Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Introductions: Kristen Johnson

My oldest daughter struggles with spelling. Now, I'm a copy editor in real life. That means I spend every day fixing other people's grammar and spelling. To have a child who cannot spell is almost physically painful for me.

I truly believe that spelling is something that you can either do or you can't. You can teach non-spellers to memorize the spelling of words, but they will never be able to sound out and spell unknown words correctly. My oldest daughter and my husband fall into this category.

The past couple weeks, my oldest daughter has come home with her spelling tests bearing the much sought after "100%, A+." This is a huge accomplishment for her -- perfection on her spelling test. We place these perfect tests in a place of honor on the refrigerator and commend our daughter mightily for them.

Perfection is often what we're all seeking. We want perfect bodies, perfect hair, to be the perfect mom and wife and to have perfect children. We spend time chasing things we don't really want because society tells us that's what it takes to be pretty, successful or loved.

Our kids chase perfection at school, in sports and with their friends. My youngest gets upset if she misses one question on a test. To her, it's as bad as failing.

This pursuit of perfection always leaves us wanting in the end. Because we're not perfect, and we will never be. We and our kids are on a quest for something we can't attain. And the quest can be damaging. It can take us down roads we never intended to walk.

The quest for a perfect body leads to eating disorders and low self-esteem. The quest for perfection in school leads to stressed out kids. The quest for perfection simply leads to many places that are far from perfect.

1 John 2:15 says "Do not love the world or anything in the world." Driving ourselves and our kids crazy in our quest for perfection means we're seeking after the things of the world. The only perfection that's worth seeking is the perfection found in Jesus. He was perfect. And He offers us His perfect love.

My friend Kristen Johnson offers up some great insight on the topic of perfection in her blog and how it keeps us from love. I encourage you to check it out.

Kristen is the mom of two boys, with a new little one on the way. She writes some great entries on being a mom. She's also an avid reader, so if you're looking for something new to read, you'll probably find something in her reviews and author interviews.

Take some time to pop on over to Kristen's blog today. Leave her a comment if you like what she has to say.

And, remember, God doesn't expect us to be perfect. He's not waiting to hang our perfect score on His heavenly refrigerator. God wants us to be a portrait of His love to others. That's the picture He'd be hanging on the fridge.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

September Blues

It's September. For most of my life, that meant my fingernails were chewed back to the nubs, and every night God heard a prayer of "Please don't let them blow it." But seven years ago that all changed. September became a month of joyful anticipation. Until last night.

You see, I'm a lifelong Red Sox fan. For 30 years, I expected my team to blow it. No matter how big the lead or how safe it seemed, the Red Sox would find a way to screw it up. Then, in 2004, the moment we Red Sox fans had waited 86 years for finally came. We won the World Series. Eight and a half decades of frustration, nail biting and fervent pleas for a win disappeared in a four-game sweep. Three years later they did it again.

We thought the days of biting our nails and praying for just one more win were over. Until last night. When September started, the Red Sox were up nine games. They were a shoe-in for the playoffs. Then their bats went silent, and their pitching disappeared. They lost and they lost and they lost. It all came down to last night -- a win and they would at least get to play a one-game playoff; a loss and they would have to hope the Tampa Bay Rays lost, too.

The Red Sox took a one run lead into the ninth inning. They were one strike away from living to play another day when disaster struck. Two base hits, and the Orioles had won the game. The Rays beat the Yankees. Season over. It feels like the past seven years never happened. Only the Red Sox could have such an epic collapse in September. No team has ever had such a big lead at the beginning of September and not made the playoffs.

So, this morning, I'm bleary-eyed and a bit sad. And I'm reminded that life is too often like a Red Sox season -- full of promise until the losses come our way. When we're in the midst of a great season, we forget what the tough times look like. And when the tough times come, it's hard to remember the good times.

We go through seasons in life where we think we have it all together, we step up to the plate and we whiff again and again and again. We feel like we're in a hole so deep, we'll never climb out. One thing after another goes wrong -- kids get sick, jobs are lost, family issues arise. The success we felt a short time before disappears, and it seems we'll never get it back. Our joyful expectation disappears as quickly as a Red Sox lead.

Kids, especially have a hard time seeing past the immediate moment. When our kids are stuck in the middle of a tough situation that seems like it has no end, it's hard to get them to look past the situation to see that God has a plan.

Yet, we have something no baseball team has ever had -- the best clean-up hitter ever. God is always there to pick us up and walk us through the dark season. He's already won the ultimate game. He's triumphed over death and evil. No matter the outcome of our day, the winner has already been determined. It's God, and He's on our side.

Romans 8:31 says "If God is for us, who can be against us?" In this big game of life that we play every day, God is for us. He's the superstar on our team, and He never whiffs. While it may seem there's no way we're going to win, God is there, and He's going to carry our team.

God doesn't always step in and hit it out of the park, so we can get the result we want. But He provides everything we need to see us through the dark periods of our lives. He offers us comfort and direction and the assurance that all things will work out according to His plan, which is always in our favor. We can't always see that in the moment, but often we look back and we see that His plan was way better than anything we could come up with.

So, live today with the assurance that God is on your team, and He never loses. Remind your kids that no matter the outcome of a tough situation, God has already won, and since we're on His team, so have we.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Today Is Not an Exhibition

In the past two weeks, we've taken our girls to two exhibition games. Two weeks ago we saw the U.S. women's national soccer team play Canada, and last night we took the girls to a National Hockey League pre-season game. We enjoyed both games, but I discovered something about exhibition matches. They don't mean anything, and the players know it.

Other than to the few players on each team who are fighting for roster spots, an exhibition game means nothing. It's just a practice. The players are keeping their skills sharp for when they play a real game where points will be awarded for the win. Most of the time, the team even benches some of its good players to keep them well for the real game. Hope Solo and Abby Wambach -- two of the biggest women's soccer stars -- only played half the game we saw. Anze Kopitar and Simon Gagne, two of the biggest stars on the L.A. Kings, weren't even in the building last night.

While it was fun to see a level of play in both soccer and hockey that we don't often see in our town, it was clear from the play on the field and the ice that players weren't giving it their all. In hockey, the players didn't hit as hard or hustle as much. The soccer game seemed to be played at half speed, especially in the second half.

While players in sports need practice games to warm up for the season or to keep their skills sharp, everyday life is not an exhibition game. Every day matters to God, and it should matter to us. He needs us to play the game of life hard every day. Ephesians 5:15-16 says "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." The opportunities we get today to make a difference in someone's life may not come around again tomorrow. Each day is precious, and we need to make the most of it.

God places people in our lives so we can share His love with them. It may be a word of encouragement to a discouraged child or taking dinner to a sick friend that makes the difference in someone else's life. Every day God places people in our path that need to see that God loves them. We are the messengers of that love.

