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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Graduation thoughts

The graduation announcements are arriving daily.  This is a great time of year.  I feel happy, nostalgic, anticipatory, sentimental, and scores of other emotions. Graduations are tremendous times, laudable accomplishments. Graduation - decisions to be made, options to be considered, paths to take.  High school.  College.  Graduate school.   I am easily transported back to those defining moments of my own.  I recall feeling excited.  Relieved.  Scared and confident simultaneously.  Looking back, I realize how much I didn't know to think about. I didn't even know enough to be intimidated by those incredible folks that had it all together and had mapped out their course for the next 25 years. From this vantage point, I shake my head at my na├»ve approach to life....amazing that life has turned out so well because I lacked the ability and/or sophistication to plan for greatness or to purpose for success. 

I just took my diploma and smiled.

Today I'm thinking about how generous and gracious God has been to me.  How He's shown me favor and kindness through the years.  Of course there have been heartaches and disappointments and pain but the over-arching theme of my life has been blessing, the goodness of God. In spite of my lack of a great plan, in the absence of reaching for the stars, God has seen fit to shower me with grace.  Peace and love and joy and, yes, even much of what the world would define as success.

I have to ponder why.  Plenty of folks are more gifted.  Had better plans and ideas and dreams.  Why has God chosen to pour out His goodness on me and mine?

I don't know that I have a definite answer.  I do know that I don't deserve one bit of what He's done for me.  But as I was thinking this over and all that graduation means, I wanted to have some advice to offer.  I wanted to glean some nuggets of exhortation, some life lessons, some tips for success from my own experience.

Here's the verse God gave me

A faithful man will abound with blessings  Proverbs 28:20

BlessingsThat abound! That's what we all seek.  No one sets out to be a failure  - or even an "also ran".  Perhaps the key to success is in this verse...
Faithful.  I looked that word up in my Hebrew dictionary to better understand what God is conveying here.  "Emuwnah"  means firmness, steadiness, steadfastness, faithfulness, trust, honesty. 

Have I been perfect?  Absolutely not.  I have stumbled often.  I have missed some opportunities and have botched some others.  I have just plain messed up more times than I can even remember.  Yet God has been gracious to me.  He doesn't require perfection...but He does bless faithfulness.    Over and over and over, I just did the next thing.  I didn't have a 10 year plan to reach some ultimate goal but I just did the next thing.  And my heart was to strive to do it well, to be dependable and trustworthy and diligent and selfless. To honor God, to steward faithfully what He had given me, and to show His love to others. When I fell, I got back up and tried again.  Not for a long term plan....just for whatever I had in front of me right then.

A project at work.  A speech.  A mountain of laundry.  A Bible study.  A child to be potty trained.  A friend to comfort.  A meal to share.  Advice to seek.  A trip to enjoy.  A bill to be paid. A marriage to nurture. A child to guide. A floor to mop.  A party to give. A hug to extend. A financial blessing to bestow.   A graduation to attend.  A wedding to plan.  A grandbaby to rock.  By God's grace - faithfulness.  By God's grace, blessings that abound.

So, if you have some life left in front of you and you'd rather succeed than fail, my advice would be "Be faithful".  Make some plans if you have to, but focus instead on just being faithful with whatever is in front of you right now.  A faithful man (or woman) will abound with blessings.

That's what God says.  And He delivers.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Parenting Adult Children

I'm still on the parenting theme but I'm branching out.  Today's thoughts are on the "influence" phase of parenting instead of the "discipline" phase.

Now that I have  more of my children in the "adult" stage of life than are in the "training" phase, I realize how much my role as parent changes through the years.  I am struggling to get it right, stumbling frequently, but trying to successfully adapt (and to jump back and forth into the proper role I am to play for each child and their perspective stage - the challenges of a wide age spread :)  )  As hard as those early years of parenting are (and I do think they are hard!), these later years have at least as many stringent demands.  Before you hand in your parental resignation, let me assure you that the joys far outweigh the troubles!  But just be aware that, whether you realized it or not when that pregnancy test came back positive, you signed up for life.  Parenting is a task that is never just changes forms.

