the decisions and choices of others, we run the danger of sharing Christ in a manner that isn't coated in "gentleness and respect." Jesus didn't go around forcing people to follow Him, and that's not the attitude that we should take either.

As adults, it's often hard for us to share the gospel. We fear being rejected. We're afraid we'll say the wrong thing. We wonder what others will think of us. The same fears are true for your kids. I believe that the best way for your kids' friends to meet Jesus is through your example and through your child's example. Preparing our kids to enter into honest, respectful dialogue with their peers about what they believe, is preparing them for a world that would love to trounce on their belief.

The best way I know of to prepare our kids for that kind of dialogue is to engage in it at home. Ask your kids questions like:

What would you say if someone asked you to tell them about Jesus?
What answer would you give if someone told you the Bible was just a bunch of stories?
What would you say if someone asked you what you believe?
How should you answer if someone from a different faith asked you how the faiths are different?

Walk through these scenarios with your child. As they get older, the answers will grow. Emphasize that even though we disagree with what other religions teach, we are called to treat other with respect and gentleness. We can disagree with someone and still like them and be respectful of them.

Begin having these conversations with your kids, so that when they are asked to give a reason for their hope, they will be prepared.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Hearing Problems

We're headed to the ear, nose and throat doctor today. My youngest's ears have been stopped up pretty much since November. She's had trouble with her ears for most of her life, and we see the ENT every six months or so. About a week ago, she came to me and asked if we could go see the doctor. You see, her ears are so stopped up that she can't hear very well.

When my youngest's ears get like this, it's frustrating for her and for us. She can't hear what we're telling her, and we think she's just ignoring us (which she's perfectly capable of doing). We know that the issue is caused by a build-up of fluid behind her ear drum, which makes her ear drum not be able to vibrate and makes her unable to hear well. In a sense, the fluid in her ear is blocking the sound.

Sometimes, our spiritual ears become like my daughter's ears -- clogged and unable to hear. But our spiritual ears aren't clogged with fluid. They're clogged with sin. Unconfessed sin gets between us and God. We can't hear God very well if we're busy ignoring His commands. We need to clean out our spiritual ears of sin, so we can hear God when He speaks. Isaiah 59:2 says "But your iniquities have separated you from your God."

When we ask God for wisdom or patience or anything else, if our ears are clogged by our sin, then we won't be able to hear when He answers. I don't know about you, but I need all the wisdom and patience I can get as I parent my kids. I don't want to miss what God has to say because I'm too proud to deal with the sin in my life.

Our kids need to understand that our actions affect our relationship with God. Sin comes between us and God. If we deliberately choose to ignore God's commands and do our own thing, it makes it tough to hear God when He speaks to us.
  • Have your kids cover their ears with something -- ear muffs, their hands -- then talk to them in your regular speaking voice. Talk about how well your kids can hear with something covering their ears. Explain that the thing covering their ears is like sin. When we don't confess our sin, it keeps us from being able to hear God as well.
  • Stand right next to your child and whisper something to them. Have your child take a few steps away and whisper again. Have your child keep moving across the room until he can't hear you when you whisper. Talk about how when we sin, it moves us away from God. If we confess that sin, we move back to God, but if we let that sin fester and grow, we move farther away from God -- to the point that we can't hear Him anymore.
As you go through your week, be aware that sin can keep you from hearing God. If God seems silent, examine your life to see if sin is clogging your spiritual ears.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Light in the Darkness

I was walking through Wal-Mart the other day and stopped in the book section to see if there was anything my oldest daughter would be interested in reading. I wish I had taken a picture of the section. The entire 12-foot bookshelf was filled with books with dark covers. The entire shelf was black. The books were either vampire novels or dark fantasy. The impression the shelf left was one of darkness and fear, and I didn't even pick up any of the books.

Now, I'm not going to argue about whether you should let your children read vampire or fantasy novels. (Personally, I'm not a big fan of the vampire genre, but I like certain fantasy stuff.) I don't think if your kids read vampire novels they're going to turn into vampires any more than I think if they read books about airplanes, they're going to turn into an airplane.

What I do want to talk about is how that bookshelf is a good picture of how darkness can encroach on our lives without us realizing it. Our kids face a darker, more confusing world than the one we grew up in. They are constantly being bombarded at a young age with images and ideas that would have been considered inappropriate just two decades ago. They live in a world where terrorists kill people for no reason other than they disagree with a set of beliefs. Commercials, TV shows and movies throw unrealistic physical expectations at them along with sexual inuendo and images for which they aren't ready.

Through all this, we and our kids are expected to shine as light in the darkness. Matthew 5:16 says "In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Sometimes, shining that light means your kids have to be different. God calls us to be holy. Holy simply means "set apart." When something is set apart, it shouldn't look like everything else.

As Christians, we shouldn't look like the rest of the world. We make our decisions based on what God says, not on what the rest of the world says. That may mean making some tough decisions as parents. You may have to say no to the inappropriately short shorts that your daughter wants to buy. It may mean your son can't go see that PG-13 rated action-adventure movie that "everyone" else in his class has seen. It's not easy to stand apart and shine your light. It's even tougher when you're at an age where the opinion of your peers means everything in deciding where you fit in the childhood social strata.

