Monday, October 31, 2011

Memory Monday: Don't Judge (Romans 14:13)

My kids are out of school today, so I'm taking the day off from blogging. I'm re-running my Halloween post from last year because I think at this time of the year, it's important to keep our hearts from judging others.

There's some strange-looking kids in the Fairchild house today. My youngest has been transformed into Alex Ovechkin (the hockey player) and my oldest is looking a bit like a Harry Potter character. Halloween is today, and we'll be heading out to trick-or-treat.

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

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

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

The Bible is really clear about some things -- murder is wrong, Christ is the only way to God, and Jesus died for our sins. However, it gives no clear direction on other things, like Santa and Halloween. In my opinion, you should do whatever you feel is best for your family, making sure you base your decisions on time spent in prayer and God's word.
What we should not do, though, is judge others who may think differently. When Christ followers start judging each other on things on which there is no clear-cut answer, we break up the unity of the body of Christ.

Today's verse speaks directly to that issue. "Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way" (Romans 14:13). Our understanding of what causes a stumbling block to another person may differ, but if each of us is, to the best of our ability, trying to follow what God is telling us, then we have no right to judge one another.

This passage of scripture was addressing a difference of opinion over what foods to eat. Some people believed that Christians should only eat "clean" foods listed in the Law, while others believed that all food was permissible. The controversy was causing great division in the church. The problem was not the food, but the judgmental nature of the Christ-followers on each side of the issue.

While the points of division have changed, the problem remains among Christ-followers today. As we head toward the holiday season, starting with Halloween, keep this verse in your heart. Remember that while you may differ with another Christ-follower in how you approach the holidays, you are not to judge them. Instead, we are called to love each other.

Healthy debate of the issue is great and thought-provoking for all parties. Judgmental condemnation over an issue like this is hurtful and divisive. If you agree on the important stuff -- Christ died to bridge the gap between our sinful selves and God, and He is the only way to God -- then judging someone else on the small stuff serves no purpose.

So, whether you will have hockey players and literary characters wandering your home or you will be ignoring the day altogether, be loving and respectful of those Christ-followers who make a different choice than you.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Introductions: Sticky Situations

We spend a lot of time in this house practicing things. We go to soccer practice twice a week and hockey practice twice a week. My girls spend 15 minutes a day practicing their instruments.

We spend all that time practicing so the girls can be good at the things they have chosen to pursue. Without practice, they wouldn't know where to be and what to do during their games. They wouldn't sound very good at their concerts. Practice is vitally important to their success at these endeavors.

So, it makes sense that our kids might need some practice at making good decisions as they pursue a life of following Jesus. They need to practice what they will do in certain situations to make sure they understand what it means to be respectful, compassionate and kind.

When we give our kids the opportunity to think about a situation before they actually have to deal with that situation, we give them the time to think through their response. The whole point of practice is to train yourself to do the right thing before you're in a game situation.

We can offer our kids some practice in showing the character qualities we are trying to teach them. We can role play with them or simply ask them how they would deal with certain situations.

One great resource for doing that is the book Sticky Situations: 365 Devotions for Kids and Families. This daily devotional offers up everyday situations kids might face and lets them decide what they should do. Each day includes a short description of a situation and multiple choice answers. It also includes Bible verses for your kids to read to help them decide what the right answer is.

This devotional and it's companion book, Sticky Situations 2: 365 Devotions for Elementary Kids, are wonderful options for any parent looking to give their kids some practice in making decisions based on God's Word.

Every choice our kids make in a "sticky situation" is a choice between following God and following the ways of the world. In Joshua 24:15, Joshua told the Israelites to make a choice about whom they would follow: "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."

When we give our kids practice at choosing to follow God, we make it easier for them to choose to follow Him when it counts. Add some practice time to your lives today.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Fruit of Kindness

A child's first instinct is not to be kind to others. Ever seen a 2-year-old when someone else wants the toy she wants? She doesn't go over and politely ask to play. The best case scenario is she'll go over and take the toy out of the other child's hand. The worst case scenario is she'll go over and take the toy and hit the other child with it.

Kindness is not a character quality that comes naturally to most people. It has to be taught and nurtured. The Bible tells us kindness is a fruit of the spirit. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23). That means that it's something that comes from God. It's something that's difficult to achieve on our own.

Those verses also tell us something else important about kindness -- it comes from within. Kindness to others is an overflow of what's in our hearts. If our hearts are following Jesus, then kindness flows from that. But if our hearts are busy chasing after things that aren't important to God, then it will be hard to find kindness.

It's not hard to teach our kids to be kind to their friends. Most kids will figure out that if you're nice to others, then they will be your friends. It's when we run across those people who are difficult to get along with that kindness becomes more difficult. Yet, Jesus was specific about how we are treat people, even those with whom we don't get along. "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44).

Proverbs 25:21-22 puts it this way: "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you." Being kind to others, even those who don't like us, is a way to show others God's love.

Being kind isn't always easy, but it is the thing that God calls us to do. Teaching our kids to let God help them show kindness to others is important to God, so it needs to be important to us.
  • Show your kids an apple, an orange, a bunch of grapes and a banana. Ask them how they would tell a banana tree from a grapevine or an orange tree from an apple tree. They could tell by the frui the tree bears. Explain to your kids that we are like the fruit trees. People can tell we are Christ-followers by the way we act -- the fruit we bear. Read Galatians 5:22-23. Talk about how kindness is one of the "fruits" by which people know we follow Jesus. Talk about ways you can be kind to others.
  • Make kindness a priority. Correct unkind behavior in your kids when it happens. Require an apology when your kids are unkind to someone. Look for opportunities to reward your kids when you see them being kind to others.
  • Help your kids see the good in difficult people. Remind your kids that no matter what someone else does, God wants us to be kind to others. Our actions aren't based on how others act toward us. They're based on what God says. Pray with your kids and ask God to help them see others as He sees them. Remind your kids God loves everyone -- even people who are mean to us.
  • Model kindness. Look for opportunities to shower others with kindness. Go out of your way to show kindness. Your kids are watching what you do as well as what you say.
When we tap into God's power and lean on Him to do what He asks, we'll find that being kind to others will begin to come naturally. The more we practice it, the more of a habit it will become.

People will be able to recognize us by the fruit of kindness we bear.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Raising Compassionate Kids

My youngest daughter came home from school the other day feeling sad for a little boy in her class. His cat had died before he came to school that day.

"Mom, he talked about that cat every day. He played with it every day after school. It could even play baseball," she said.

Now, it's not surprising to me that my daughter would be concerned about one of her classmates or upset that another person's pet had died. I know we would all be devastated if anything happened to our dog.