I've often quipped that if I were to write a book about this phase of parenting, I would entitle it "Teethmarks on my Tongue".  If there's one thing I am learning, it's that I do a better job the less I say.  That probably applies across the board in my life..........oh well.....

I'll acknowledge right up front that I am hardly qualified to hand out any advice on this subject (my family is now rolling their eyes amid yelps of laughter that this has never stopped me before!).  But more than a couple of my friends have suggested I tackle it.  So, I asked for their input, observed some folks that have healthy relationships with their grown kids, and pondered some things that I've seen create imbalance and angst in families. Here's what I came up with....

As kids move into high school, college and certainly beyond, the task of instruction is largely completed.  When parents fail to grasp this, the young adult can become either unhealthily dependent (and thereby remain immature and poorly equipped to succeed) or emotionally distant in the relationship (resenting the parent's failure to recognize the changing role).  Granted, this adjustment is not easy but it is critical that we strive for it.  Absolutely crucial.  And once we move in that direction, it becomes easier and quite enjoyable.  All these years we were not supposed to be a "buddy" to our kids and now we can!

Three ways to cultivate the relationship in this chapter of life:

1.  Encourage them with your support
Support that is manifested with words and actions.
 Words:  As one of my comrades puts it, be a cheerleader. Applaud them (specifically and genuinely - not just "You're awesome" ) No one ever gets too old to need to hear commendations, especially from a parent.  Encourage them with your words.
Actions: While I don't think "support" should be financial, there are other actions that communicate your encouragement.  Be there when they ask for your presence.  Make home a haven. Serve them when they come for a visit.  (Speaking of which, don't demand -either outright or via guilt trips - that they come home for holidays or anytime.  Make home such a refuge and source of encouragement that they come of their own volition!) Babysit those grandkids so their parents can be reminded of why they got married in the first place.  Encourage them with your actions.
Note:  "support" does not have to equal "agreement".  You may not agree with every choice but you can still provide support.  You might turn out to be right....or you might not.  The important thing is that your children know you are for them.  Oh, and when you have kids that love you and value your approval, be aware that what you intend as "input", they might view as "insistence".  Be careful. (Teethmarks, my friend, teethmarks on the tongue....)

2. Empower them with your confidence
Acknowledge that, while they are forever part of your family they are now their own entity.  Contrary to popular folklore, you don't gain a son when your daughter gets married.  You gain a SON IN LAW.  They are a separate unit from you.  Release them to be independent by communicating your belief that they are capable of being independent.
They're gonna make some mistakes. It's ok.  Really, it's OK.  Don't try to insulate them from all bad decisions.  Let them know they are free to make choices and succeed at  some and fail at others....and that you think they are good enough to make it at this thing called "LIFE".  We bestow a priceless gift when we let them know we are confident of God's grace IN THEM and their ability to appropriate it successfully.  Perhaps our best parenting moments are the ones when we tell them we have no idea what they should do but that  we know they will figure it out.  I'm not saying we refuse to give counsel when asked.  I'm just saying that our certainty that they will make it infuses an awful lot of courage at those times when doubt is banging loudly on their door.

And, if you've sufficiently encouraged and empowered, you'll have the opportunity to

3. Enable them with your wisdom
The training time has past.  But there's always time for counsel.  If they ask.  Gently, humbly, affectionately share your wisdom.  Share some of the things you've done right but more so the wisdom you've gained from things you've done wrong.  Powerful counsel, those things we learned on life's field trips.  May God grant that we earn this place of influence in the lives of our kids, that we might spare them those kinds of field trips.

And, finally, most of the time, just be quiet and smile.  Teethmarks on the tongue :)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Discipline - Part 4

I have had more trouble with this post than anything I've ever written!  I spent forever on it and then apparently hit something wrong and it disappeared without my knowing it.  Then I rewrote it and somehow it published before I was through.  I have no idea why it was so hard to write but here it is and I hope it is helpful. :)  Blessings!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Discipline - Part 3

Discipline - The effective equipping of a child by a parent for successful living.