Encourage your kids to look for people in their lives each day who need their help. Teach your children by example by making stopping to help someone else a priority. It may not be convenient, and it may mess up your plans, but God put that person in your life at that time for a reason. You may be the difference between someone finding God or turning away.

Don't walk away from opportunities to shower others with God's love through compassion and caring. Because life is not an exhibition, and you may not get another chance.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Love One Another

I recently went on an overnight church trip with my youngest daughter. I spent the night in a cabin with four giggling girls. While we were laying out sleeping bags, one of the girls wanted to know how she was supposed to love someone who had hurt her mom. Nothing like starting the evening with a tough question.

The easy answer to that question is "Ask God to help you." That sounds easy, but when someone has hurt us, our natural instinct is not to reach out to them in love. We don't want God to help us love that person, we want God to punish them, and we want them to hurt like we hurt.

This little girl wanted to know why she should forgive this person. That didn't make any sense to her. Loving and forgiving someone who has hurt us or one of our family members is hard. Even with God's help, it's difficult.

Yet, Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another." (John 13:34) Three simple words. Love one another. He didn't say, "Love those who love you" or "Love the people you like." He said "Love one another." That includes the people who have hurt you, the people who rub you the wrong way and the people who are out to get you. We are to love them.

The only way we can do that is with God's help. We can't love everyone on our own. Some people simply seem unloveable. We don't like their actions. We don't like the way they treat us. Yet, we are to love them.

Loving others in spite of the hurt they inflict or the poor choices they make requires a change in in the way we see them. We have to begin to see them through God's eyes and not our own. That person that hurt you is also God's masterpiece. Jesus died for him, too. When we put on God's eyes, we begin to see others as loveable.

Loving the unloveable also requires a change of heart. We have to let God fill us up with His love so that love can overflow onto others. We simply don't have enough love on our own to love those who have hurt us.

Illustrate these concepts for your kids.
  • Get a pair of glasses that change the way things look -- 3D glasses or glasses that distort everything. Have your kids put on the glasses and ask them to describe how things look. Explain that God wants us to love everyone. But we can only do that if we change our perspective on people. Talk with your kids about asking God to help them see others as He sees them -- as His own masterpieces who are worthy of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross.
  • Get a cup, a bowl and a pitcher of water. Place the cup in the bowl. Put Lego people in the bowl. Explain to your kids that the cup is their heart and the Lego people are all the people who have hurt them or who are difficult to love. Pour water in the cup until it's 3/4 full. Explain that the water is our love. We don't have enough on our own to reach those people that are hard to love. Pour enough water into the cup that it overflows onto the Lego people. Explain that when we let God fill us up with love, His love will overflow onto all those around us, including those who we have a hard time loving on our own.
God commands us to love others, not because it's easy, but because it gives the world a picture of who He is. Every time we love someone who seems unloveable, we free our hearts from bitterness and we become a physical picture of who God is. And you never know when that will make a difference to someone else.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Memory Monday: Making Time to "Sit at Home" (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

My husband and I sat down and looked at the calendar yesterday. The next three weeks are nuts, and we don't even have the hockey game schedule yet. Between soccer tournaments, Girl Scout campouts, hockey practice and music lessons, we're booked. I don't even know when our next open weekend is.

Fall is always our crazy time of year when it comes to the schedule. Both soccer and hockey swing into full gear, other commitments pick up and school projects start rolling in. I often feel like one of those people in the circus who keep plates spinning at the top of a pole. I have to keep running up and down the line to keep those plates moving or they'll all fall.

Our sermon yesterday was on creating margin in your life, leaving space in your life for the unexpected. Having margin means we can drop everything and help a friend. It means we can spend some time with our kids outside of driving them to the next event.

I've been pondering this topic for the past few weeks. I let go of a few things that I love this fall to create some margin in my life during the day. While my kids are at school, I have plenty of margin. I have enough time to work, write and do some things around the house.

It's when the kids come home that we struggle. We have set limits on the things our kids can do. They're only allowed to play one sport at a time. We try to reserve at least one evening a week for all of us to be home. We do our best to sit down to the table for dinner together as many times a week as humanly possible -- even if it means we eat at 4:30 in the afternoon.

On weeks like this one, I struggle with the topic of margin. My girls love the sports they play. It's good for their bodies, and they've learned great life lessons playing sports. But, playing sports means they're each gone two nights of the week. We have one overlapping practice, so that's three nights of the week we surrender to sports. Add in AWANA at church on Sunday nights and we've used up four nights of our week.

With just two activities, we've given up more than half of our evenings. Some days I struggle to find the balance between what my girls love and how much time we need together as a family. I honestly don't know what the answer is. I'd love for it to be cut and dried, but it's not. Where do you draw the line when your kid is talented and loves an activity? How much is too much?

I know families who don't have their kids in anything, and I know families whose kids are never home because the kids each play three sports and two instruments. I don't think either of those extremes is right for our family, but in weeks like this one, I look at the calendar and wonder if we've got the right balance.

I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to this topic. What I do know is that we can't teach our kids and influence their lives in the way God calls us to if we're never with them. If we don't have time to really talk with our kids, then we can't know what's going on in their lives. If we never see them outside of the confines of the car, we can't help them deal with the issues that arise in their lives.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says "These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Note that this verse, says "talk about them when you sit at home." All your training for your kids shouldn't be "along the road." Sometimes, we need to just sit at home and spend some time together with nothing on the schedule. Finding that balance is the trick.

Whatever the right balance is for your family, make sure having time together is a component. You can't help your kids grow in their faith if there's no time for you to spend with them.

I'd love to hear how your family deals with balancing your schedules. What limits do you set on your kids' activities? How do you make sure you have time together as a family?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Introductions: For Such a Time as This

When my oldest daughter was 5, we went to a water park. She was so excited because she was tall enough to go down all but one of the slides. We had talked and talked about how much fun it would be. Then we got to the top of the slide. Where she promptly sat on the slide and announced she wasn't going down.

She was scared. She couldn't see the bottom. We couldn't go down together. She wanted to go back down the steps.

I knew that once she went down the slide, she would love it. The question was whether I could get her to go down. I had checked out the water at the bottom. It wasn't too deep. She could stand up. And her dad was waiting for her. I was going down the slide right next to her and would hit the water at the same time as her.

After five minutes of dithering and crying, I got her to sit on the slide. Then I did the only thing I could. I gave her a push. Thirty seconds later, I was climbing out of the pool with a grinning child who couldn't wait to go again.

Sitting at the top of the slide, my daughter lacked the one thing that would get her moving -- trust. She didn't trust that I knew what I was talking about when I said it would be fun. She needed a little push to get going.