What was surprising was how deeply this little boy's pet tragedy affected her. You see, she doesn't really get along all that well with this little boy. Usually, her re-telling of her day includes at least one thing that this boy did that annoyed her.

However, when this little boy was feeling awful about his cat dying, my daughter was able to set aside all the ways he annoys her and offer him her compassion.

Compassion is simply recognizing someone else's hurt and doing something about it. We want to raise kids who can recognize when someone else is hurting. We want them to want to do something to help a hurting person.

Our natural inclination is to protect our kids from knowing that bad things happen in the world. When our kids are toddlers or preschoolers, that's not a bad idea. As they get older, though, they need to know that the world isn't always a bright and shiny place. Bad stuff happens -- to us and to others. It's how we deal with that stuff that sets us apart as Christ followers.

When hard stuff happens to the people around us, we want to recognize it and treat those people with compassion. We want our kids to know how to offer words of encouragement and how to judge those moments when its better to just be silent and offer a shoulder to cry on.

Everyone needs a friend in times of crisis -- whether that person is our bosom buddy or someone that we might not normally like. Compassion sometimes means setting aside our personal feelings about someone to offer them what they need in the midst of their crisis.

Teach your kids to recognize the hurting people in their lives and help them take steps to offer compassion.
  • Help your child look at the entire situation. Sometimes people lash out at others when they are hurting. When that happens to your child, talk with them about why the other person may have acted the way they did. Help your child look past her own feelings to understand the feelings of the other person.
  • Brainstorm ways to help. Your child can make a difference by showing compassion to others. Help your child decide on a way to help their hurting friend. It can be a simple word of encouragement, a gift or just spending time with the other child.
  • Don't hide the tough stuff. If your child catches a glimpse of the news talking about an earthquake or other disaster, don't pretend it's not a big deal. Be honest in answering his questions. Talk about ways we can help those who were affected. We can pray for them, send money or send supplies. Finding a way to help others makes your child a part of the solution and gives them power over a scary situation.
God wants us to show compassion to others. Ephesians 4:32 says "Be kind and compassionate to one another."

Showing compassion to others doesn't take much time or money. It simply takes paying attention to the people around us.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Teach Respect

When my youngest was about 4, we started realizing we were going to have to pick our battles with her carefully. Strong-willed doesn't begin to start to describe her. We quickly realized we would be fighting with her over everything if we didn't decide what was important and what we were willing to let go.

When we sat down and looked at the things that were important, we boiled it down to two things: safety and respect. We decided the battles worth fighting with her were only worth it if they involved her or someone else's safety or if they involved respect, for herself or others.

Respect covers a lot of ground. It's not just about saying "please" and "thank you" or calling an adult "Mr." or "Mrs." Respect means putting others first and treating them like they are important. It takes into account someone else's feelings. It covers friends, family, people you don't like and yourself.

The Bible puts it this way: "Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor" (1 Peter 2:17). God doesn't tell us to respect the people we like or the people who have earned it. He says we should respect everyone, even those we don't like. When this verse was written, the emperor was persecuting the Christians, yet Peter tells those same Christians they must show respect to the emperor.

Respect is important because it shows others that we care about them. When we take into account someone else's feelings -- even when we don't particularly care for their point of view -- we acknowledge that they are due respect simply because they, too, were made by God.

So, how do we teach our children to respect others? It's such a vague concept. How do we break that down into a concrete form for our kids?
  • Eliminate name-calling. When we call someone else a name or identify them as "stupid" or "dumb," we devalue the other person. Make a no name-calling rule in your home, and enforce it. Eliminate words like "stupid" and "dumb" from your household vocabulary.
  • Teach your kids to think about how they would like to be treated, then encourage them to treat others that way. Jesus said "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 7:12). When your kids treat their siblings or a friend in a disrespectful manner, discuss what happened with them and help them brainstorm better ways to treat their friends or siblings next time.
  • Make respect a big deal. Create a contest where you reward your kids for respectful behavior. Make it fun and silly. For example, if you catch a child being respectful, crown them king or queen of dinner. Let them wear a goofy crown, get served first and be able to pick dessert.
  • Don't hesitate to correct your kids, even if you're out in public. Disrespectful behavior is just like any other behavior. It becomes a habit if allowed to take root. Don't embarrass your children, but make sure they know that being in public doesn't shield them from the consequences of being disrespectful. My favorite correction for disrespect is to make my kids apologize, then start over with a new request or comment.
  • Watch the tone. Kids can be disrespectful without saying anything wrong. Their tone of voice can convey disrespect. Call them on it when their tone gets out of hand. Make them ask for what they want in a tone that conveys respect. A good way to help your kids understand this is to tape record them and play it back. Ask them if they think their tone of voice is respectful. Practice modulating the tone with them.
Respecting others is simply putting the other person first and treating them like the beautiful creation of God that they are. If we keep that image foremost in our minds, respecting others will come easier.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Memory Monday: Achievement vs. Character (1 Samuel 16:7)

God looks at our hearts, not our achievements, so this week, Everyday Truth will look at building our kids' character. Today is an overview of character. Tuesday, we'll look at teaching our kids to respect others. Wednesday, we'll talk about compassion, and Thursday, we'll look at kindness. On Friday, I'll have some resources that will help you teach your kids character.

We had parent-teacher conferences this past week. My girls' conferences are typically pretty boring with no big issues to discuss. We have one kid who's struggling a bit with the change in math curriculum but overall, we got positive reports.

The best part of the parent-teacher conferences, though, was a simple comment made by both girls' teachers. Both teachers told us our girls were extremely respectful, both of the teachers and of their peers.

You see, there's really not much I can do about my kids' ability to do well in school. I can help them study. I can make sure they have all the tools they need to succeed, but I can't make my kids any smarter than they are. I can't make them better spellers or give them a better math sense.

What I can do is teach my kids to have character. I can teach them to be respectful of others. I can teach them to be kind. I can teach them to be compassionate.

These are the things that matter in the long run. We told our girls we were happy that their grades were good, but we were much more excited about the fact that both their teachers were impressed enough with their respectfulness that they mentioned it during their conferences.

We told our girls that while we're proud of their grades, those grades are just a reflection of how well they've memorized or understood something. When a teacher comments on how you act toward others, it's a reflection of who you are inside. And that's way more important than how you scored on a test.

Society puts a huge emphasis on achievement, and there's nothing wrong with aiming for high achievement, but a grade on a report card says nothing about your character. You can be a horrible person and still get an "A" in math.

God gives us gifts and abilities, and He wants us to use them, but He's most concerned with the attitude of our heart. Achievement isn't a bad thing; it's just not the most important thing.

