Thursday, October 30, 2014

Day 21: Lean on Me ... A Gentle Spirit



Welcome  to Day 21 of Parenting Pointers and Mommy Refreshers. 
My heart longs to bless you this month as I write 31 days filled with nuggets of parenting wisdom.  Each one is followed by a refresher to help you fix your eyes on Jesus and let your burdens go to Him.  Sit with God in this moment.  Find a place where you can breathe and hear from Him.  

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Today’s Parenting Pointer

Lean On Me

Our family loves to go to the Central Coast of California.  My husband grew up along the Los Angeles beaches and he is somewhat like a St. Bernard when they go back into the snow.  This otherwise lethargic dog bounds and frolics – literally comes to life once it is head deep in drifts of winter downfall.  My husband isn’t lethargic, but you get him near the ocean and something dormant awakens and he is vibrant and energized while simultaneously given a deeper sense of peace. 

On our regular trips to the coast we often go out on the piers.  Piers amaze me.  Have you ever stopped to consider the way that hundreds of people can tromp up and down on these wooden planks, held up by wooden columns which are submerged in water?  I mean, why don’t they just float away?  Why don’t they sink or shift?  These piers are taken for granted and trusted as we jut out into the water, absorb beauty and feel the saltwater mist on our skin.  They stand because they are well supported. 



I think I am a bit like that pier.  I’m not made of much, though I may look strong to most onlookers.  Yet, I can stand through storm and wear and even support many others because I, myself, am well supported.  The deepest support, the anchor and footing of my life is Jesus.  Because I find myself secretly secure in the deepest unseen places in Him, I can stand.  Beyond Him, though, I need other supports – those posts on the pier which lift it up and allow it to do all it has to do.  God provides certain relationships in life that are just like those pillars – upon which we can lay our burdens and trust that because we are loved and encouraged, we will stand. 

When I was little my mother used to tell me, “If you can count your true friends on one hand you will be blessed.”  She may have been at least partly correct.  What I do know is we can’t spread ourselves too thin and still maintain quality connections with those who matter deeply to us.  We are finite people with limitations in time, energy and capacity to invest.  We must choose our friendships wisely and cultivate them well. 

I used to be prone to try to carry burdens on my own.  I might tell you about a struggle I had faced once it was in my rear view mirror and I was through the worst of it.  To let you in on the pain and messiness of my current struggles was just too vulnerable.  Over the years, though, God has brought some very faithful friends into my life who are burden bearers and encouragers.  I’d write a whole blog post about each one of them if I could (and I did write about how to discern and cultivate friendship here). 



No matter how efficient your life is, you still will find yourself in need of others.  Blessings and burdens come into every life and they don’t come on demand or schedule.  You can be sailing along seamlessly when a crisis unexpectedly blindsides you.  Maybe you aren’t facing a personal calamity, but the day to day demands of your life are just pressing down hard.  You are trying to keep your head above water, treading all alone, hoping no one notices you might drown any minute.  Look around.  Can you see the potential outstretched hands, willing to throw you a life saver and help relieve you of your burden?  They are there.  But you must risk being vulnerable, known and not having it all together.  You have to reach out. 

This is a process – this growing into interdependence.  God ordained His body to work like, well, a body.  Each part plays its own role and we depend upon one another.  We impact one another.  We are interconnected.  Do you live an interconnected, interdependent life?  Or, do you, like so many modern moms, have an isolated life with spurts into social settings where you show off the goodness (cleaning up your home to have others over, making sure your kids are acting the way you want, hoping your guests don’t peek in your closets and see the mess you shoved away before they got there)?  I’m not saying your life needs to be an open book to all who are near – not everyone is a safe person.  But, you do need those few friends who know you as you are and love you in the midst of your real day-to-day life.  Make time for them.  Share your down moments, your fears and your hopes with them.  Let them make you supper or take your kids to give you a break.  Build and invest in these friendships.  Live a life supported – like those piers we love to visit – and you will be equipped to support others in turn.     