And so often, we lack trust that God knows what He's talking about. When tough things come our way -- from a lost job to a chronic illness to a child who has lost their way -- we forget that God has it all in control. We're afraid to step out down a new path that God has called us to because we don't trust enough.

God wants us to trust Him. He has proven over and over again through the ages that He is trustworthy. Psalm 9:10 says "Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you." No matter the circumstances, God is trustworthy. He has never forgotten those who trust in Him.

Patti Hazlett has written a great post about trusting God on her blog, For Such a Time as This. She's struggling with having lost her job. Her honesty and the wisdom she imparts will make you do some soul searching about whether you really trust God. Check out it and the other great posts on her blog. You won't be sorry you did.

God has promised "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). We simply have to step out and trust those words. If we push aside our fears and take a step forward, we'll find ourselves saying to God, "Let's go again."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Stepping Back

My youngest daughter got checked in hockey practice the other night. For those of you who are not hockey fans, a check is when one person uses their body to smash the other person into the boards. The kid was about 6 inches taller than her and outweighed her by at least 20 pounds. And there's no checking at her age level.

My daughter never cries at hockey. She's one of two girls this year out of 50 kids. She knows that crying won't help her case in being accepted. But she cried that night. She even asked to be taken off the ice to sit on the bench for a while.

When she skated over to the bench and asked to come off, it was all I could do to sit on my hands and let the coach deal with it. I wanted to run over to the bench and check her out myself. And as my momma bear claws came out, I also wanted to have a conversation with the kid who hit her.

My daughter never asks to come off the ice. Her coach sat her down, took a look at what hurt, gave her some time to get herself together and put her back on the ice. My daughter and her coach handled the situation and really didn't need my help. I checked her out when we got home and she was fine. I was glad I had sat on my hands. My going over to the bench would have done nothing to help the situation.

I read an article the other day that talked about how we're becoming a nation of hovering parents. The article pointed out that kids who go to the playground with their parents get less physical activity because their parents are so worried about them getting hurt. By the time these kids get to college, they have never made decisions for themselves or suffered the consequences of a poor decision. They fail at college because they don't know how to manage life on their own.

Our job as parents is not to protect our kids from every imaginable hurt or consequence. Our job is to get our kids ready to live life on their own -- a life that lets God's light shine through. I'm not saying let your kids run out in the street and get hit by a car, but it's OK to let them fall down and skin their knee.

Proverbs 22:6 says "Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it." This means if we are constantly rescuing our children or stepping in and dealing with difficult situations for them, they will never learn to deal with those situations themselves. On the flip side, it also means if we teach them to make decisions and reap the consequences of those decisions on their own, they'll be prepared when they leave home.

As our kids grow, we need to let loose of the reins and allow them to start dealing with things on their own. We need to be there for support and advice, and there are times when a situation gets so out of control that we need to step in. But we should let our kids have the first crack at solving their problems.

My oldest heads off to middle school next year. I have stopped being responsible for her getting her homework done. She knows what our schedule looks like for the week, so she is responsible for mapping out her time and getting it done. I'll help if she has a problem and check it if she asks me to, but I don't set her homework schedule anymore.

As your kids get older start turning over decisions and responsibilities to them:
  • Let your kids deal with their teachers. If your child is having trouble with another child bothering them or the teacher marked something wrong on their paper that was right, let your child have first dibs on talking with the teacher. Talk with your child at home about a respectful way to approach the situation, then let your child have the conversation with his teacher.
  • Start young. If there are decisions your child can make or responsibilities around the house they can do, put them in charge. My kids have been in charge of clearing their place at the table since they could walk and carry a plate. Now, they have chores they are expected to do. I don't nag, but if I have to do their chores, I leave them a bill.
  • Teach your kids to work out their disagreements. Don't immediately step in when your kids are arguing with a sibling or friend. Give them a chance to work it out. Sure, things may get said that could hurt another's feelings, but it teaches them about the importance of considering each other's feelings and point of view. If they have to apologize for their speech, they'll think twice about saying those things the next time.
  • Teach them to pray first. When your kids are stuck in a tough spot, and they don't know how to deal with a situation, encourage them to seek out the Source of wisdom. Show them how to ask God for help in dealing with the situation.
It's hard to watch our kids get hurt and make mistakes, but it's much easier for our kids to learn these lessons now than it is for them to learn them as adults. Start giving your kids the tools to handle their own problems and conflicts, so they get plenty of practice while you're still around to back them up. They will thank you for it when they are older.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Music From Heaven

I heard music from heaven yesterday. My youngest had her first guitar lesson and came home and played what she had learned for us.

Now, you’re probably thinking I need my hearing checked if I think a first-time guitar student sounds like angels singing. But I don’t.
My daughter is playing my uncle’s guitar. He was my dad’s younger brother, and he died when I was a senior in high school. Music was a huge part of his life. He played multiple instruments and sang, as well.

When I heard my daughter play through her first song, I immediately thought of my Uncle Kyle. He would have been so thrilled to hear those first stilted notes, and I know up in heaven those notes sounded just as sweet as an angelic choir.
As my daughter hesitantly played the notes of "Smoky Blues," which I am sure will someday sound like a recognizable song, I started thinking about the legacies we leave to our kids.

My girls never met my uncle, yet his legacy of music lives on in our family. Every time my daughter picks up her guitar, she thinks about him. Since my aunt gave us the guitar last fall, my girls have asked many questions about my uncle. He's become more than a person in a picture to them through the legacy he left.

I spent part of the day yesterday going through a box that contained some things that belonged to my grandmother. Back in the spring, my grandmother entered a nursing home, so we sorted through a lot of her things. I mostly came home with photos.

As I sorted through the box, I found a photo album I had made for her 80th birthday called "Reasons We Love You." My grandmother moved into a nursing home because she has dementia. Much like Alzheimer's, dementia robs a person of their mental capacity. My grandmother is no longer the vibrant woman she once was. Because she doesn't see us often, she barely recognizes us when we go to visit.

Flipping through this book, I was reminded of who my grandmother was. One of the quotes in the book was from my cousin who said "She has a great laugh." And, you know, I had forgotten that. I had forgotten that once my Grandma could laugh until she cried and make all the rest of us laugh along with her. That laughter is part of her legacy, along with knowing the importance of family and of faith.

Spending time with my memories yesterday made me wonder what kind of legacy I'm leaving for my kids. What will they remember when I'm gone? What do I want them to remember about me?

Heavy questions for a parent to ponder, but important ones. If we decide what we want our kids to remember about us now, then we will strive to instill those things in our kids. It will be an intentional legacy that we leave, not an unintentional one.

God wants us to leave a legacy of faith. He wants us to tell our kids all about Him. Psalm 71:16-17 says "Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come."

So, here's the things I want my kids to remember. I want them to remember I loved God, I loved their father and I loved them. I want them to remember that home was a safe haven. I want them to remember that people are always more important than stuff. And I want them to remember that no matter how dark things look, we can always rely on God to provide the light.

