Monday, February 28, 2005

Wisdom from One Who Has Been There

I had a wonderful meeting the other day with a woman from my church, Kathy. Although we went to college together, Kathy chose a different path than the one I chose. She married and had children before she started her career and now is the proud mother of 3 very nice and well-behaved children (including 2 teens) and an English teacher. I found her words of parenting wisdom very practical yet comforting. I realized how much I could grow as a parent by learning from spiritually sound parents such as Kathy. Not only did she encourage me to become a better, more confident parent but she also encouraged me to pursue my own spiritual growth.

The one statement she made that really affected me was "Your kids will survive your humanity." Sometimes I worry so much about the mistakes I have made as a parent (and those I have yet to make). Of course, I know in my heart that I have no need of worry but the temptation is so great at times and I become weak. Remembering her words has helped me to keep things in perspective and remember that it is not all about me. As long as I keep praying, for my children and for my ability to be a better parent, God can do the rest.

Today's Devotional:

Philippians 4:13 (KJV)
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Dear Lord,
Remind me that you stand by me, helping me to become a better parent. Help me to continually seek you in all that I do, knowing that your wisdom and goodness are true. As I pray for my children daily, remind me to have faith that you hear my prayers and answer them. Thank you for your faithfulness O Lord and all praises to your Mighty Name. In Jesus Name I pray.

"Wonder Twin Powers, Activate!"

The coming of nightfall brings a mysterious occurrence to our home every night. Our once peaceful household is gradually filled with increasing amounts of activity. As I am getting more and more tired and starting to settle everyone down for the night, the kids seemed to have some invisible source of energy.

Remember the Superfriends and the Justice League of America Saturday morning cartoons? Remember the really cool Wonder Twins? They had a routine in which they would touch hands and shout "Wonder Twin powers, activate!" and then they would be able to take the form of different shapes. Well my kids are not twins and though I have never witnessed them doing it, I am convinced that this is their mantra every evening.

It seems that the nonverbal 1-year old (Alyssa) and the very verbal 4-year old (Chase) must secretly get together and shout "Activate!" every day around 6 pm. Alyssa begins dancing her bouncing, arm-waving routine as Chase begins crawling around pretending he is a dog (complete with barking) or using his ruler as a sword. Next, Alyssa starts chasing her brother around squealing with glee as he pertends to run from her. Then, Alyssa may take a break from that game to spend some time twirling around the middle of the floor until she gets dizzy while Chase gets his Dad to start wrestling. Alyssa quickly comes to the scene of the full-body contact and literally throws her body on the pile. (All this is happening while I am either trying to finish my writing for the day or straightening up and making preparations for bedtime).

Eventually, my "Wonder Twins" succumb to my best efforts to settle them down. This is no easy task and usually requires some superhero strength of my own. After everyone is asleep, I spend time asking myself what I can do differently the following night to thwart my little heroes and their nighttime activation.

Suggestions anyone?

Friday, February 25, 2005

The Mommy Mysteries

So much of life with little ones seems very mysterious. Even the wisest, most seasoned Grandma's among us seem to have a hard time answering certain questions like:

Why do little ones always need something from you, begin to sing loudly or find musical instruments to play as soon as you get on the telephone? They were fine a few minutes ago, but now... In my home, I can be sitting at the computer, relatively undisturbed as Alysaa, 15 months and Chase, 4 years, play quietly and (relatively) peacefully nearby. Uh-oh, the phone is ringing! Mommy is about to talk to someone so it's time for all bedlam to break loose! Whining or crying, tugging and pulling along with banging and shouting seem to erupt all at once. Can anyone explain this mystery to me?

Joy in Following Inner Wisdom

It seems there are many forces against parents producing spiritually upright children with morals, values and respect for self and others. Not only is society constantly bombarding our children with sexual, materialistic and atheist messages, but so-called experts and government officials are constantly working to take more control away from parents. From the efforts in some states to lower the mandatory age of school enrollment to ever-expanding programs to offer children more services that do not include their parents, American parents are allowing control of their children's future to fall into the hands of others.