I suppose someone other than a parent can discipline a child but God makes it clear that parents are the ones responsible for it. 

Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
Hebrews 12:7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?
Proverbs 19:18  Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death
Deuteronomy 8:5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.
Proverbs 3:12 because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.
Proverbs 29:15 A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother.

Lots of things to notice in these verses -
Parents discipline children because they love them.  If we fail to discipline, it's as though we contribute to their death.  (See Proverbs 19:18 again)  Conversely, a parent that's willing to discipline imparts wisdom to the child.  And wisdom is the key to a successful life.  REAL success.

I shared in the earlier post that discipline has four components -

All four components involve "goal".  Which leads to the question - "what is the goal?"

The foundational goal of discipline is to teach the child to obey until they can learn to discipline themselves.  And what is obedience?

Wednesday's Word - guest link

Today I want to introduce you to a cyber friend of mine - Jill Hill.  She is a beauty all the way through!!!  Jill has a great blog called SHINE Girls and you need to check it out. I can relate to her posts - she reaches my heart! - and I think you will find the same is true for you.

Wednesday's Word - Help me to believe - by Jill Hill

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Discipline - Part 2

Discipline.  The effective equipping of a child by a parent for successful living.

It takes a lot of time.  It takes a lot of energy.  It's hard. 

But it is definitely worth it!

Just as an athlete enjoys a sweet feeling of accomplishment upon crossing that finish line, so does a child...and a parent....relish the rewards of discipline, of effective equipping. Parenting isn't a sprint - it's a marathon.  Actually, it's a series of marathons, one right after the other! Hebrews 12:11 warns us that it will be hard - For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  So don't be surprised when you feel like quitting.  Don't give up because it seems like it's not working.  Hang in there.  The results are worth it!

Think about discipline having these 4 components - each one is contingent upon the other: 

Instruction (impart knowledge/explain goal)
Training (how to reach goal)
Correction (remove hindrances to goal)
Result (reach goal)

1.  Instruction 
Not only is this aspect of discipline crucial, it must be first.  Whether it's how to hit a tennis ball or a command not to run in the street, instruction must be preeminent.  Of course it must be age appropriate and I am not suggesting that parents owe an explanation for every edict, but instruction must be given.  It must be clear and it must be communicated.  What are the expectations, what are the "rules", what are the goals. Repetition, reminders, refresher courses...instruction. As in "Betsy, we're about to have lunch with Daddy's work friends.  Let's remind ourselves of the things we need to do....."  First step of discipline - instruction

2.  Training
Instruction is the "what" and training is the "how". Here's how to reach the goal set out in instruction. Here's how one answers the phone.  Here's how one behaves in the grocery store.  Here's how to treat a sibling and an authority and a friend.  Here's how to obey.  Clear instruction flows into intentional training. Explain.  Show.  Go through it with the child.  Just like it helps to hold the baseball bat on top of their little hands and swing it with them to connect to the ball, so we train. I am grinning thinking of the many training sessions on so many subjects at our house - from how to answer the phone to the steps of obedience.    Second step of discipline - training.

3. Correction 
Correction isn't punishment.  It's adjusting the course, removing hindrances to the goal, fine-tuning performance.  While it may involve pain, what distinguishes correction from punishment is the purpose. Correction of whatever is preventing success. When an athlete has a habit or a form that impedes accuracy or victory, it needs to be corrected.  Same for kids.  If you observe behavior that needs modifying, first ask yourself if the steps of instruction and training have been sufficient.  If not, then regroup and provide those.  Then correct the error.  In a later post, I will discuss methods of correction.  But for now, know that the purpose of correction is to remove anything that impedes the reaching of the goal.

4.  Result
The fruit of labor.  The reward.  The result of receiving instruction, of being trained, of making the necessary corrections.  Or not!  Either the goal of desired behavior is reached or the errors along the way prevent it.