That's the legacy I want to leave. What's yours?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Trumpet Envy

We have a case of trumpet envy going on in our house. This is the first year my oldest daughter can play in the band. She's never played an instrument before and decided she wanted to play the trumpet.

My husband played the trumpet, so we had an old one in our basement. It's not the prettiest trumpet in the world. It has some bumps and dings, and the valve slides are a bit sticky. But it works, and it's paid for.

My daughter was happy with her trumpet and excited at the prospect of getting to play her dad's instrument. Until everyone else opened their trumpet cases in band yesterday.

Last night at dinner our daughter was telling us how ugly her trumpet was compared to everyone else's. Everyone else has a shiny, new trumpet. She told us how much she wished her trumpet was shiny and new, too.

Until yesterday, my daughter was thrilled with her trumpet. But the minute she compared her trumpet to everyone else's trumpet, her excitement about her instrument faded. She let envy strip her of joy.

Envy is one of those emotions that hurts the person feeling it the most. I think that's why God made it one of the 10 Commandments. He knew how destructive it can be. Proverbs 14:30 says "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones." That's not a pretty picture, but it's an accurate one.

Envy eats away at us. It steals our contentment and our joy. Nothing good ever comes from envy. It destroys relationships and causes us to make poor choices. Envy can leave us in financial ruin.

Learning to avoid the envy trap is important to maintaining our joy. When envy rears its ugly head in your household, be wise and get rid of it quickly -- before it has time to rot the bones.
  • Counteract envy by counting your blessings. When one of your kids is envious of something another person has, take a minute to help them count their own blessings. Ask them to list five things that they do have for which they are thankful. It's hard to have a thankful heart and an envious one at the same time.
  • Talk about the difference between envy and desire. It's OK to want something; that's desire. It's not OK to want something so badly that we are unhappy when someone else has it; that's envy. We all have things that we would like to have. It's when that wanting crosses the line to unhappiness that we are letting envy get the upper hand.
  • Take a piece of bread and let it sit out until it gets moldy. Show the bread to your kids. Explain that envy is like that mold. The mold takes over the bread until eventually there's nothing left of the bread. Envy can take hold in our hearts and take over until there's no room for anything else.
Envy is a destructive and useless emotion. It steals joy. It hurts relationships. And it takes over our lives.

As my daughter walks out the door with trumpet in hand today, I'll be reminding her of all the beautiful music her trumpet has already made, hoping to slay the envy dragon before it takes hold.

What shards of envy do you need to pluck out of your family's life today?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Memory Monday: An Undivided Heart (Ezekiel 11:19)

I always make sure we have plenty of time when I take my youngest shopping. You see, she's a ditherer. She can't decide what she wants. Faced with more than one choice, it can take her 20 minutes to make up her mind. We have to weigh the pros and cons of each choice, then make a decision.

When it comes to shopping, my youngest has a divided heart. She doesn't want one thing more than she wants another, so it makes it difficult to make a quick decision. Her heart has to be persuaded to choose one thing over the other. She's always afraid the thing she didn't choose will turn out to have been the better choice.

Too often, we are just like my daughter when it comes to choosing God. There are so many things in the world that look better than what God is offering -- money, accolades, fitting in with the crowd. Our heart is divided. We want the things of God, but we also want the trappings of the world.

God wants us to follow Him with our whole hearts. He wants our undivided attention, so we can do the things He has planned for us.

Ezekiel 11:19 says "I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh." God was talking about the Israelites who had let the things of the world tempt them away from God. They had broken their convenant with God, and God was about to let the Babylonians take them into captivity. Yet, God made this promise that the Israelites would once again follow after Him with an undivided heart.

That's what He wants from us as well. He wants everything we do to be based on following Him. While it's easy to be pulled away by the immediate gratification the world offers, the rewards God offers for following Him are so much greater.

We want to teach our kids to follow after God with an undivided heart as well. It's easy for kids to let their peers pull them away from God, to seek after the things of the world and not of God.

Illustrate a divided heart for your kids by offering them two choices. Make sure the choices are equally attractive to your child.

If your child has trouble choosing, talk about how they have a divided heart -- they want both things and can't wholeheartedly go after one or the other. Explain that God doesn't want us to have a divided heart when it comes to following after Him. He wants us to seek Him in everything that we do.

If your child chooses one thing quickly, talk about how they had an undivided heart. Their heart wanted only one thing. Explain that God wants us to have an undivided heart when we follow Him. He wants us to always choose His way just as quickly as your child chose the thing you offered.

A divided heart keeps us from following God. It distracts us from the plans God has for us. Ask God to help you and your kids to follow after Him with an undivided heart today.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Introductions: Make Time for Your Spouse (MarriageBuilders)

Today is my husband's birthday. We're doing something today that we haven't done in a long time. He's taking the day off, and we're spending the day together while the girls are in school.

Oh, we'll probably do some really exciting things like go to the grocery, and I still have a bit of work to do for the week. We might catch a movie. We don't really have big plans, but we will get some kid-free time together today.

Our schedules in the fall get crazy. Between the three soccer tournaments, bi-weekly Friday night hockey practice, Girl Scout camping and church overnights, our weekends are booked from now until Nov. 1. It's easy to get so caught up in dealing with all the kids' activities that we miss spending time alone together.

I love my kids, but my kids need me to love my husband and him to love me. It's hard to continue building a relationship with our spouses if we never spend any time with them.

We excuse working on our relationships with our spouses with thoughts like, "We'll have plenty of time together when the kids are gone" or "We'll go on a date when things slow down." Listen, life is probably not going to slow down, and if we don't work on our relationship with our spouses now, there won't be a relationship later.

After God, our relationships with our spouses should be the top priority. 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." It's the only time God talks about becoming one with another person. Nowhere does God tell us that our children should be our top priority. Being close to our spouses comes first.

Check out this great article on the MarriageBuilders website. It talks about the importance of putting your spouse first. "Children do not require parent's attention 24 hours a day. Nor do they suffer when parents are giving each other their undivided attention."

Somewhere in the past 50 years, our culture has placed a premium on sacrificing everything in our lives for our children, including our marriages. Kids don't benefit when marriages fall apart, and marriages fall apart when every available resource is poured into our kids.

Carve out some time for you and your spouse. Ask a friend to watch your kids for a couple of hours and go on a date. Remind yourselves why you got married in the first place. Set aside some time every week just to talk to each other.

Because your marriage is the most important human relationship in your life. It's the most important relationship in your kids' lives, too. It's worth making some time for each other. It benefits everyone in your family.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Nothing is Too Hard for God

I sent my girls out the door yesterday with a kiss and an "I love you." To my oldest, I said "Just ignore the mean girls." My parting words to my youngest were "Don't let that boy bother you."