1 Samuel 16:7 says "But the LORD said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'"

God chose David to be king, despite the fact that he was a lowly shepherd and the youngest son. These were not outward trappings of achievement. Yet God saw something in David's heart that made Him choose David. It was David's character, not his achievement that made God able to use Him.

We want our kids to have character that shines. That starts at home. We can teach respect, kindness and compassion to our kids from the time they are little. It's those qualities that will make them open to being used by God.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Introductions: Nancy Rue

I got an email in my inbox yesterday from Chuck E. Cheese. Yep, the big mouse that serves really bad pizza sent me an email. Actually, he sent my youngest daughter an email, wishing her a happy half-birthday.

Because I needed an overgrown mouse with a plastic head to remind me that my baby girl is growing up. She's 8 1/2. My oldest is almost 10 1/2. We've moved from playing with Little People and eating crayons to dealing with mean girls and looking for just the "right" pair of jeans.

I'm not sure where the time went, but I sit here this morning with two girls firmly ensconced in their tween years. I love the ages my girls are now, but I have to tell you that I think the tween stage is a whole bunch harder to parent than the tantrum-throwing 2-year-old stage. I knew what to do with a temper tantrum.

Some days I feel completely inadequate as a parent. I can't always fix the problems my girls are facing. All I can do is offer support and love and hope they make the best decisions they can.

I think the tween years are confusing for all kids. They're not quite teen-agers, yet they're no longer little kids. As a parent, it's hard to know what's going on in their brains. Getting a handle on who our tweens are and what they are becoming is difficult.

It's a difficult time for our kids, as well. Being stuck in the "in-between" is often a confusing and uncomfortable place to be.

Understanding our tweens, especially girls, is something that today's Friday Introduction excels at. If you have a tween girl, you need the resources that Nancy Rue provides.

Nancy has been writing about tween girls for decades. She has amazing insight into what's going on inside their heads and their hearts, and she has practical advice for moms and dads to nurture their girls through this "in-between" time.

If you have a tween girl, the single best thing I've ever read on them is Nancy Rue's book, Moms' Ultimate Guide to the Tween Girl World. This book offers insight into your daughter's thought process and into the issues she's facing in her world today.

Nancy also has a book for dads of tween girls called What Happened to My Little Girl?: Dad's Ultimate Guide to His Tween Daughter, which offers insight into tween girls for dads. It reiterates how important a dad's influence is in his daughter's life, especially during the tween years.

These are the years when we must talk to our daughters about their changing bodies and sex. Nancy offers some great information from a Godly perspective that speaks right to tween girls in her books Body Talk (Faithgirlz!) and The Body Book: It's A God Thing! (The Lily Series)

Nancy also writes fiction for tweens and teens in her Lily, Sophie and Real Life series of books. These are stories of girls who are facing problems similar to the ones our own girls face every day. Her characters solve them in a Christlike way that offers the reader wisdom and insight into solving their own problems.

Check out Nancy Rue's website for tweens that includes a blog aimed just at tween girls. You'll find a complete list of her books and some wise insight into how tween girls think.

When we're at a loss as to how to deal with an issue, especially ones that deal with our kids, it only makes sense to seek out some resources that offer Godly wisdom. Proverbs 3:13 says "Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding."

Gaining wisdom and understanding about our kids makes us better moms and dads. Seek out God's wisdom in the Bible and look for Godly instruction from those who have already walked the road you're on.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I love to throw a party. I love creating a theme, planning the decorations, food and games, and I love the looks on my kids' faces when they see the house decorated for the first time.

We throw parties around here all year long. We've had a spy sleepover for no good reason. We're having a traditional Halloween party in a couple weeks. We have big birthday parties, and every year we have a cookie decorating party at Christmas.

Those parties are a lot of work, but they are worth it. They bring the laughter and voices of my girls' friends into my home for an hour and a half. The kids spend that time enjoying each others' company, laughing and playing.

Yet, as many parties as we have during the year, it's only a few days out of 365. While we're really good at celebrating the big milestones -- birthdays and holidays -- we're not as focused on celebrating the everyday moments and accomplishments.

God wants our lives to be filled with joy. He wants us to let the joy of knowing Him bubble over into our everyday lives. That joy should help us celebrate and encourage our children. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." There's no better way to encourage our kids than to celebrate the little things.

When we encourage our kids by celebrating their accomplishments -- both large and small -- we make home a haven for them. Our homes become a place where they know they are loved and cherished.

I'm not saying you should puff your child up and give them an inflated sense of self-worth because that only leads to a prideful attitude. What I am saying is the world constantly tells our kids they aren't pretty enough, rich enough, smart enough or cool enough, and it's our job to counteract that with encouragement. Choose legitimate accomplishments to celebrate with your kids.

My oldest daughter struggles with spelling. She simply isn't the world's best speller. We make a big deal out of 100 percent on a spelling test with her. It's a small accomplishment, but one that requires a lot of studying on her part to get it right. Her perfect tests hang on the refrigerator, and we make sure she gets lots of praise for it.

Both my girls play sports. We celebrate goals and great play with ice cream after the game. It's not a reward for scoring; it's a celebration of a game well-played.

Look for opportunities to encourage your kids by celebrating the little things.
  • Celebrate report cards. Don't have all A's? Celebrate the improvement from a C to a B. Celebrate improved behavior scores.
  • Celebrate the fun days on the calendar. Did you know there's a National Ice Cream Day, a National Donut Day and a National Clown Week? Have fun with your kids and celebrate those days together.
  • Celebrate good behavior. If your child is struggling with a particular behavior, catch her doing what she should and celebrate it. Let her pick dinner or dessert. Add an extra 15 minutes to her bedtime.
By celebrating the everyday moments and successes in your children's lives, you offer them encouragement and joy. And who doesn't want to live in a home filled with encouragement and joy?

Find something to celebrate today.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Can You Pray?

The other night I heard my dog howling. Now, our 4-year-old German short-haired pointer rarely barks or howls so it took me a few minutes to figure out what that horrible noise was. He was standing on my back porch howling his head off.

As I stepped out on the porch, I realized he was howling at the cacophony of sirens heading in our direction. It sounded like the entire fire department was on its way. After standing there for a few minutes, I realized the sirens were headed our way as fire trucks started pouring into the cul-de-sac that backs up to our house.

By this time, both my girls -- who had been in bed -- were standing in the yard trying to see what was going on. We had a limited view between the houses, so it was difficult to determine if anything was on fire.

My oldest looks at me and says, "I'm scared." After assuring her that the firefighters were there to help and that it didn't look too serious since we couldn't smell smoke, she says, "Can you pray?"