As a parent, know that discipline is time-consuming.  It can be wearisome.  There will be temptation to take the easy route.  But if you will be consistent (not perfect) and patient, the result will be sweet.  The peaceful fruit of righteousness.  Oh, how it's worth it!

Discipline.  Either we pay the price now and enjoy the reward later.  Or we consider the cost too great now and pay for it later.  The cost goes up exponentially over time.  In fact, I'm not sure we ever recover what was lost by not disciplining early and effectively.

This verse often encourages me when I am tempted to give in or give up - Hebrews 10:36 -
 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised
Just gotta smile.  God's extravagant efficiency -- while I'm training my kids, He's training me!!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Discipline - Introduction

This topic probably generates more interest and creates more division than any other parenting issue.  How to discipline.  What to discipline.  When.  Where.  Why. I would love to present an authoritative post that would settle all angst and answer all questions.  I'd really love to read one like that!  Actually, though, I resist such an approach on most subjects and especially this one.  I really think that parents largely have to figure stuff out for themselves.  And I think that can be a healthy process.  If somebody insists that their way of discipline or educating or any other aspect of parenting is "THE WAY", I don't even bother to listen.  Nobody has a monopoly on figuring this thing out.  I won't even apologize for not being an authority - I'm just a sharer.  I like to share ideas and approaches and let you decide how to adapt them for your parenting process.   Let's take a step back and get a broad view....

First, what is discipline? 

All too frequently, discipline is boiled down to "how do I punish my child for wrongdoing".  That is way too narrow a definition.  Think about how we use the word - "He is such a disciplined athlete", "If I were more self-disciplined, I would not be late so frequently" ,"Sociology is a fairly new discipline", etc. 

Here's how GoogleSearch defines "discipline"

noun: discipline
  1. 1.
    the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.

    • the controlled behavior resulting from discipline.

    • activity or experience that provides mental or physical training.

    • a system of rules of conduct.

  2. 2.
    a branch of knowledge, typically one studied in higher education.

    synonyms:field (of study), branch of knowledge, 
  1. 1.
    train (someone) to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience

2. train oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way.

When we consider the definition of the word, we realize that "punishment" or even "correction" is an extremely insufficient application.  And since parents are instructed to "discipline" their children, we must surely understand the task.  Here are just two of about a gazillion things God says about parents and discipline.....

 Proverbs 3:11-12: My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

Proverbs 19:18   Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death

Over several posts, I will share some thoughts, ideas, and resources about discipline.  To close this one, I will leave you with a definition of discipline as it relates to parenting:

The effective equipping of a child by a parent for successful living.

There you have it.  Discipline, ChamFam style!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

He is Risen!

He is Risen Indeed!

I pray that today you will experience and celebrate the One who satisfied the demands of a Just God by His death, who defeated the fear of death by His resurrection, and who equips us to live even now by His intercession.  He was.  He is.  He is to come.  Hallelujah!  Amen!

Happy Easter, my friends!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Recipes for Easter Weekend - for kids (big and small!)

I am all about food.  Anyone that knows me knows that I spell "LOVE" - "F-O-O-D".  Absolutely!  The other thing most folks know about me is that I am a sharer.  That's my version of a teacher.  I don't know anything on my own but I love to share what I learn.  Ideas, tips, great sales, recipes, etc.  I love to share.  If I could, I would send out a worldwide email everytime I try something that works.  Whether it's a parenting solution or a new way to save a dime, if I'm excited about it, there is something in me that compels me to share. 

Here are a couple of easy recipes that not only spell "LOVE" my way, they also teach a story.  THE story.  Can't be anything better!

Meanwhile, I'm gonna work on that worldwide distribution list..............

Friday, April 18, 2014

Siblings - 10 tips for buildling great relationships

Psalm 133:1 gets a hearty "Amen" - How good and pleasant it is when brothers (sisters!) dwell together in unity! 