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Be Refreshed

A Gentle Spirit

I’m part Irish, part German and a bunch of other European nationalities mixed in.  That Irish temper has been a famed thing in my family.  Maybe it is just one more legend from the land of leprechauns and the blarney stone, but one thing I know is I come by my feisty spirit honestly. 

In Philippians, God tells us,

Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.  The Lord is near. 

I hear that, and I look around, behind me, over my shoulder and then back.  “Me, Lord?  Let MY gentle spirit be known?  You’ve got the wrong gal.  I’m the feisty Irish girl who knows her own mind.  Gentleness isn’t really my forte.”   

As in all things, the Lord calls us to what He is doing in us.  He called John, his disciple and in the beginning John was known as a “son of thunder” (now we’re talking) as he asked the Lord to annihilate a whole village for not welcoming them.  But, in due season he was called “the disciple of love.” His self-perception even changed so that he could say of himself, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  He became permeated by love and was transformed into a vessel of love.  So it is with us.  When we hang out in the presence of Jesus, we experience the conversion of our souls.  We claim Him as Lord and we say we are “Christians” (little Christs) but it actually takes a lifetime to become a Christian as we walk with Him and allow Him to morph us into His image. 

Gentleness.  God talks about our gentle spirit in the midst of this passage which is to tell us about how to release anxiety.  We have just been told to rejoice in the Lord always – to always find our joy in Him at all times and in all occasions.  Now we are told to let our gentle spirit be evident to all. 

The particular word used for “gentleness” in this passage is only used five times in the New Testament.  It is contrasted to brawling and compared to being patient in the face of things that would draw out addiction or anger in us.  It is likened to being meek, peaceable, reverent and full of mercy.  God will draw this quality out in each of us.  Why?  Because He is near.  He doesn’t send us out – “Go be gentle.”  He says, “Come near.  You can be gentle because I am near.” 



When I was little and afraid of something, I wanted my daddy near me.  I wanted to go to him and stand near to him so that I knew that whatever was bigger than me had to contend with him before it could ever touch me.  In the safety of our Father we can be gentle.  Gentleness involves being vulnerable.  If we feel we are standing under our own care and protection, gentleness will not be possible.  We have to be on guard when we rely on ourselves.  When we know God is near we can let our gentleness be evident.  We are safe in His presence.  He is gentle.  He says so and He proves His gentleness to us.  He will cultivate a gentle heart in you as you draw near to Him, knowing He is near to you today.  Allow Him to touch your heart in this moment and call out gentleness that says, “I am safe.  I trust.  God is with me.” 

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I pray you found a breath of fresh air here and a moment to reflect and recharge your battery.  If you have missed any of this series, all the posts can be found here.  Come back any or every day this month to get another Parenting Pointer and Mommy Refresher.  And, as always, I do love hearing from you.  Let me know how I can pray for you or if something I wrote here touched you. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Day 20: Taming Tantrums ... Rejoice in the Lord



Welcome  to Day 20 of Parenting Pointers and Mommy Refreshers. 

My heart longs to bless you this month as I write 31 days filled with nuggets of parenting wisdom.  Each one is followed by a refresher to help you fix your eyes on Jesus and let your burdens go to Him.  Sit with God in this moment.  Find a place where you can breathe and hear from Him.  

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Today’s Parenting Pointer

Taming Tantrums

You may wonder why I waited until day 20 to share the secret of taming tantrums with you.  If any of you have been a parent for more than a year, my bet is you have experienced a full blown tantrum (um, your child’s, I mean).  These emotional outbursts don’t necessarily end after the “terrible” twos.  They morph into more refined forms, but still, a teen can throw their version of the tantrum by pouting, slamming a door or just sitting around muttering “no fair.” 