So many parents I have worked with feel that they have little control over their children. You, like them, may feel fearful of trusting your own instincts and inner wisdom in matters of the best way to raise your children. You may, for instance, let your infant "cry it out" alone in their room at night, despite the almost unbearable urge to go and comfort your wailing child because some "expert" (usually a man, not a mother) said that such crying is best for YOUR child.

The Good News is that God has given us inner guidance and wisdom by leaving us the Holy Spirit to guide us towards living in right relationship with Him and with others. Remembering to ask for Holy Guidance and Holy Wisdom in even our smallest parenting decisions will allow us to act in accordance with the desires of our heart which will be in keeping with His will for our lives and for the lives of our children.

By enriching our prayer life, our time with God's Word and our daily fellowship with our Lord, we can become confident parents, joyful in the knowledge that the Ultimate Parent is guiding our every decision as we guide, train and protect our children.

Praise God, Alyssa is doing much better today. I thank God for His healing and faithfulness. We are continuing to pray for Chase's healing from his cough and cold.

Today's Devotion:

"Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart."
Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

Dear Lord,
Help us come to know You better so that we may become the parents that You want us to be. Help us to align our will with yours such that the desires of our heart can be our guide to raise children who will be pleasing to You, O Lord. Give us joy in knowing that You, Our Heavenly Father, have given us your example of how to be a good parent and we strive to become more like you. Give us godly wisdom to guide us to know when we should seek help for ourselves or our children and guide us to the appropriate advisors. Give us the discernment to be able to recognize wise advice and adapt it for the betterment of our families.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Joy Fights Fear

I hate when my kids get sick! I worry too much. My mind has a tendency to focus on the worst possible outcome (no matter how unlikely)and I usually make myself feel as miserable as my sick child. My mind knows that I am to trust in God for not only healing but wisdom to take the best possible care of my sick child but my faith is often weak in this area. I have, however, discovered an effective weapon against this fear and when I remember to use it, it works every time. Focusing on the Joy of the Lord is what quickly gets me out of fear.

Just last night, as I held Alyssa's too-warm body next to mine and tried to console her in the rocking chair, that old familiar dread swept over me. "Oh God, what if my baby gets really, really sick? There are so many people getting very ill. What if it is something serious?" These self-defeating, anxiety-provoking thoughts are then followed by guilt and lots of unanswerable questions. "Where did she get this germ from anyway?", "Did I have her around too many other kids last week?" and "Did I wash her hands enough?".

Needless to say, these thoughts do not help Alyssa get better any sooner and they do nothing to help me to help her. So instead of making myself more miserable for no reason, I focus on God's Word about joy. I recognize dealing with my children's illnesses is a serious weakness of mine so the first thing that I want to pray for is strength.

I focus on Nehemiah 8:10 "...Do not sorrow for the joy of the Lord is your strength." (NKJV) According to John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible for Nehemiah 8:10, rejoicing in God "will give you that strength both of mind and body, which you greatly need, both to perform all the duties required of you, and to oppose all the designs of your enemies." I know that when I have a sick child, I have many extra duties to perform (usually on less sleep) and I need to resist the forces of evil that cause disease and doubt.

Last night, in my most fearful hour, I sang a song I learned in church as a child: The chorus of "The joy of the Lord is my strength, the joy of the Lord is my strength..." followed by my favorite verse "My heart is filled with laughter, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha..." kept my fears at bay and even seemed to make Alyssa feel better.

I will rejoice in the Lord always!

Today's Devotional:

Help me to stay out of fear, Lord. I am a more mature Christian and a better parent when I focus on my joy in the Lord and His goodness and salvation. Keep me rejoicing in you always!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A Godly Inheritance

A recent survey sponsored by Publisher's Weekly magazine revealed that once again, America's favorite leisure activities are reading and watching television, both of which ranked higher than spending time with family. Although books are wonderful (I am working on writing one myself right now) and television can provide an enjoyable escape, it seems sad that these two relatively meaningless activities are ranked above the life-giving role and God-given mandate that we have to raise, spend time with and enjoy our families.