That's certainly what all parents want but what can we do to foster that?

I've had it pretty easy in this department because my kids really do love and enjoy one another. It's an absolute delight to have them all together and watch them have fun and reminisce.  And I have to choke back tears of gratefulness when I get a glimpse of their counsel to, confidences with and comedy alongside one another.

 But we've certainly had our share of tears and misunderstandings and pleas from Mom to "can't you just get along???"  I've stumbled through some parenting landmines, setting some off and taking some hits myself in this area.  Here's some things I've learned along the way that might help at your dwelling place....

1.  Talk often and with sincere joy and enthusiasm how wonderful it is to have siblings.  Point out all the benefits (there are some, you know!!!) of growing up with brothers and sisters. Do this early on and they will catch it.  Speak well of your own siblings.  This is big.  Set the example so they will think it is normal to have good sibling relationships.  This is probably overstating it a bit but I'll say it anyway - do not complain about or criticize one child to another.  DO NOT. It's OK to let them vent to you about one another but help them see the other's point of view and accept their own responsibility for the problem.  Set the tone and the expectations for acceptance and grace and the ability to overlook an offense.  (BTW - this will drive your kids crazy because sometimes they want you to side with them about how awful their sib is.  Don't let that bother you!)

2.  Set them up as "a team".  Have them work together to accomplish chores or activities.  Paul used to play a game of catch with 2 or 3 at a time and the goal was to see how many times they could collectively pass/catch the ball around.  Emphasize teamwork over individual achievement. And this point is important - be willing to be "the common enemy".  Lots of times I knew mine were ganging up together to be mad at me or to complain about how unreasonable I was but I let it roll of my back because I was just glad they were a team!!

3.  Treat sibling relationships with greater priority than friends.  I learned this from a Mom of four precious girls.  If they weren't getting along with each other, she didn't send any of them off to play with friends.  Instead, she instructed them that they had to learn to be good friends at home before they could be good friends away.  It worked!! These four gals have grown up to be the best of besties!

4.  Don't reward tattling.  Granted, you have to be able to recognize a genuine concern for her brother's safety (as in "Mom, Baby Chip slipped out of the gate and is in the street") but don't encourage one child to rat out the other.  Instead, let the tattler sit in timeout rather than punishing the offender.

5.   Don't overschedule outside activities.  Kids need time at home with just each other to develop good relationships.  Plan family times (but don't become a slave to creating "pinnable" moments...).  Develop some traditions that you rally your family around - these need not be elaborate!  As simple as pancakes on Saturday morning!!

6.  Praise carefully.  It's good to applaud success but don't overdo it so as to create feelings of jealousy among sibs.  The best things to cheer about are character traits, not performance.

7.  Create a vision for their futures that is built on loving closeness between them.  As in "when you and Sissy grow up, you will have so much fun raising your families together.  Cousins are the best!" 

8.  Do not involve one child in another's discipline.  Do not punish one in front of the other and nip it in the bud if one seems delighted that the other has gotten in trouble. Cannot overstate this one.

9.  Realize that sometimes they need a little space.  Some kids need it more than others. Creating a      "team atmosphere" is not the same as a "herd mentality". Resist the temptation to treat them as clones of one another (just because they are the same gender doesn't mean they like the same thing). And don't insist that little sister should be automatically included in every activity.  This can lead to resentment and suppressed guilt and what all else. (For the record, this takes ALOT of emotional fortitude for me to make this point ---- I WAS the little sister!!  And, yes, my feelings got hurt and I am sure I need lifelong counseling because of it but being a parent to 4 has helped me see the wisdom in this approach.  Kids are individuals and eventually they will take individual paths.  Be careful of treating every single opportunity as a "package deal".  )

10. If When they fight, take the time to demonstrate how to resolve conflict.  Guide, but don't referee.  You don't want to take sides.  Try guidance instead.   Yes, this takes time and a lot of energy but it's worth it. Train them to ask for forgiveness and also to grant grace.  Model it yourself and then preach it over and over and over.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Parent pain - postscript

Just wanted to add a little to the guest post on parent pain.  My friend is too modest to tell you about all the things that she's done right  - perhaps pain blinds us all to that.  So I felt the need to follow up with some things I've observed from her life and from others going through things like this.  I know there are differing views on how to handle "wayward" kids so feel free to disagree with me.  I am certainly not an expert - just an observer. And a friend to those in such crises.  What I have to share is simply some conclusions I've drawn from these experiences.  Not an iron clad promise of results.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

QUICK survey for the men!