Clearly, my girls are dealing with some hard moments in their classrooms and on the playground. It's not fun to wake up in the morning knowing that someone is going to do their best to make your day miserable. It's hard.

Relationships aren't the only thing in our kids' lives that are hard. Some kids struggle with a particular subject. Some kids have a hard time fitting into the rigid childhood social structure. Some kids are dealing with heartbreak at home.

It's a tough world we live in. Kids are expected to grow up and take responsibility so much sooner than when we were kids. They have more access to adult subjects through TV and the Internet than we ever did.

Yet throughout the ages, one thing has never changed. God is bigger than all the mean girls, annoying boys, difficult math problems and tough home circumstances. Jeremiah 32:27 says "I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?"

No matter the circumstance, nothing is too hard for God. He's bigger than the problem, and He can solve it. All we have to do is trust that He will do so.

Help your kids understand that God is bigger than their troubles.
  • When your child is facing a problem, ask them to rank how big they think their problem is on a scale of 1-10. Then ask them how big they think God is. Talk about how our problems might be a 10, but God is a 100. No problem is too hard for Him to handle.
  • Find a fly swatter and a blueberry. Tell your child that the blueberry is their problem. Hand them the fly swatter and tell them to hit the blueberry (be sure to put something under the blueberry to protect your table). Look at the smashed blueberry and talk about how God is as powerful as the fly swatter. He can take care of our problems because nothing is too hard for Him.
  • Give your child a wrapped box. Tell him that you're giving him this gift. After about two seconds, take the box back. Explain that for God to help us with our problems, we have to give them to Him. We can't keep snatching them back to deal with ourselves like you did with the gift. Nothing is too hard for God, but He can't help us if we won't ask.
Being a kid is tough. Some days being an adult is tough. But nothing that we face in life is too big or too awful for God.

Nothing is too hard for God.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

100 Nights in a Shack

My girls have given up ice cream for the next three months. That means no ice cream, custard or frozen yogurt until Dec. 19.

They didn't just give up ice cream. They gave up all the things that go along with it in our house. No trips to Sonic for milkshakes with Grandmommy and Granddaddy. No ice cream as a reward for games well-played and goals scored. No ice cream at birthday parties. No ice cream to go with their Thanksgiving Day pie.

Why did they give up ice cream? To remind them that there are people in the world who live with so much less than we do.

Our church is drawing attention to poverty with 100 Nights in a Shack. Our pastors are taking turns spending the next 100 nights in a shack that was built in front of our church. More than 1 billion people in the world live in shacks without heat, air conditioning or running water. As part of the 100 Nights in a Shack our pastors have asked each of us to give up something we love for the next 100 days. (My husband and I are giving up chocolate, but that's a whole different blog post.)

We talked for several days about what the girls were going to give up. At first, they tried to give up school and homework. We reminded them it had to be a sacrifice, not a pleasure. They contemplated giving up playing computer games, eating Pop-Tarts,  and their favorite lunch item. They finally settled on ice cream.

They decided to give up ice cream together so they could encourage each other, and they persuaded their best friends to give it up along with them.

The next three months are going to have their tough days, but every time the girls miss their ice cream, it's an opportunity to talk about how much we have and how little many people in the world have.

Did you know that 15% of the world lives on 80% of the world's resources? That leaves 20% of the resources for the other 85% of the world's population. If you make more than $45,000 a year in household income, you are in the top 1% of wage-earners in the world.

The next three months are going to be a lesson in sacrifice for our family, but they will also be a lesson in appreciating what we have and looking for ways to help those who don't have as much.

God calls us to pay attention to the plight of the poor. Proverbs 19:17 says "Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done."

Too often, it's easy for us and our kids to get caught up in seeing what others have and wishing we had the same. We feel deprived because we don't have the best toys, the biggest house or a new car. Yet so much of the world lives on less than $2 a day. We spend that on a cup of coffee.

Luke 12:48 says "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." If you own a TV and a car, you are among the world's wealthiest people. We are the ones who have been given much, and it's important that we and our kids understand that.

So, join us in the 100 Nights in a Shack sacrifice or simply ask your family to give up something for a week. Use the opportunity to talk about poverty and injustice in the world. Make the decision to take the money you would have spent on the things you're giving up and give it to your church's mission program or to another organization that helps the needy.

Because we have been given much.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fingerprints on the Glass

I cleaned my kitchen yesterday. Every time I clean the kitchen, I go around with the cleaner and a paper towel and clean off the fingerprints. They're everywhere. On the windows. On the walls. On the light switches. But they're especially bad on the back door, which is mostly glass.

I could probably clean fingerprints off my back door twice a day, and the glass would still never be clean. My girls don't mean to leave fingerprints everywhere. They simply can't help it. When they come in from outside, their hands are dirty. When they touch the glass, it leaves a mark.

Those fingerprints are a sign that my girls have been through that door. Much as I dislike constantly cleaning the back door, I know that a day is coming when I will miss those fingerprints.

Just like my girls, we leave fingerprints all through life. Every time we touch a life by offering a hug, a compassionate ear or a moment of shared laughter, we leave our fingerprints on the other person.

Our actions toward others matter. We never know when something we've said or something we've done will change another person's day or even their life. That's why we need to be careful with our words and actions toward others. As easily as we can change someone's day for the good, we can also cause hurt and misery.

Ephesians 4:32 tells us to "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Offering up kindness and compassion to others, even those we don't necessarily get along with isn't just a nice thing to do, it's what God tells us to do.

Illustrate how our actions leave marks for your kids with a bowl of water and a clean window. Have your kids dip their fingers in the water, then shake off the excess. Then have them put their fingers on the window. It will leave fingerprints.

Talk about how those fingerprints are like our words and actions and the window is like one of our friends. Every time we say or do something to our friends, it leaves a mark on them. Unlike the fingerprints on the window, it's not a mark we can see. Our words and actions either make others feel good or bad. We want our words and action to leave marks that encourage and help other people no matter how their words and actions make us feel.

Every day, we leave fingerprints on others' lives. It's up to us to make sure the fingerprints we leave make a difference for good.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Memory Monday: God's Weapon is Light (John 8:12)

If you've been following this blog very long, you've probably figured out that my youngest daughter marches to the beat of her own drum. Most days, I don't think she even knows there's a different drum beating that the rest of the world is following.

Because of that, she brings her own unique perspective to things. She's always asking me questions about things that would never cross my mind.

Yesterday, we were in the car talking about why the 9/11 hijackers chose to do what they did. We talked about how they thought they were doing what their god told them to do.

All of sudden my youngest pipes up and says, "What's God's weapon?"

"What?" I asked.

"You know, Zeus has lightning, what's God's weapon?"