Struck dumb for a moment, I realized I hadn't even thought to pray for the people involved. I was too busy being a gawker.

We stopped and prayed for the family and for the firefighters. My daughter was much calmer afterwards and was able to go back inside and head to bed.

It took a 10-year-old to remind me that prayer is a potent tool in all situations, especially ones where we feel powerless and afraid. James 5:16 says "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."

Too often, our first response to a situation is to try to fix it when our first response should be to take it to God, so He can fix it.

We want our kids to take their cares and concerns to God in prayer. The only way they will learn to do that is if they see us taking our cares and concerns to Him. Model a prayer-filled life for your kids, so they will learn the habit of going to God first.
  • Whenever you hear sirens, stop and pray with your kids for whomever the police or firefighters are going to help.
  • When your kids tell you about a tough situation they are facing, before you offer them advice, stop and pray with them about it.
  • Before you leave on a trip, pray with your kids for safe travel.
  • Before your kids walk out the door in the morning, pray with them about their day.
Praying with our children and letting them see that we know God is able to handle all of our worries and concerns gives them an example to follow. And someday they just might remind you that it's time to pray.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Finding Help and Comfort

My 10-year-old daughter played in a soccer tournament this weekend. She played five games in three days, with three of them on Sunday. Her team played amazingly well, and for the first time, they made it to the championship game.

The final game was a nail biter. Both teams played really well. It ended in a 0-0 tie. The tie breaker in this tournament was a shootout. Five girls from each team got a chance to go one-on-one with the goalie. The team with the most goals wins. If it's still tied after five, it goes to sudden death -- first team to score when the other one doesn't wins.

My daughter's team lost in the sixth round of the shootout. The girls who missed their shots were devastated, feeling like they had let the team down. The goalie was upset, thinking she should have been able to stop more shots. After such a great weekend, this team that had played their best tournament ever walked off the field with heads hanging and shoulders hunched. Tears flowed.

In talking to my daughter after the game, I found out neither coach wanted to have a shootout. They both asked several times why they couldn't just declare the game a tie and give both teams the first-place medals. Neither coach wanted their girls to end up feeling as though they had failed.

A shootout at this age really boils down to not much more than luck. The coaches wanted the girls to walk off the field with their heads held high, knowing that they had played their best. They knew a shootout would leave two girls -- the goalie and the last girl to miss -- feeling horrible. After playing so well, neither coach wanted that for either team.

But there was to be no bending of the rules on this day, so to the shootout we went. The coaches' request reminded me of what it's like to be a parent. We do the best we can to keep our kids from getting hurt. We protect them and love them. We offer guidance and try to keep them out of situations that will leave their heads hanging, their shoulders hunched and the tears falling. We ask God to protect them.

Yet sometimes, despite our best efforts and our diligent prayers, the hurt gets through. The painful experience happens. The world wallops our kid with a healthy dose of disappointment.

Our kids don't make the team or get a part in the play. Someone says hurtful things to our children. Broken relationships bring sorrow and uncertainty to our children's lives.

It's in these times that we want to teach our kids to turn to the only source of help -- God. When hurt walks into our children's lives, we want them to know the ultimate source of help and comfort. Psalm 54:4 says "Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me" and Psalm 119:76 says "May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant."

God always offers us help and comfort in difficult times. He doesn't take the difficult circumstances away, but He does offer us a way through those circumstances. He promises never to leave our side. We want our kids to know that no matter how dire the situation seems, no matter how awful it makes them feel, God is waiting to help them through it.

  • Talk to your kids about what the word comfort means. Ask how they feel most comforted in a difficult situation. Ask them who they turn to for comfort. Talk about how God is the ultimate comforter. He offers us His unconditional love. In tough circumstances, He's just waiting to offer us peace through His love.
  • When your child is in the midst of a difficult situation, talk with him about the ways that God can help him deal with it. Make a list of the things God could do. Write down all the possibilities you can come up with, even if they seem outlandish. Talk about how God may not choose to take the problem away or zap our enemies, but He is there to offer help.
  • Help your child see that God is bigger than their problem -- no matter how big the problem seems. Place a small rock on the table next to the biggest rock you can find. Ask your child which rock they think represents their problem. Talk about how God is the big rock, and their problem is the pebble. No matter how big our problems seem, to God they are always the size of the pebble. God is bigger than our problems, and He can help us through them.

Just as my daughter's coach couldn't protect his team from the disappointment of losing their game in a shootout, we can't always protect our kids from pain and disappointment. But we can direct them to the ultimate source of help and comfort when tough things come their way.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Memory Monday: Make the Most of Today (Psalm 144:4)

We're big race fans in our house. It's something of a family tradition. My dad has been going to the Indy 500 since he was 14. My parents ended their honeymoon at the Indy 500. My husband and I spent our 10-year anniversary at the Daytona 500. We go to the Indy 500 and the two race weekends at Kansas Speedway every year. Rarely does a weekend go by where there's not at least one race on the TV in our house.

We've passed that love of racing down to our 8-year-old. She learned her numbers from watching race cars. (She always skipped 15 because there was no car with that number on it.) We've been taking her to races since she was 4. This child who can't sit still for more than five minutes can sit for three hours without moving if she's at a race. She loves the speed, the drivers and the competition.

That's why yesterday was tough. We were at a soccer tournament for my oldest when parents showed up and asked if we had watched the IndyCar race. There had been a horrific crash and when they left home for the game, Dan Wheldon -- the current Indy 500 champion -- had been airlifted to the hospital. A quick check of the news showed he had died.

We were stunned. It's easy to forget how dangerous auto racing really is, but every now and then the reality of it smacks you in the face. We quickly decided not to tell our 8-year-old until the soccer tournament was over. We didn't want to detract from my oldest's game.

When we got to the car, we told the girls what had happened. They both had lots of questions, few of which we could answer. My youngest was a bit stunned, as she's the biggest fan of the two.

Helping our kids deal with death is always difficult. All we can do is answer their questions the best way we know how.

Dan Wheldon's death brings home the reality of how it only takes a split second for things to change. He didn't climb into that race car yesterday morning thinking it would be the last time he kissed his wife and 2-year-old and 6-month-old boys. A slight bobble from a car in front of him caused a massive pile-up. It's not that different from what can happen on the highway.

The truth is, none of us are promised tomorrow. We don't know what will happen when we step out the door today, and we want to live a life that treasures each moment. Psalm 144:4 says "Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow."

Each moment we are given is precious. Our children will grow up and leave home. Friends and family may move away. People we know will die. When we treat each moment as if it matters, we are more likely to find the joy in the moment, we're more likely to tell someone we love them and we're more likely to choose the things that matter over the things that don't.