No matter the age of your child, a tantrum is your child’s way of saying, “I don’t like the answer I got and I am going to let you know how much!” or “I want my way and I won’t quit until I get it!”  I am sitting here wondering all the things you may have tried to redirect or discipline your children in the middle of a tantrum to try to get them to stop.  I want to remind you of the posts I wrote on days three, four, five and six of this series which cover the basic emotional needs of a child.  When their needs are met, children are far less likely to have any misbehavior including the famed tantrum. 



Let’s say you have met your child’s basic needs to feel loved, to have constructive activity, to feel confident and to feel a sense of worth and they still are wailing like a tug boat all the way through the supermarket about the treat they tried to grab off the shelf while you said, “no” and wheeled on at the pace of an Indy 500 driver.  You want to borrow a bag from the checker just to discretely wear on your head as you get the last few items you need and skedaddle out of the store knowing in this moment to all the onlookers you are “that mom.” 

That is what we will call a “public tantrum.”  I handle these a bit differently than I do the private tantrum (at home).  When my children and I are about to enter a situation which I know will cause some form of temptation to come their way and in the process we could end up with a scene on our hands, I talk them through what to expect before we even enter the store.  I say something like, “You know we are going in to get only what is on our list.  I expect you to be helpers and the more help you give, the sooner we will get out of the store, then we can get home and you can play with your friends (or whatever they are looking forward to after the trip).” 

I have been foolish enough, for example, to take my then four-year-old shopping after we had a long week and were out at a park all morning.  He had a meltdown in the smallest store in our town right when two moms I knew just happened to be stopping there to get their weekly groceries.  He was beyond the pale and I was holding him trying to keep him from flailing items off the shelves.  What I had to do was abandon my cart and just go to the back of the store where they have a little waiting area with chairs outside the restroom.  We sat together and I held him until he calmed and we were able to resume shopping.  In this situation, I couldn’t do what I do when one of my children is having a “private” tantrum in the comfort of our own home.  I had to consider the other people around us and the immediate need to help my son regain composure. 

When we are home, I respond to tantrums totally differently.  I ignore them.  There is a fancy word psychologists use called “extinction” which means you make a behavior go away by not paying any attention to it or rewarding it in any way.  You will be amazed at how extinction works to eliminate tantrums (at any age).  When tantrums no longer get a pay-off, your child will realize that they are wasting their effort and they will just peter out and stop.  Of course, tantrums are different from crying from hurt, fear or sadness.  Those feelings call for our mother heart to give comfort and care.  But, when a child is just plain throwing a fit, the best thing we can do is to let it run its course and not give in.   



What I have done, to be fair to my boys, is to tell them in advance that I just won’t answer or respond to tantrums.  I tell them I will talk with them when they are calm.  Fits don’t fly.  For those of you new to this ignoring thing, it is not for the faint of heart.  You will want to do something, but you have to hold on.  Your child will unfortunately get louder and more intense before they give up.  But, when they see that you mean what you say, and that you aren’t going to answer them while they are in the throes of a tantrum, they will get through it.  

Keep in mind that you are teaching them how to go about responding to situations that don’t go their way.  And remember, do remember, we aren’t talking about ignoring your children’s needs or their emotions.  We are ignoring their fit so they can learn to express themselves in more appropriate ways.  Once they are calm, you can go to them, comfort them and help them talk about what was upsetting them. 

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Be Refreshed

Rejoice in the Lord

Over the next five days I want to talk to you about a very helpful portion of Scripture.  Philippians – the book of joy with a prescription for how to handle anxiety right in the middle.  Paul gives us amazing encouragement in the 4th chapter of Philippians and I want to break it down so we can savor it and work it into our day to day lives.  I need this as much as you. 

“Rejoice in the Lord, always, again I say rejoice.”

What a statement.  We could breeze by it like we do when someone sees us on the street and says, “Hi, how are you?” and we say, “Fine,” and keep walking.  Fine.  Rejoice in the Lord.  Always.  Check.  Wait, wait, wait.  Let’s look at this a moment.  God, through Paul, is inviting us to find joy in Him.  Another translation of the word, chairĊ is to thrive.  Isn’t it amazing that as we find our joy in Him, we simultaneously thrive! 