I am not sure if this sorry state of affairs came about because people just do not enjoy their families as a result of the disarray many families find themselves in today or if people just do not realize how important it is to create families that everyone can enjoy.

Although reading a book or watching TV may bring momentary pleasure, it is important for me that I always remember that sowing into my family life will be the most richly rewarded leisure activity that will affect not just me and my children, but their children and their children's children. In the Bible, Proverbs 13:22 tells us "A good man leaves an inheritance for his children's children...". I believe that this inheritance refers not only to material wealth, but the more precious inheritance of all of God's blessings and character that we desire for our children.

My pastor at New Song Church, Mark Miller, is fond of talking about the importance of how we handle our time, talent and treasure. He reminds all of us that he can tell what our priorities are if he looks at our checkbook ledger and our calendar. I think that this prioritizing refers not only to our roles within the Body of Christ but also to our roles as parents.

----Time- the number one key ingredient that families need to thrive is time together. I have identified time as the "secret weapon" in my work with families. Almost always, more time together as a family and more time with parents specifically, can eliminate or greatly improve behavior problems in children and marital problems of parents. I can not count how many times someone called for a referral and I gave them a few simple tips on how to spend more time with the troubled person or persons and they called back to tell me that they no longer needed a referral. All the books and psychiatrist visits in the world can not make up for the hard work of finding ways to spend more time together. The harvest that will be reaped as a result of the time spent with family will include closer relationships that will lead to fewer emotional, relationship, behavioral and academic problems later in life. The quality of our children's relationships with us now will directly impact the quality of their relationships with their children and so on. Ultimately, spending time with your children and teaching them about the Lord and leading not only by word but be example (and you can best set an example by spending the maximum amount of time possible with children), will lead your children to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, guaranteeing them Eternal Life!

----Talent- so many of us are very caught up in finding our purpose in life. The problem becomes that sometimes once we identify our purpose and along with that we begin to appreciate our unique talents, we are usually very quick to use them outside of our homes. We often forget that our talents should also be used for the betterment of our families. Remember the old adage "The shoemaker's children never seem to have shoes."? We must all be aware of that tendency and strive to use our talents directly for the good of our families. My husband, Sam, is a professional photographer and there was a time when my son was first born that he did often forget to take pictures once he was relaxing at home. He came to see this deficit in the use of his talent and now he is always wearing his family-use digital camera on his belt so that he can take pictures of whatever funny things the kids are doing at a moment's notice. Now, we just need a new hard drive on the Mac to store all those thousands of photos!

----Treasure- The way that I spend my money has always been somewhat of a struggle for me. It has been difficult for me to balance future needs with the needs of today. Of course when it comes to children, proper planning for education, insurance needs and mom and dad's retirement are all important. But equally important are sowing a seed by giving. How we give will not only teach our children how to give, but because giving is an act of obedience it will also help us and our families realize all of the blessings that God has in store for us. In our high-consumption society, I also believe that is important to invest smartly in children's toys, clothes and other needs. Buying the highest-quality items that you can afford can actually pay off in the long run because of longer times to replace items, less maintenance and often higher educational value. I often have to remind myself that saying "no" to some cheap, thrill-of-the-moment toy may bring momentary sadness but being able to save up for a more durable, timeless, higher-quality educational item will be well worth it.

Let's make up our minds to enjoy our children today and to put our efforts into what will will really count!

Today's Devotion:

"And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance." Hebrews 9:15 (NKJV)

Dear Father in Heaven,

I thank you and praise you for the inheritance that you have arranged for us through the Blood of Jesus Christ. May I leave a godly inheritance for my children, the children you have put under my care. Help me to be mindful that the seeds I plant within my family today will reap a harvest in the future. Help me to wisely sow the best of my time, talent and treasure into my family today. Even as I sacrifice for my children Lord, remind me that my sacrifice for my children does not even compare to the sacrifice that you, O Lord made for me. May I walk confidently in the belief of the riches of Eternal Life that You, my Heavenly Father, have established for me and may this confidence give me a joy that fills my family and our home. In Jesus name I pray.