Don't miss the joy and the love because you're too busy looking at what's happening tomorrow. Hug your kids. Kiss your spouse. Call your parents. Make time for a friend.

Because life is fleeting, and we're not promised tomorrow. Make the most of today.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Introductions: Untangling Christmas

"I can hardly wait. It's almost Christmas!"

This is what my oldest daughter announced in the car one day this week. I had to take a minute to check the calendar to be sure I hadn't missed a couple of months somewhere. To my great relief, I found it was still October. We hadn't shot our car through a break in the space-time continuum on our way to soccer practice.

With a declaration like that, I assumed she had her Christmas wish list completed and wanted to present me with it. To my surprise, when I gently reminded her that we still have 2 1/2 months until Christmas, she had a different response.

"It's not the presents I like the most. I just love the family and friends and all the fun stuff we get to do at Christmas time," she said.

Wow. When she could have been listing all the things she wants for Christmas, she was looking forward to all the people she was going to get to see and spend time with. She was looking forward to the feeling of love at Christmas way more than she was looking forward to getting stuff for herself.

A few days later, I ran across this e-book, Untangling Christmas: Your Go-To Guide for a Hassle-free Holiday by Karen Ehman and LeAnn Rice. I've read plenty of books about making your holiday stress-free, and most of them simply tell you to either be super organized or they tell you to simply stop doing all those things that make the holidays special.

This book is different, and if you struggle each year with creating a holiday season that emphasizes the love and joy of the season, I highly recommend you check it out. Ehman and Rice start with the premise that too often we do things during the holidays because they're expected, not because anyone we love actually enjoys them. Their idea of creating a hassle-free Christmas includes sitting down with your family and finding out what traditions are important to them, and then doing only those things.

Their book is packed full of ideas for dealing with all those stressful holiday chores like baking and shopping for gifts. Their practical, easy to implement plan for a hassle-free holiday comes across in a fun, no-nonsense writing style.

If you want to get ready for the holidays and create an atmosphere that has your kids talking more about the memories and the love found in the holidays than what they received as gifts, then check out this book.

If we take the advice that Ehman and Rice share, we'll find ourselves creating a Christmas season that takes time to focus on the love and the joy inherent in the birth of Jesus.

Remember the angels said "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy..." (Luke 2:10), not tidings of great stress. Even if you don't get the book, take some time now -- in October -- to decide what's important in December. It will make it easier to say no to the things that don't add to the joy of the season.

Then, get back to your regularly scheduled plans for October.

You can purchase Untangling Christmas for Kindle (Untangling Christmas: Your Go-To Guide for a Hassle-Free Holiday), Nook or as a PDF file. You can also check out the Untangling Christmas website, which contains more ideas and recipes. This blog was not solicited for this review and received no compensation for the review.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Celebrate Fall

Ben Wilson

The trees are starting to change colors in our neighborhood. Soon, the streets will be lined with a riot of color -- yellow, red and orange. The temperatures should start to drop, and the crisp days of fall will be here, reminding us that winter is on its way.

I love fall. I love the beauty of the mums blooming and the trees changing. I love a crisp fall day. I love watching my kids jump in the piles of leaves we have just raked. Pumpkins and gourds start to adorn tables and front steps.

Fall is a great time to stop for a moment and enjoy the beauty of God's creation. It's the perfect time to make a mug of apple cider, step out onto the porch and simply revel in the amazing world that God made.

God could have chosen to make a world that stayed the same all year round, but He didn't. Even in tropical locations, the seasons change from dry to rainy. While the desert may seem to always be hot, even the nights in the desert can get cold when the seasons change.

God's creation holds amazing wonders for us to discover, but often we're too busy to notice. How many years have the mums bloomed and the leaves changed where we simply accept it as part of the norm and never take a moment to enjoy the beautiful panorama God has given us?

It's when we stop to take notice of the things God created that we get a sense of how truly awesome God is. He didn't miss any detail. He created a world that includes the elephant and the spider. He created the hummingbird and the eagle. He even made the platypus, just to keep things interesting.

David found that studying God's creation made him feel small in relation to God. He said "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" (Psalm 8:3-4)

It was only when David realized the awesomeness of God by gazing on His creation that He was awed by the idea that God loved Him. While God doesn't want us to feel bad about ourselves, He does want us to realize how great and awesome He is.

When we take a moment with our kids to stop and enjoy God's amazing creation -- whether your trees turn red in the fall or not -- we encourage them to get a picture of how big, powerful and creative God is. The same God that made the blue whale also made the delicate petals of a rose.

So, take a moment today to bask in the beauty of God's creation. Point out the variety and detail within the things He created to your kids. Get a sense of how truly great God is and how wonderful it is that He loves us and wants a relationship with us.

Let the beauty of autumn remind you of the awesomeness of God.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Quit Comparing

My oldest had to do a project for school that was due yesterday. The assignment was to build a type of house that a Native American population lived in. She chose an igloo. The directions were to build the shelter with things you had at home, so we used a plastic cup, some sugar cubes and some salt for snow.

My daughter worked hard on her project. In the end it was a bit lopsided, but she was proud of it -- until she took it to school. I helped her carry it in, and when we saw the other projects on the table, my heart sank. There were several projects that took up nearly half a table, complete with people, animals, streams and ladders. Adobe houses with perfectly cut windows and doors and igloos with removable roofs so you could see the scene inside.

My daughter worked hard on her project. She created it with a minimum of help from me. It met all the criteria of the assignment. And she was happy with it -- until she started comparing it to other projects.

Too often, we let our joy in something we've done or how we're made be sucked away by comparing ourselves to others. You know you've done it. How many times have you walked into a room feeling pretty good about how you look, only to immediately find someone who is skinnier or who has better-looking hair? How often have you felt good about the things you've accomplished in your day, only to talk to your super mom neighbor and discover that she did everything you did and she baked cookies for her kids for snack and landscaped her yard at the same time?

Comparison always has the same result -- it either makes us feel bad about ourselves or it makes someone else feel bad about themselves. It serves no other purpose.

Bullies have comparison down to an art form. They generally choose a child to bully whom they think has it better than they do. The bullying is a way to keep the child being the bully from feeling bad about herself when she compares herself to others.

God doesn't want us to compare ourselves to others. He created each one of us with our own talents. He gave each one of us our own gifts. If we were all the same, we couldn't be effective in sharing His love with others. If we were all the same, all of our art would look the same, all of our music would sound the same and all of our books would be about the same stuff. We'd all see the world in the same way, and there would be no room for creativity.