"How about love?" I replied.

"No. I think it's light," she said.

The more I thought about her answer, the more I realized she's right. God's "weapon" is light.

Now, light might not seem like a great weapon, but stop and think about it. What do we do when our kids are scared of the dark? We turn on a light. It dispels the darkness and the fear.

How did we honor the more than 3,000 people who lost their lives on 9/11? We turned on two powerful beacons of light to shine into the night sky where the twin towers once stood in the New York skyline. We took back the gaping hole of darkness and filled it with light.

All through the Bible, we see references to light. Light was the first thing God created. Jesus is called the true light. We are called to be the light to others.

Most importantly, Jesus told us that He is the light of the world. In John 8:12, He says "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

Light is the province of good, while evil loves darkness. Any time God shines light into that darkness, the darkness must flee. If you turn on a flashlight in a dark room, the darkness must go away. It can't overwhelm the light.

No matter how dark the circumstances, how much evil seems to be winning, God's light will always banish the darkness.

Memorize John 8:12 this week, and the next time darkness threatens to overtake your life, sit down in a dark room, and turn on a light as a physical reminder to you that God's light can overcome the blackest darkness.

Because God's light is a powerful weapon.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Introductions: Choose to Serve

The overwhelming feeling on 9/11 for many of us was helplessness. We were powerless to stop what we saw unfolding on our TVs. All we could do was sit and pray.

Ten years later, I think that's the overriding emotion that sticks with me. As sad and angry as I was, it was the helplessness that was the worst.

A year later, some of the families of the victims of 9/11 wanted to turn that feeling of helplessness around. They began urging people to turn 9/11, not into a day of sorrow, but into a day of service -- a day where we help our fellow Americans. These family members want us to remember the best of 9/11 -- the way this country came together to help and support each other in one of its darkest hours. In 2009, Congress formally declared 9/11 to be the National Day of Service and Remembrance.

And what better way to pay tribute to those who lost their lives that day, especially those who gave up their lives to help others?

One of the last acts Jesus did with His disciples was to serve them. Before they sat down to their last meal together, He washed their feet, a task reserved for the lowest servant in the household. Then, he admonished His disciples to follow His example by serving one another. "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet." (John 13:14)

As we remember those who died on 9/11, make it a point to use some of your time on Sunday to serve someone else. Follow Jesus' example to turn what was a day of national mourning into a day of service, a chance to be the arms and feet of Jesus to someone else.

Your act of service doesn't have to be big. You can take a meal to an elderly neighbor, rake the leaves of the single woman next door or participate in a more organized service project. Check out for more on the National Day of Service and Remembrance. You'll find a list of projects in your area.

You can also check out the KLOVE radio website. The national Christian radio station is asking its listeners to Make a Difference on 9/11. Their goal is to get 1 million people to commit to serve someone else on 9/11.

Check with your church. Some churches are putting together projects where you can serve on 9/11.

By turning 9/11 into a national day of service, we take control of how we remember the day. We honor the memories of those who died, and we thwart the wishes of the terrorists who would like us to continue to cower in fear. What better way to teach our kids that good can come out of evil than to turn a day of tragedy into a day of caring for others?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Don't Forget the Heroes

Our kids choose people to admire and emulate people all the time. My youngest's hero of the moment is Alex Ovechkin, a hockey player for the Washington Capitals. Like many other kids, my youngest sees Mr. Ovechkin's feats on the ice and elevates him to the status of role model.

In our society today, we look to athletes, politicians and celebrities to provide role models for our kids. While these people may have accomplished much in their careers, often their personal lives and attitudes aren't ones we would want our kids to emulate.

The word hero has lost its aura. We label acts on the sports field heroic. We talk about heroic efforts to finish a project at work. Yet, none of those things are truly heroism. Being a hero means making a choice that may cause personal harm to protect someone else.

The biggest hero of all was Jesus, who chose to give up his life so that we could have a relationship with God. Heroes are people who live out the words of John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."

As we focus on the events of 9/11 this week, it's easy to get caught up in the tragedy. Our kids need us to answer their questions to help them understand what happened. But they also need to know that lots of people on that day "laid down their lives" for people they knew and people they didn't know. These are the stories of heroism that day. Some of those people made it out. Some died. But every one of them made a conscious decision to put aside their own needs to see to the needs of others.

Tell your kids some of the stories of heroism on that day, so they can know that even in the midst of horrible events, people carry out the command in John 15:13.
  • Tell your kids the stories of the 9/11 rescue workers. More than 400 public service personnel -- police and firefighters -- died that day. When everyone else was rushing out of those burning buildings, police and firefighters were rushing in. They saved countless lives that day, and many paid the ultimate sacrifice to do so.
  • Talk about the heroism of Rick Rescorla. He was the head of security for Morgan Stanley, which has 3,700 employees in the World Trade Center. Every three months, he made the employees practice evacuating. When the first plane hit, he ignored the instructions to stay in the building. He evacuated the Morgan Stanley offices. All but three Morgan Stanley employees made it out. Rick and two of his security employees did not. When he was last seen, Rick Rescorla was still helping people get out of the building.
  • Remember the amazing acts of heroism of the men and women on United Flight 93. After hearing from family members about what had happened to the other hijacked planes, the passengers of Flight 93 decided they would not let that happen with their plane. They attacked the hijackers in an attempt to regain control of their plane. The plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, killing all on board, but it never hit its intended target, which was thought to be the White House or the Capitol building.
  • Tell your kids about the kindness of the people in Gander, Newfoundland. On Sept. 11, U.S. airspace was closed. International flights on their way in, were diverted to Canada. More than 6,000 people found themselves in tiny Gander, Newfoundland, a town of only 10,000. People opened their homes, cooked meals and shut down schools for shelters. Until U.S. airspace reopened several days later, the people of Gander put their lives on hold to take care of the displaced people from the planes. One of the passengers said, "For everyone else, 9/11 has a heavy connotation. But for me it was when I was reminded what humanity is." The people of Gander sacrificed their comfort to see to the comfort of others on that day.
Heroes are people, who like Jesus, give up the comfort and security of their own lives to see to the needs of someone else. The stories of heroism on 9/11 are countless. They are as much a part of the legacy of that day as the tragedy. And it's as important for our kids to know about the men and women who "laid down their lives" in so many ways as it is for them to know the facts about the events of the day.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Answering the Tough Questions

All this week, Everyday Truth is focusing on how to talk with our kids about the events of 9/11.

As my kids have gotten older, the questions they ask have gotten harder. While I enjoy being able to converse with my kids at a higher level than when they were preschoolers, some days I'd like to go back to those days where the toughest thing they asked was "Why is the sky blue?"

It's natural to shy away from the tough questions. Sometimes it's easier just to change the subject or offer up a distraction rather than deal with questions from our kids that have no good answers. But that a disservice to our kids.