Let’s take this the other direction.  What do you try to find your joy in?  In yourself?  In a relationship?  In your children?  In money, your home, a hobby, your church, in chocolate (I hear you)?  All those things bring goodness and God is for that.  But, truly, when we don’t find our joy in Him, we aren’t going to find real joy anywhere else on earth.  All things outside of Him fall flat in the joy department.  Yet, when we find our joy in Him we can enjoy all other things as gifts from Him. 

And, then there is this little word in the middle of that verse – always.  Always.  At all times we are to find our joy in the Lord.  I know there are times we are surprised by joy or when joy is right there because the circumstances are in our favor.  What about when things just stink and we are gasping for sanity?  What about when our emotions tell us there isn’t much hope and God seems light years away?  What about when someone betrays us or we lose a relationship?  What about in tragedy?  Always is a tall order.  I have a friend that told me the cup isn’t half-empty or half-full – from God’s perspective it is full to overflowing and we just have to trust that goodness when we can’t tangibly feel it. 


 So, let’s not breeze by this important introduction to this portion of scripture.  Let’s marinate in it a while.  Let’s make a point this day, even for the whole week, even as a lifelong habit, to find our joy in Jesus – always – even when the kids are fighting, the laundry is piling up, we have more to dos than days in the week and we feel like something is going to burst.  Let’s find our joy in Him because only there can it truly be found.   

Always. 

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I pray you found a breath of fresh air here and a moment to reflect and recharge your battery.  If you have missed any of this series, all the posts can be found here.  Come back any or every day this month to get another Parenting Pointer and Mommy Refresher.  And, as always, I do love hearing from you.  Let me know how I can pray for you or if something I wrote here touched you. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Day 19: Curled Up with a Good Book ... Not so Small


Welcome  to Day 19 of Parenting Pointers and Mommy Refreshers. 
My heart longs to bless you this month as I write 31 days filled with nuggets of parenting wisdom.  Each one is followed by a refresher to help you fix your eyes on Jesus and let your burdens go to Him.  Sit with God in this moment.  Find a place where you can breathe and hear from Him.  

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Today’s Parenting Pointer

Curled Up with a Good Book

Spend a bit of time with me and you’ll hear my philosophy about children being exposed to too many screens.  It’s not that screens are bad.  They provide such a wonderful opportunity to access many things we otherwise could not.  But.  There is a “but” in this … we have to choose well, set healthy limits, and supervise access.  Easier said than done – as it is so much easier to plug something in and sit them in front of it when we want that well-earned break. 

All that being said, I want to remind you of what you already know.  Books are amazing.  Open a book and you open a world.  Lead a child to love reading and you spark their imagination, their creativity while introducing them to the portal for knowledge that has no limit in depth and breadth.  We just never will run out of good books to read. 


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Day 18: A Welcome Mat ... Living Waters



Welcome  to Day 18 of Parenting Pointers and Mommy Refreshers. 
My heart longs to bless you this month as I write 31 days filled with nuggets of parenting wisdom.  Each one is followed by a refresher to help you fix your eyes on Jesus and let your burdens go to Him.  Sit with God in this moment.  Find a place where you can breathe and hear from Him.  

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Today’s Parenting Pointer

The Welcome Mat

Growing up there was this commercial about Kool Aid and the upshot was that there was a mom in every neighborhood who was called “the Kool Aid Mom.”  She was the one who served “Kool” snacks and all the kids flocked to her home for the welcome (and treats) they got there. 