In 1 Corinthians 12:18-19, Paul says "But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be?" God made each one of us and each one of our kids "just as He wanted them to be." When we compare ourselves to others, we are essentially telling God we don't think He did a good job making us -- we think He made a mistake.

When our kids succumb to the urge to compare themselves to others -- and end up feeling bad as a result -- we need to step in and remind them that God doesn't compare us to others.
  • When your kids go from feeling good about something they have done to feeling bad about it because someone else's is "better," ask your child if they did their best on whatever activity or project has them feeling inadequate. Explain that God made some people more artistic, more athletic, or better at school than others. But He made those people who aren't all those things better at something else. Remind your child that as long as they do their best, they make both you and God happy.
  • When your child is feeling down because they are comparing themselves to others, give them two bowls of different-flavored ice cream that they like equally. Ask them which ice cream is better. Explain that people are like ice cream. We come in many flavors. None of those flavors is better than the other -- they're all good. But they're all different. God made us all different because He needs us each to play a role in His plan.
  • Show your child how to make candy in a mold. Explain that God made each of us, like we're making the candy. The difference is that when God made each of us, He used a different mold for each person. No two people are exactly alike. When we compare ourselves to others, the comparison isn't fair because the mold that made us isn't the same.
Comparing ourselves to others is one of the biggest self-esteem robbers. If we can help our kids break the cycle of comparison, we can help them understand their intrinsic value to God.

When we stop comparing ourselves to others, we can be ourselves -- just like God made us to be.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Value Creativity

My oldest daughter has a creative streak. She loves to draw and write stories. She can come up with some of the most outlandish outfits to wear. She and her friend make up silly songs. She's always coming up with new games to play with her friends. Give her a rock and a stick, and she'll find something to do that the whole neighborhood can play.

My youngest is creative, too, but in a different way. The games she comes up with generally imitate life. She'll take her matchboxes and race them around the house, offering detailed play-by-play along the way. She will make her stuffed animals talk to one another.

Creativity is a gift, and it's one we should treasure. Unfortunately, school and society don't often place a lot of value on creativity. School is generally all about facts and numbers. Most of the writing assignments my oldest gets are non-fiction essays, which doesn't leave a lot of room to be creative. So much of what society rewards is following the generally accepted path.

Yet, where would we be without creativity? We wouldn't have the light bulb or the personal computer or even a toilet. All of these things were created by men thinking outside of the accepted box. They were invented by people who saw a need and thought, "I can do better." Years of failure preceded Thomas Edison inventing the incandescent light bulb. Yet, he simply kept trying new things.

God created each of us with our own unique sense of creativity. It's one of the things that makes us unique. Some people are amazingly talented when it comes to the arts. They can draw, paint or make beautiful music. Others simply see the world a little bit differently and can make science and math do new things. These are the people that discover cures for diseases and invent new things.

Jesus said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26). Sometimes God uses our creativity to make what seems impossible possible. In the 1800s, people would have told you that flying through the air was impossible, yet airplanes fly every day. In the 1940s, people would have told you going to the moon was impossible, yet 30 years later man walked on the moon.

As much as we need to encourage our kids to do well in school and follow the rules, we also need to encourage their creative side. God gave them creativity so they could do great things for Him. If we stifle our kids' creativity, we take away their ability to solve problems and create new things.

Because so much of the world is set up to reward those who march in step and not the ones who are creative, we must nurture that spark of creativity by providing opportunities for our kids to use that gift.
  • Encourage your children to come up with creative solutions to their problems. If they're having trouble with another kid at school, help them to brainstorm ways to solve the problem. Look beyond the obvious and include some outside-the-norm ideas on your list.
  • Create opportunities within your family for your kids to be creative. If your child likes to cook, let him experiment in the kitchen. If your child likes to draw, create a place in your home where she can hang her pictures for others to see. If your child loves Legos, hang a shelf where he can place his latest Lego creations. Make sure your kids know you value their creative side.
  • Use dinner conversation to encourage creativity. Offer your kids a question or a problem and encourage them to be creative in their answers. It can be anything from "What type of tree would you be?" to "What would you do if you could fly?"
Creativity creates solutions to problems and can result in the creation of beautiful things. It's a gift, and we should value it and encourage it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Memory Monday: Tripping on the Little Stuff (Matthew 25:23)

Friday night was a busy night. My husband went to see the first night race at our local speedway. My oldest had a soccer game, and my youngest had hockey practice at the same time. Hockey practice was followed by a team party.

We managed to get through both soccer and hockey without any injuries. The party was fun. My youngest loved hanging out with all her hockey friends, and I enjoyed talking with all the parents.

We were headed home to put everyone to bed when my youngest got tripped up. She fell off the curb getting into the car after her hockey party. I'm not sure exactly what happened, but when I went around the car, she was lying on the ground whining that her foot hurt.

It was 10:30 at night, so I did what every good mom does. I checked her out, saw no blood or bone, assumed the whining was a product of the late hour, said "you'll be fine," took her home and put her to bed. Saturday morning, she came hopping into my bedroom about 8 o'clock and announced she couldn't walk.

So, off to the urgent care we went. We returned home with an orthopedic boot and orders for a week of rest to heal badly sprained ligaments in her foot.

As I reflected on the events of the evening, I had to laugh. We survived a soccer game where elbows were flying and my oldest ended up on the ground more than once. My youngest made it through practice for a sport that allows 7- and 8-year-olds to carry large sticks and puts blades much sharper than my kitchen knives on their feet. No one suffered injury in either of those things.

Yet, when it came time to do one of the simplest tasks of the evening -- walk to the car and get in -- we ended up with an injury that required treatment.

So often, it's the little things that trip us up. We survive the big temptation only to be caught by the little one. We choose not to lie, only to be tripped up by gossip. We pass on dessert, only to find ourselves adding calories with a piece of chocolate. We do well in controlling our tongue, only to find unkind words spilling out in a moment of anger.

We have to constantly be on guard against the little temptations in life because the more times we get tripped up by the little stuff, the easier it is to lose focus in the big things. Everything we do matters to God. How we act in the small moments is just as important to Him as how we do when faced with the big issues.

God cares about how we treat our friends and family. He cares about how we treat our bodies. He cares about whether we spend time with Him. He gives us opportunities to make the right choices when the consequences are small, so we can make the best choices when the consequences are large.

Matthew 25:23 says "You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things." When we are faithful to follow God in the small things, He will reward us with more opportunities to be faithful.

It's in the way we handle the small things that our true character shows. Anyone can do the right thing in public, but it's what you do when no one is watching that says the most about who you are.