As we talk with our kids about 9/11 this week, they're going to ask some tough questions. The way we answer those questions is going to make a difference in not only how our kids view the events of 10 years ago but how they view bad things that happen in the future.

To give you a starting point, here are some of the tough questions your kids might ask and a starting point for your answers. Remember to keep it simple and straightforward. We don't want to scare our kids, but we do want to give them a framework for dealing with the bad stuff that happens in life.

Why did 9/11 happen?
I think this is the toughest question. There's simply no good answer except that we live in a fallen world. Evil exists and it was in evidence on that day. Talk with your kids about how because Adam and Eve chose to sin, the world is not a perfect place. God gives us the ability to choose what we do. Unfortunately, some people made some really horrible choices on that day that affected thousands of lives.

Romans 3:23 says "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." The sin of the hijackers on the airplanes and those who planned the attacks simply had far greater consequences than a lot of the sins we commit every day.

Why didn't God stop it?
Talk with your kids about the fact that God could have stopped those planes from hitting those buildings. He's powerful enough. But God allows us to make choices. If we were all like robots, only doing what God allowed us to do, then God wouldn't get any glory from our praise. Our ability to make choices means that when we choose to follow God, He is glorified.

The people behind 9/11 chose to disobey God. Unfortunately, that created far-reaching consequences for innocent people. However, God has used the events of that day for good. We watched our country pull together and support one another. Some people started seeking God because of the events of that day. We can't know how God is even now using the events of that day for good because we can't see the big picture. What we do know is that God promises "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

Is Islam bad?
We don't want to teach our kids to hate or judge people based on what they believe. Jesus never did that. He went into the homes of tax collectors, prostitutes and Pharisees. He never withheld his love because of who someone was or what he believed.

The people who planned 9/11 were Muslim, but we don't want our kids to think that every person who practices Islam believes that Americans are bad. That's simply not true.

However, we do want our kids to know that we believe that what Islam teaches is wrong. There is only one way to God, and that's through Jesus. Talk with your kids about the fact that people believe different things. Jesus said He was the only way to God, but He doesn't want us to dislike people based only on what they believe. The only way others can know the truth about Jesus is if we share it with them. We can't do that if we're busy hating people because of the religion that they follow.

Explain to your kids that while the people who created the chaos on 9/11 were Muslim, it's possible for anyone to twist any religion to suit their own purposes. People have done horrible things in the name of Christ, too. Just because one person does a terrible thing and blames it on his religion doesn't mean we should tar all the others with the same brush.

The questions that arise around 9/11 don't come with easy answers. But answering our kids tough questions with honesty and an age-appropriate explanation can go a long way toward helping them sort out what happened that day.

Be deliberate in answering your kids' questions because your answers matter. They will help your kids sort through the tragic events of 10 years ago, but they will also be the lens through which they view tough things in the future.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Personalize It

All this week, Everyday Truth is focusing on how to talk with our kids about the events of 9/11.

Everyone has a 9/11 story. We all know exactly where we were and what we were doing on that morning when the world as we knew it changed.

It was my first day as a full-time stay-at-home mom. I was having breakfast and feeding my 3-month-old. I had the radio on and heard that a small plane had hit the World Trade Center. I thought, "How odd" and finished breakfast. As I went upstairs to get dressed, I turned on the TV to see what was going on. Not two minutes after I flipped the TV on, the second plane hit the other tower.

In horrified shock, I reached for the phone. The only thought I could come up with was "Where is my dad?" My dad travels a lot, and on a Tuesday morning, it was not unlikely that he would be on a plane. When my mom answered the phone, I didn't bother with "Hello." I simply asked "Where is dad?" Puzzled, my mom answered "Right here. He's leaving for New York later this morning."

While you and I have a 9/11 story, most of our children do not. They either weren't alive or were very small on that day.

It's important that we never forget 9/11. Otherwise those who died, did so for nothing. As the years pass, it becomes another day in history for our kids. While the horror of the day is imprinted on our brains, so is the heroism. The stories of people pulling together and helping each other are as much a part of the legacy of 9/11 as being frisked at the airport.

God did great things in the midst of 9/11. He gave courage to the weak and comfort to the grieving. Churches were in the middle of the crisis. They fed the rescue workers. They counseled the stricken. They opened their doors as shelters. God's love and care were just as evident during 9/11 as the evil that caused the events of that day.

Our kids need to know that there was good that came out of evil. We need to help them remember. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were faced with a similar issue. Their children weren't around when God did great things to bring them out of slavery in Egypt. They had to pass on the stories of redemption. Psalm 78:4 says "We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done."

Telling your kids your 9/11 story and the stories of people you know makes the event more than just a page in the history books for them. It makes it real, and it gives you the opportunity to focus on how God showed up during the crisis. It makes the stories of heroism and the stories of tragedy more than just a picture on the TV.
  • Let your kids ask questions. The memories of that day are so thick with emotion that it can be easy to want to simply gloss over what happened. Discussion may be difficult for us. But for our kids to understand that God is there in the bad times as well as the good, we need to satisfy their curiosity about that day.
  • Give your kids the information they are ready for. We don't want our kids to live in fear. If you're child will be terrified by the pictures of the twin towers, then don't show them pictures. If graphic descriptions of what happened that day are going to cause your child not to be able to sleep at night, then give them the generalities.
  • Expect your kids to not grasp the significance of the day. Kids are extremely self-centered. They may not realize that this anniversary has anything to do with them. And that's OK. Your goal is to personalize the event so they realize this is something that happened to real people. As they get older, they'll begin to grasp more of how 9/11 changed the world we live in.
  • Let your kids take the lead. As you talk with your kids, they will let you know how much they are ready to hear and see. Pay close attention to their cues.
  • Talk about your feelings. Let your kids know how it felt to be a part of that day. Fill them in on what you did in the days that followed.
Your 9/11 story is part of the legacy of that day. Share it with your kids so they begin to understand what happened on that autumn morning 10 years ago. Focus on the things that God did during one of the darkest hours of our nation. Because He was there even in the midst of the destruction.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Memory Monday: Tackling 9/11 (John 16:33)

Unless you live in a cave, this week is going to be filled with stories and remembrances about 9/11. Unless you have very small children, you're going to find yourself answering questions this week about that horrible day 10 years ago.

I don't know about you, but it's difficult for me, even 10 years later, to process exactly what type of people would celebrate killing so many innocents. Watching those towers fall qualifies as the single most horrifying experience of my life. I've never felt so helpless, angry, sad and overwhelmed. It seemed as if in that one day, the world had gone crazy.