So many of us want to be the Kool Aid mom.  We long for our children to want to be at home and to invite their friends to our house to play.  I have friends who have built an entire playhouse (800 sq ft) in their back yard, complete with air conditioning, a concrete foundation, window boxes, a spiral staircase and a doorbell on the dutch door.  “Kids will want to come play here,” my friend told me.  Seriously, I wanted to play there – or at least take a personal retreat there for a weekend!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Day 17: Love Him ... A Quiet Space



Welcome  to Day 17 of Parenting Pointers and Mommy Refreshers. 
My heart longs to bless you this month as I write 31 days filled with nuggets of parenting wisdom.  Each one is followed by a refresher to help you fix your eyes on Jesus and let your burdens go to Him.  Sit with God in this moment.  Find a place where you can breathe and hear from Him.  

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Today’s Parenting Pointer

Love Him

So many parenting pointers have to do with what we do with our children, how we speak to them, how we respond to their behavior and how we shape their character.  This pointer is a bit different.  It has to do with the backbone of our home.  Remember years ago – before you ever had children?  It may seem like an entire lifetime ago, but this whole adventure started with you and your husband – falling in love with one another. 

It was because of this love affair that you pledged your heart and life to this man and in turn you had children together.  Provided you are one of the 50% of Americans who have remained married, you are still living with the father of your children.  But, maybe you don’t feel the fire the way you used to.  That is so normal.  If you have ever been camping, you buy a bundle of wood from the camp host.  You gather some kindling from around the campsite and you set it in the fire pit.  You set a few logs on and the fire gets going.  This how it is when we are dating.  After a bit you add a few more logs and the blaze is stronger than ever.  This is like the early years of marriage.   


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Day 16: Saying I'm Sorry ... Sharing the Load



Welcome  to Day 16 of Parenting Pointers and Mommy Refreshers. 
My heart longs to bless you this month as I write 31 days filled with nuggets of parenting wisdom.  Each one is followed by a refresher to help you fix your eyes on Jesus and let your burdens go to Him.  Sit with God in this moment.  Find a place where you can breathe and hear from Him. 
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Today’s Parenting Pointer

Saying “I’m Sorry”

I’m not sure if it was her generation or if it was a personal thing or just the fact that she grew up with her own world of hurt, but my mother was not really good at saying, “I’m sorry.”  The first memory I have of any real attempt at an apology was well into my adulthood when she said, “I’m sorry for all the things I did that hurt you growing up.”  It was a teaspoon of water on a raging fire, but you know what, I’ll take it.  She was sorry and under that apology I could feel the depth of hurt she must still carry in order to be unable to say something more concrete. 

I do love my mother, so I am sharing this downfall only to let you know the history of apology skills in my family.  This is pioneer territory for me as a mom.  I’m not building on years of generational modeling.  I’m striking new soil here. 

Somehow God is the Great Gap-Filler.  Before I had children, I was given a gift of hanging around people who regularly talked about looking at our own side of the street and taking responsibility when we mess up and hurt others.  It was through this culture of self-reflection that I was rewired to be more appropriately apologetic and to even make amends when it was possible.  I thank God for that foundation because as a mom I’ve had plenty of opportunities to say, “I’m sorry.”  Daily. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Day 15: A Little R & R ... An Easy Yoke



Welcome  to Day 15 of Parenting Pointers and Mommy Refreshers. 
My heart longs to bless you this month as I write 31 days filled with nuggets of parenting wisdom.  Each one is followed by a refresher to help you fix your eyes on Jesus and let your burdens go to Him.  Sit with God in this moment.  Find a place where you can breathe and hear from Him.  

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Today’s Parenting Pointer

A Little R & R

Part of what I’ve taken from all this study about rest and the need to allow downtime is that I need to teach my children to have space in their days as well.  My boys are past the age where they naturally nap.  What we do instead is have a mid-day break we call, “Quiet Room Time.”  For the first fifteen minutes we lay still on our beds – that way if anyone needs to nap, they just might sleep.  After that they can play quietly in their rooms or read on their beds for the remaining half hour.  This 45 minute pause gives us a time to refresh for the second half of our day.