Small things matter to God. Don't let them trip you up.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Introduction: Orange Parents

I'm an involved parent when it comes to school. I go through all of my kids' papers when they bring them home from school. If they clearly didn't understand something, we go over it together. I check to make sure my kids get their homework done every night. If something is going on at school, I check in with their teachers to make sure we both have a handle on it.

Yet, like most parents, many weeks when Sunday morning rolls around, I send my kids off to their classes, ask them a few questions about what they learned on the way home and leave it at that. Too many times if we have a soccer or hockey game right after church, we may not even get the few questions in.

How can we be such caring and concerned parents when it comes to our kids education, yet leave such an important part of their lives, their spiritual education untouched? That's not how God intended it.

For too many years, people viewed the church as the primary place for spiritual instruction for their kids. Don't get me wrong, our kids need to go to church, Sunday School, small group, AWANA or whatever your children's program is called. They need to know there are other kids who believe the same things they do, they need the experience of meeting together with others and they need to know other Christ-following adults who can influence their lives.

But the primary responsibility for teaching our children about God lies with us. The church is our partner. Remember that our theme verse for this blog, Deuteronomy 6:6-9 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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."

These verses lay the primary responsibility for teaching our children about God at our feet. But that doesn't mean that we don't need help. Our churches, our friends and our extended families can help reinforce and partner with us in raising our kids to be Christ-followers.

Too often, though, we, as parents, haven't done a good job of partnering with our church. We expect our kids to pick up in an hour or two a week, the foundation they need to follow God for the rest of their lives. Would we expect our kids to learn their multiplication facts or all the capitals of the United States in an hour a week? Of course not. We would spend time at home helping them learn those things.

The same goes for their spiritual instruction. We want to partner with our church to teach our children about God. We don't want to rely on our church as the sole source of spiritual instruction for our kids.

Today, I want to introduce you to a fantastic website that teaches and encourages parents in becoming partners with their churches. Check out Orange Parents, a website put together by the people behind the Orange movement. They describe being "orange" like this:

"Orange is what you get when you combine two primary colors—red and yellow.
 If you paint only with red, you will get what only red can do. If you paint only with yellow, you will get what only yellow can do. But when you paint with red and yellow, you’ll get new possibilities, fresh solutions, vibrant outcomes.

We use the color orange to symbolize what it means to parent beyond your capacity. Orange parents understand that by tapping into a wider community, they have the potential to make a greater impact in the lives of their children."

The authors of the Orange Parents blog also wrote a fantastic book Parenting Beyond Your Capacity, which is all about creating an environment for your kids where they are supported in their spiritual growth by a community, which includes parents, the church and other Christ-following adults.

Check out these two resources today, and spend some time considering how you can partner with your church and other adults in your children's lives to support your children's spiritual growth. Raising kids who are strong Christ-followers takes more than just you or your church. Learn to be orange today.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Firm Foundation

On our walk to school every day, we pass by several houses that are being built. My girls love it when they get to see the concrete truck pouring the foundation. In our area of the country, nearly all homes are built on a concrete foundation. It provides a sturdy foundation for the house that will keep it from leaning or falling down.

We live in tornado country. When a tornado strikes, often the only thing left standing is the foundation. When the sirens go off, we all hurry to our basements to take refuge because it is the safest place to be.

Our lives are a lot like those houses being built down the street. If we don't have a sturdy foundation, our lives will collapse. Jesus is that foundation. When we base our lives on Jesus, we not only create the foundation for a stable life, but also have a place of refuge. We can weather the storms of life because Jesus is holding us up.

Jesus explained it like this:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

We don't want our lives to fall with a great crash. We want to build our lives firmly on Jesus, follow His commands, draw from His love and strength and take refuge in Him.

The Bible calls Jesus the cornerstone. The cornerstone was the most important stone in a building. If it was crooked or out of line, the whole building would be unstable. 1 Peter 2:6 says "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

When we make Jesus the cornerstone of our lives, we assure ourselves of building a life that won't lean or collapse. When we trust Jesus to lead us, we know that He will never lead us astray.

The earlier we start building our lives on the firm foundation of Jesus, the easier it is to build a life that won't sway or turn away. We need to impress upon our kids the importance of basing their lives on Jesus.

Illustrate this idea for your kids:

  • Grab a set of blocks (if you have the game Jenga, it works great for this). Build a tower of blocks at least two blocks wide. Make it as tall as you can without it becoming unstable. Explain to your kids the importance of a firm foundation. Point out the blocks that are serving as the foundation. Then, ask your kids what they think will happen if you pull the bottom block out of the tower. Let them pull the bottom block out and watch the tower come tumbling down. Explain that when we choose not to follow Jesus, our life is like that tower of blocks without a foundation, unstable and likely to end up a mess.

  • Make a pile of sand and a pile of rocks. Pour some water over the piles. Ask your kids which pile stood up better to the water. Talk about how the water is like the tough things that happen in life -- mean kids, tough choices. When we choose not to follow Jesus, we're like the sand, easily moved. When we do follow Jesus, we're like the rocks, firmly planted. We want to not be easily swayed by what other people think or do. We want to be like the rocks when tough stuff happens, knowing that Jesus is in charge.

A firm foundation is crucial to building a house, and it's also crucial to building a life. Place your trust in Jesus and let Him be the firm foundation on which you build your life.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Seeking Praise

My oldest daughter is a people pleaser. She doesn't like for anyone to be upset with her. She's the child who is willing to give up what she wants rather than have others be unhappy. She needs to hear words of praise often or she will feel as if she has failed.

This can be a wonderful trait. Kids like this are the compromise brokers in childhood disagreements. They are the ones who can lead a group because they take everyone's opinion into account. These kids are usually not argumentative and are rule followers.

But always seeking the approval of other people can land these kids in hot water, too. They can become so fixated on making everyone happy that they get themselves into situations that are difficult to get out of. Instead of saying "No" or walking away from a volatile situation, they may jump in to try to fix it.

People pleasers have to be careful that in their quest for human praise they don't cross the line into things that will not garner praise from God. This trait can keep them from standing up for what's right because they are worried what others might say.

When Jesus was teaching, many Jews were so concerned about what others would think, they refused to speak up and say they believed Him. The approval of men outweighed the approval of God. John 12:42-43 says "Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God."

We don't want to love human praise more than we love praise from God. Sometimes it's easy to get discouraged when we do the things that God asks of us, yet we hear no human praise. Sometimes God asks us to do things that will garner us criticism from others. That's tough for anyone, but it's especially difficult for those with an innate desire to please others.