Monday, February 21, 2005

Dreaming of Jewels

On Saturday, we did the family trip to Sam's Club. By the time we got to the checkout line, Alyssa was pretty restless in the cart. I got her out and let her walk around while Sam and Chase checked-out. Well, what was I thinking! Alyssa's uncertain 1-year old toddler legs partnered with the slippery, oh-so-hard and not- so-clean floors at the warehouse store were not the smartest combination. I was relieved when she toddled past the phone cards and Easter candy and came to rest at the jewelry cases.

"My girl has good taste", I thought to myself. I was happy to spend a few moments daydreaming about all the wonderful jewelry as I checked out the latest styles (white gold seemed to be pretty popular) as I have not even glanced at a jewelry counter in years. Alyssa was not only quiet, but she was actually staying in one place. And so we stood, in relative bliss until I thought I heard a gurgling sound.

I reluctantly pulled myself out of my reverie to investigate. To my horror, Alyssa had her mouth on the glass of the jewelry display case and was proceeding to blow bubbles all over the glass! At first I could not believe my eyes and then I quickly became concerned about the germs Alyssa was ingesting and the state of the store's display case. It is for completely unexpected toddler incidents such as these that I always keep a napkin or tissue in my pocket. After restraining my daughter and cleaning off the case, I took a moment to regroup and recoup.

I am learning, with God's grace, to not over-react and to keep all incidents that may have a tendency to push me over the edge in perspective. Things certainly could have been worse and praise God my daughter did not come to serious harm in my moment of nonattention. The incident was over and there was nothing further I could do. Staying upset would not change anything and would make me feel bad. My bad feelings affect the rest of my family and I might have let a relatively small incident ruin the rest of my day. Thank God for His mercy, patience and guidance as I strive to become more like Him in my parenting role. I also thank God for His protection as He saves my children from perils of which I may not even be aware.

Today's Devotion:

"And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation. All my bones shall say, LORD, who is like unto thee, which deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him?" Psalm 35:9-10 (KJV)

Dear Lord, I thank you for your protection of me and my family. I do not need to spend hours or even minutes with useless worry. Worry will surely steal my joy. Instead, I rejoice in your faithfulness and your promises of protection. Hallelujah, God is my salvation! All praises to you O Lord. In Jesus mighty name I pray.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Hectic Sundays

I know I need to do something about our Sunday mornings. As the day that the Lord rested, Sundays should be similar for our family. Instead, I often find myself rushing around, stressed out and rushed trying to do too many "relaxing" things. The baby has decided to put her bowl of cereal on her head, Chase is following me everywhere and begging to watch a video and my husband always seems to take too long to get ready for church.

Whoa! Time to regroup. I guess a little cereal in one's hair could be a new kind of conditioning treatment and I can tell people that I am experimenting with highlights in Alyssa's hair. Maybe three straight hours of Magic School Bus videos are not really that harmful. And if Sam has to run to the car dripping wet in order for us to get to church before the worship is over, we can keep a spare towel in the car.

Today's Devotion:

"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it"

Dear Lord,
Help me to respect Your Sabbath and spend the day in loving, peaceful relations with all whom I encounter. Give me wisdom and patience to make the best decisions today and help me to keep all strife out of my household. In Jesus name I pray.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Are You Listening?: God Speaks to Us Through Our Children

Thank you God, for giving us children to help us grow more like you! I have found that every time I feel the nudge of the Lord to encourage me to improve in a certain area of my life, He seems to enlist my children to help. Either because they will present me with challenges (read: opportunities) to force me to confront the issues or, more likely lately, He will actually cause my older child to say things that challenge me and force me to look at my behavior.