Nothing makes this easier for parents or kids. There's no magic wand to wave to make shining your light in the darkness painless. And shining that light may look different for your family than it does for another Christ-following family. The best we can do in our job as parents is to try to help our children understand why we are making the decisions that we make about what they can and can't be involved with. When you make a decision that seems to go against the grain of the rest of the world, sit down with your kids and explain the reasons behind that decision. Let them know that you're not randomly deciding to punish them by not letting them participate in a fashion trend, movie or book. Give them a chance to understand the principles behind your decision. Use scripture to back up the decision.

Standing up as a light in the darkness is tough, and it seems that there's so much more darkness aimed at our kids than ever before. Stand firm and help your kids understand what shining a light in the darkness looks like. Their light may be the only one some of their friends ever see.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Challenge of Chores

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My girls love to do chores. They never have to be asked to do them and always do them without complaining. Oh, wait, that was a dream I had the other night.

In reality, my girls are like most other kids I know and really don't like to do chores. Generally, the statement that it's time to do chores is met with grumbling, complaining and multiple attempts to get the other child to do the chore that they don't like to do.

The two least favorite chores in our house are pooper scooping and vacuuming. The first one I understand, the second one leaves me puzzled, but I can guarantee that every week my girls will argue over who has to do these two chores.

I struggle with how to get my kids to do their chores without a battle some days. Kids are selfish by nature and don't want to do anything that resembles work. They also don't always understand how doing chores benefits them.

I have to admit, sometimes I don't like to do the laundry or clean the bathrooms either, so I get where they are coming from.

However, I believe that all kids need to have some chores. They need to contribute to the running of the family as part of the team. It teaches them responsibility and appreciation for the works of others.

So, how do we stop the battle and the complaining? We start by changing our own attitude toward household chores and helping our children change theirs.
  • Remind your kids that Ecclesiastes 4:9 says "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor." When we all pitch in together to get a job done, it's faster and easier than doing it ourselves.
  • Use a chart of some type. When kids start to complain about whose turn it is to do a certain job, stick with what's on the chart. This takes away the arguing about whose turn it is to do something. Be sure to rotate the chores.
  • Make sure you have some chores for which your children don't get paid. Every child should chip in to making the household run smoothly just because they are part of the family. My girls have to make their beds every morning, sweep the kitchen and wipe off the table after every meal. They don't get paid for these chores.
  • Make doing your chores without complaining a requirement for being paid. Chores teach our children a work ethic that will stick with them for the rest of their lives. Have your children memorize Philippians 2:14, "Do everything without grumbling and complaining."
  •  Don't accept sloppy work. If it's not done right, send them back to do it again. Use chores as an opportunity to teach your kids that God wants us to do everything as if we are doing it for Him. Remind them that Ephesians 6:7 says "Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free."
  • Attach your kids' allowance to their completion of their chores. Only pay for chores done. This begins to teach your kids that good work results in a reward, and not doing their work results in no reward.
Using scripture to change the attitudes in our homes toward chores will result in better quality work and will help get our kids ready for when they are asked to do things they consider unpleasant in the future. Sometimes God asks us to step out of our comfort zones to do work for Him. Learning to do chores well without complaining gets our kids ready for what God may ask them to do in the future.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Courage is Not the Absence of Fear

I love the movie "The Wizard of Oz." There's just something so endearing about the characters and the story. One of my favorite characters is the Cowardly Lion. He's so concerned about not having courage, and yet he displays courage throughout the movie.

The Cowardly Lion made a mistake that our kids often make. He decided being courageous meant not being afraid. True courage means doing something even though you are afraid. It doesn't take a lot of courage for a child who loves to be the center of attention to stand up and give a speech to his class, but for the shy child, it takes a lot of courage to do the same task.

Sometimes, as parents, we discount how much courage it takes for our kids to do certain things. As adults, we think things like going to sleep in the dark or climbing a tall structure are easy, but for some kids those things take courage.

It takes courage to walk into a room full of kids who already seem to know each other. It takes courage to stand up for what you know is right. It takes courage to walk away from a situation that can get you into trouble. It takes courage to decide you want to do something that isn't "typical."

As parents, it's our role to bolster our kids and help them understand what courage is. We do that best by encouraging them. Note that the word encourage includes the word courage. Our kids won't learn to have courage unless they understand what it is, and they know that we are standing behind them to back them up.
  • Talk with your kids about fear and how fear can sometimes be a good thing because it keeps us safe, but it can also keep us from doing what is right. Talk about how God commands us to be courageous. Share the story of the Israelites with your kids. Talk about how scared they must have been to leave everything they had known and to go to a new land.
  • Remind your children that we don't have to be courageous on our own. God always goes with us. 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.”
  • When you watch TV or movies, point out places where people are showing courage. Talk about how those people were probably afraid, but they did the right thing anyway.
  • When your child faces a situation that requires courage, be their biggest champion. Pray with them and ask God for courage for your child. 
  • Do what the Wizard did in "The Wizard of Oz": Present your child with a "testimonial." Have a medal or a certificate that you present to your kids when they do something courageous. Celebrate their courage whether it's simply going to bed without the light on or standing up to a bully at school.
Courage is not the absence of fear, and our children need to know that. Some of the most courageous acts happen in the midst of the person doing them being scared witless. But, we can be courageous and face difficult situations because we know that God goes with us no matter what.