So, what do we do with those people-pleasing children? How do we turn them from people-pleasers to God-pleasers without changing their innate personality?
  • Help your child set priorities. Role play with your people-pleasing child. Ask him what he would do in certain situations where doing what God says is right would result in someone being unhappy. Talk about how God wants us to always do what's right -- even when it means someone else will be upset. Explain that it's always more important to please God than it is to please people.
  • Show your child where God offers praise to people in the Bible. Talk about how God called David a man after His own heart and how God found Noah to be the only righteous man on earth. Talk about how Jesus praised the widow who gave all she had. Explain to your kids that even though God doesn't speak audibly, He rejoices when we choose to follow Him rather than seek the approval of people.
  • Praise your child for making good decisions. Be the voice that offers praise when your child chooses to do what's right even though it means others are upset. Your opinion means a lot to your child. If they know you are happy with them, it goes a long way toward easing the sting of disapproval from others.
Pleasing God is always better than pleasing others, but the rewards may not be as apparent or immediate, especially to a child. Help your family choose, today, to do what's right even though it may cost them the approval of their peers.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Little Rest Goes a Long Way

We had a busy weekend around here. Friday night hockey practice, a soccer tournament on Saturday and Sunday, a festival at church and AWANA made for a go-go-go weekend. We ended the weekend more tired than when we started it.

My youngest gets up at 6 a.m. nearly every morning. It's like she has an internal alarm clock that pops her out of bed on the stroke of 6. It doesn't matter if she went to bed late or early. If she sleeps until 7, one of us usually ends up going to check to make sure she's still breathing.

These two factors made yesterday a long day. When my youngest gets tired, she loses the ability to think before she speaks. It's like her brain is too tired to filter out what's appropriate and what's not. And yesterday that filter wasn't working at all. By the time I took her to hockey practice last night, I was done dealing with her mouth.

When we're tired, we generally don't make the best decisions. Our brains can't function well without the right amount of rest. Too often, we're quick to sacrifice that rest for other things.

I heard about a recent study on the news the other day that said teenagers who get less than eight hours of sleep a night are more likely to engage in risky behaviors. It makes sense. Lack of rest equals lack of good decision-making. The scary statistic in the study was that 67 percent of all teenagers get less than eight hours of sleep a night.

We're raising a generation of sleep-deprived children. A generation of children that don't know how to rest. We run from activity to activity with little to no down time, and we expect our kids to continue at this pace with no end in sight.

God knew the value of rest for our mortal bodies. As a matter of fact, He thought it was so important, He instituted a day of rest. Exodus 20:11 says "For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."

The Old Testament Jews were not to do any work on the Sabbath. They couldn't cook or work in the fields. They even had rules about how many steps they could take. It was a day of rest for their bodies and their minds.

As we raise our kids, we need to remember that even God set aside time for rest. Our minds and bodies weren't meant to function indefinitely on five or six hours of sleep a night. Kids need at least eight hours of sleep a night, usually more. Make rest a priority in your home so your kids can make good decisions.
  • Set a consistent bedtime. My girls have the earliest bedtime of all their friends. My youngest is in bed by 8 p.m. most nights, and lights out for my oldest is at 8:30. Don't be afraid to have an early bedtime for your kids, especially if you have an early riser like we do. On busy weeks, I've been known to have my youngest in bed before 8.
  • Set aside time for rest. On busy weekends, we often have what we call quiet time in our house. We send the girls off to their rooms and tell them to play quietly for an hour or two. While this isn't a time when they lie down, it is a time of rest for their brains and bodies.
  • Don't be afraid to say no. If you look at your calendar and see nothing but a sea of activity for the next month, don't be afraid to cut things out or say no to the next invitation. If you miss a soccer game or a birthday party, it won't be the end of the world. Your family just might be healthier and happier because you said no.
God designed our bodies to need rest. It's up to us to make sure our families have time for it.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Memory Monday: Turning Chores Into Joy

I hate cooking dinner. Oh, I don't mind the actual cooking part. I just hate being responsible for making a meal every night that is nutritious and everyone in my family will eat. Squeezing that meal into a time slot that means we can all sit down together is another challenge in the cooking dinner process. If I had my choice, we'd eat out a whole lot more. Unfortunately, our entertainment budget tells me that's not going to happen.

I've been pretty discontent about the whole cooking dinner process the past couple weeks. Because of soccer tournaments and other weekend commitments, most of the money in our entertainment envelope has gone toward eating lunch on the weekends, which means six nights of cooking dinner every week. (In this house, everyone fends for themselves on Sunday night.)

I haven't had the best attitude about feeding my family. There's been lots of mental grumbling in the kitchen around 5:30 every night. To me, cooking dinner is a chore. It's a task that has to be done every day. Some days, I'd honestly rather clean the toilets than figure out what we're having for dinner.

In our lives, there are lots of things that fall under the category of "chore." They are those things that must be done but that we simply don't enjoy. Those things are different for everyone. Some of you think I'm weird because I don't like to cook dinner, but picking up after your kids is a chore for you. Some of you may not care for doing mountains of laundry every week.

Our kids suffer through repetitive tasks they don't enjoy as well. Some of our kids don't like a certain subject at school. Some of them hate cleaning up after the dog. Some don't like practicing their instrument.

Whatever the task, God wants us to do our best. He doesn't want us to whine and complain about the things we don't enjoy. He wants us to do even the tasks we don't care for with a joyful heart. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." Even in the midst of those "chores" we find less than enjoyable, God asks that we find joy in Him.

So, how do we change our attitude and the attitude of our children when it comes to things we consider drudgery? 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 has the answer:
  • Rejoice always. Find something in your task to be joyful about. If you're scrubbing the kitchen floor, find joy in the fact you have a floor to scrub. When your child spills their full bowl of cereal all over that clean floor (as mine just did), find joy in the fact you can get down on your hands and knees and help her clean it up. Many people have physical ailments that prevent them from doing that simple task. When your child grouses about doing their chores, remind them to find joy in the fact they get to help out and be a contributing member of your family.
  • Pray continually. Add prayer to the equation. While you're doing that thing you dislike, pray. As you fold your sixteenth load of laundry for the week, pray over each family member who wears those clothes. As you cook dinner, pray for the health of your family. Encourage your kids to pray during that class they dislike. Show them how to pray for their teacher and to thank God for the ability to learn.
  • Give thanks in all things. It's almost impossible to have an attitude of thankfulness and a grumbling heart at the same time. Replace your grumblings with thankfulness. As you clean the toilets, thank God for the miracle of indoor plumbing. As you vaccuum, thank Him for the ability to live in a clean home. Get your kids into the habit of practicing gratitude, as well. When they grumble, ask them to find one thing about their situation for which they can be thankful.
Memorize 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and use it as a guide for making those unpleasant tasks in your life jobs filled with joy. Your family will grumble less, your attitude will improve and your life will be full of joy.