OK gals - I need input from your men!  Ask your fella to fill out this 10 question survey for me.  I have some info from ladies and now I need some from the guys.  Please pass it along for me - and don't look at his answers :)

I'll be doing a future article with some of the input I've received so look for it soon!


To the Unsung Heroes

Seems like everywhere I turn lately I've noticed some of "the unsung heroes". Folks that serve us all without fanfare or even notice.  Folks that we might even take for granted.  Unless they quit.  Folks that I've never heard complain but I wonder if they ever feel unappreciated. 

Here's some of the folks that caught my attention.....

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Guest post - parent pain

I am a parent with a grown child that is breaking my heart.  I asked Suzanne if I could write something about that for her blog.  We have been good friends for a long time so she said that would be fine.  I think she is going to get other friends to write about some things they have gone through, too.  I don't live near her anymore but I enjoy her blog and her encouragement.

I am not a good writer but I hope that I can say some things that might help somebody else.  That is what I pray.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Guest posts

Got something new coming.  I am excited about this!  I have the great privilege to be friends with some really amazing women and they all enrich my life.  Over the coming weeks and months, I will be sharing some of their stories.  Or letting them share them.  These friends are just "ordinary" women whose lives have seen intense difficulties.  Some have endured pain in their marriage.  Others have had their hearts broken by their children.  Still others have gone through difficulties brought on by "life".  All are my heroes.

I've asked several of my friends from all over the country to write a guest post for me.  I've pledged to keep theses anonymous because their stories are personal and much of their pain is private.  These treasured women have agreed to share their hearts with you because they want to encourage others.  To share truth and comfort and hope. 

I'm looking forward to sharing their stories.  You won't know who they are this side of Heaven but you're gonna love 'em.  Promise.

Oh, and if you have a story that you're willing to share, let me know.  I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Seeing 20/20

I got new contacts today.  When the doctor popped them in my eyes, I blinked and was once again reminded what a difference clear vision makes.  Being able to read without squinting.  Seeing things at a distance without blur.  Wow.  I found myself functioning with more confidence and less self-consciousness.  Walking and driving (especially at night) and just life in general became easier.  I laughed out loud when my mind recalled the first time I got glasses.  I was ten years old and apparently had not realized what I had been missing.  As we drove home from that ophthalmologist's office in LaGrange, I provided a running commentary for my mom on all the sights.  As in, the fact that trees have leaves.........  I was amazed then - and still am now - at the difference it makes when one can see clearly.

I pondered.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Pleasing God

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.  Hebrews 13:15

Such a simple precept - doing good, sharing what we have.  But sometimes we neglect it, don't we?  The word for today is to consider what you have in terms of time, skills, material goods, money.  Just think about it for a moment.  Take inventory, so to speak. Don't let yourself be deceived into thinking you don't have much - if you are reading this, then you obviously have enough time and skill and material goods to share.  (You're welcome!)  Maybe you have enough time to make a phone call of encouragement.  Maybe you have enough skill to bake a cake or sew some window treatments or mow a lawn for someone.  Maybe you have enough material goods that you could donate some furniture to The Sparrow's Nest or medicine to Mercy Health Center or money to a mission trip. Maybe you have enough of all three.... Then let's ask God what we can share.  How.  With whom.  Begin with surplus....then move to sacrifice.  This please Him.

I'll just say that I think I have enough surplus of material goods that it'll take a while to get to the "sacrifice" level.  How about you?