My kids don't remember that day. My oldest was three months old. They have no memories of the horror and the tears. They don't remember watching New Yorkers stream across the George Washington and Brooklyn bridges on foot, their shocked faces covered in ash. They don't know what it was like to see two buildings that we knew were full of people simply disappear in an instant. To them, 9/11 is something they hear about every now and then. It's still incomprehensible, but it's not a personal experience.

Unless you have older teenagers, our kids don't remember a time that they didn't have to take off their shoes to go through airport security. They don't remember a New York skyline that included twin skyscrapers. The word terrorism has always been a part of their vocabulary. Our kids are products of a post-9/11 world, and as we remember the tragedy of 10 years ago we have to keep that in mind.

When we talk with our kids about the events of that day, we have to remember that their lens is different from our own. They need us to be able to share with them both the tragedy and the heroism of that day. They need to know that God did not forget us in the face of evil on that day. They need to hear our stories, so they can begin to process that event and understand how it affected their world.

It's natural to want to shy away from talking about 9/11. Even 10 years later, the horror of that day is still fresh. It changed all of our lives, and our kids need to know that. All this week, the blog is going to look at ways we can talk with our kids about what happened on Sept. 11, 2001. It's important for our kids to hear our stories and our perspective on that day to help them process through it. If we let media coverage and teachers be the lead communicators on this, then we miss an opportunity to help our children sort through the issues of bad things happening even though God is good.

Start today by learning John 16:33 together. In these verses, Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Talk with your kids about what this verse means. Explain that even though bad things happen because there is sin in the world, Jesus defeated sin when he died on the cross. That doesn't mean that He always keeps bad things from happening. We all get to choose what we do, and there are consequences for our actions. 9/11 happened because a group of people chose to do a horrible thing. We all felt the consequences of those actions. But that doesn't mean that God wasn't there. That doesn't mean that in the end, God doesn't triumph.

Bad things happen, but God is always there. He offers comfort. He offers courage. He brings light out of the darkness and good out of evil. God is always there.

The events of 9/11 are nearly incomprehensible. Boiling it down so our kids can grasp what happened is a tough task, especially when we are still trying to process it ourselves. But God offers us wisdom as well as comfort. Lean on Him this week as you talk with your kids. He will provide the words to help your kids understand.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Introductions: Motherhood On A Dime

My youngest bulldozes through life. She's full of energy and is prone to leap before she looks. Often, whatever she thinks comes straight out her mouth. We've been trying to teach her gentleness, restraint and caution since she was little.

This is the child who when she was about 4 years old was told not to touch the hot cast iron skillet by every adult in the room. What was the first thing she did when she sat down at the table? You guessed it. She touched the skillet and burned her hand.

Some days I think teaching her self-control and caution is a lost cause. I feel like I say the same things over and over and over. "Take three seconds to think about what you say before you say it." "Think before you act." It's enough to make you want to throw up your hands and give up.

On those days when I'm ready to give up, I've forgotten that I'm not responsible for making those lessons take hold in her heart. God is. Self-control, patience and gentleness are all fruits of the spirit. I can encourage and mold, but it's the Holy Spirit that is going to have to make those fruits grow in her.

As I struggle to figure out ways to make those character qualities take hold, I'm prone to forget the best way to make that happen -- prayer. I pray for and with my kids daily, but too often, I'm focused solely on the practical -- getting through tests, dealing with other kids, making it through a difficult situation. I don't always stop to pray that my kids would have the character qualities God wants them to have.

This week, I ran across a fantastic way to help me pray for my kids. Head over to Motherhood On A Dime and check out the 30-Day Challenge: 31 Ways to Pray for Your Kids. The printable calendar has a short prayer to pray for your kids for each day of September. This is a great way to pray things for your kids that you might not otherwise think about. Each day covers a godly character quality.

God wants to hear our prayers for our children, no matter what topic they cover. Ephesians 6:18 says "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests."

No matter what issue you're struggling to deal with with your kids today, God wants to hear about it. He wants you to bring everything to Him in prayer. Only He can help your child grow into the Godly young man or woman He wants them to be. Lay your kids at His feet, so He can work in their hearts.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Live at Peace With Everyone

No matter how much we’d like to, we don’t always get to choose the people who have influence over our kids. If you haven’t already, you’re likely going to run into at least one adult in your child’s life, whom you would not have chosen to be in a leadership role. It may be a teacher, a coach or a friend’s parent.

Our first instinct when that happens is to step in to protect our kids. However, that may not always be the right response. At some point, our kids have to learn that they aren’t going to like or even get along with everyone who is in a position of authority over them. I’ve had a couple of bosses that I wasn’t too fond of.
If we use these situations as teaching opportunities for our kids (and sometimes for us, too) we equip our kids to deal with what a friend of mine likes to call sandpaper people. You know, those people who simply rub you the wrong way.

This doesn’t mean that there are never situations where you need to step in and remove your child from a person’s authority. If an adult in leadership is causing your child harm, either physically or emotionally, then it’s time to step in. But if it’s simply a matter of personalities clashing, then it’s best to equip your kids to deal with this person.
Romans 12:18 says "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." There are times when it isn't possible to live at peace with everyone, but we need to teach our kids to make the effort.
  • Pray for the person. It's difficult to be angry or actively dislike someone you are praying for. Praying for someone who is making your life difficult creates feelings of compassion for them.
  • Pray for the situation. Ask God to help your child find the best way to deal with the situation. Ask Him to change any of your or your child's attitudes that are getting in the way of improving the situation.
  • Don't undermine the other adult's authority. If your child hears you complaining about their teacher or coach, then they will begin to question that person's authority over them. Whatever concerns you have about the relationship need to be dealt with outside the hearing of your child. Undermining the other person's authority gives your child the message that that person does not deserve his respect.
  • Listen to your child's concerns. Don't simply brush off your child's complaints. Help your child decide whether those complaints are valid and whether the solution relies on your child or the person in authority.
  • Change the things you can. If your child is clashing with her teacher on something small like where to put her name on the paper or how to line up in line, then it's your child who needs to change. On bigger issues, like a coach benching your child for no reason that he can see, help your child focus on the things that are within his control. He can't change the fact the coach benched him, but he can work harder in practice.
  • Let your child deal with the situation first. If your child is involved in a personality clash with a teacher or coach, offer strategies for dealing with the situation, but let your child have a stab at improving the situation first. This gives them some control over the situation and lets them practice dealing with conflict. Be there to back your child up, but give your child the first try.
  • Come up with a plan for dealing with the situation. We often can't change the other person, but we can work around them. If your daughter is concerned about how her coach's practice strategies are affecting her game, see if you can find another practice for her to attend along with her regular team's practice.
Dealing with people with whom we don't see eye to eye is difficult, but it is a skill that everyone needs to learn. Giving your child opportunities to learn to "live at peace with everyone" will build their relationship skills, so when it really matters, they'll have constructive tools for dealing with others, not destructive ones.