I have been Spirit-led to work on keeping the peace in my home by learning to be slower to speak in anger, slower to become irritated or upset and much slower to become impatient when things do not go exactly as I want them to go. Although through the grace of God I have improved in these areas,I still have a ways to go. One day, I became upset about something (probably something minor in the scheme of things) and Chase looked at me very earnestly and said, "God doesn't like the upset." I could not believe what I had just heard! My first instinct was to say "Who are you to tell me what God likes and doesn't like- you are just a child!" but as I took a moment to think before I spoke, I realized that in fact it was because he is a child, my child, that God put into my life, that what he has to say does indeed matter.

I apologized to Chase and agreed with him. I also explained to him that God is helping Mommy to have less "upset" and that I would try harder to not become so upset in the future. Wow. God is amazing in how much He loves us. He loves us enough to send messengers into our lives to help us become more like Him so that we can partake of all the blessings that He has in store for us.

I have heard other stories like mine from other parents lately. One mom told of how her children used God's Word to admonish her (correctly) for her speech. Another mom told of how her child asked her a pointed question that helped her to see a truth about one of her relationships. I am convinced that God has placed our specific children (and spouses) into our lives to specifically help us mature in our Christian faith. We can choose to grow from these challenges or remain stubbornly stuck in our old, useless behaviors. Which will you choose?

"When Jesus saw it, He was indignant and said to them, 'Let the little children come to Me; don't stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.'"
Mark 10:14 HCSB

Today's Devotional:

Dear Lord,
Help my heart and my eyes to be open to all that you want to teach me today. Help me to recognize your truth even if it comes to me out of the mouth of babes. Encourage me to trust in your plan for my life, including the people that you have chosen to be closest to me in this life. Do not let my pride stand in the way of me becoming all that you want me to be. Make me more humble in your sight and before others. In Jesus' Name I pray.

Friday, February 18, 2005

The Joy of Cold

Temperatures are frigid here in Northeast Ohio but there is something so cozy about being in our nice warm, home all together today. I used to complain about the weather here but I have learned that there will always be something wrong with the weather here in Ohio. If I do not look for something positive in every weather condition, I could basically be miserable all year long! I still may tend to have negative thoughts about the weather but I try to catch myself and speak a positive word instead.

I also need to do the same with my family life. I could complain about every age and every stage of childrearing. We have all heard the litany: Moms of newborns complain of not getting enough sleep, moms of 6-months olds complain of solid food being all over the floor, moms of toddlers (including myself!) complain of chasing after running, climbing, squealing little ones. And moms of teenagers of course have complaints too numerous to mention.

We must make up our minds to enjoy every stage God has blessed us with. We should praise God that our children are developing and growing according to His design. These days will never come again. We have heard enough empty-nester parents lament "My kids just grew up too fast." And so many more warn me "Enjoy every day with your kids as much as you can- they will never be small again." I believe in following the wisdom of parents who have been through what I am going through and made it to the other side. I pray that God will give me revelation NOW to enjoy my kids every day, every month, every year, through every stage so that I will not have many regrets when they get older.

Today's Devotion:

Dear Lord, We thank you and we praise you for your Divine design of our children's growth through various stages and ages. Help us to be ever-mindful that our children are our blessing. Help us to never take them for granted. Give us the patience, joy and sense of humor that we need to keep us going every day. Show us when we are complaining too much and not enjoying enough. Help us speak a positive word to other parents who may not be able to see the joy in their current parenting situation. And we pray today O Lord for those parents whose children are not developing as expected. We pray for the parents of children with developmental delays to have strength, perseverance and even joy in their circumstance and we pray for complete healing for their children. In Jesus' Name we pray.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Daily Joy

The question for me as a Christian parent is "How do I live out my parenting walk to best reflect Jesus and all that He died for?" I want to make sure that my motives are pure and that I do not violate basic Christian principles as a parent. For instance, I always knew that "Love thy neighbor as thyself" referred to how I should treat others but somehow, for a long time, I did not translate that to how I treated my family. Of course, I can not necessarily translate how I want to be treated as an adult to how I should treat my children. Rather, I think that the challenge is allowing myself to remember how I felt as a child. How vulnerable, how needy, how dependent, how sensitive and scared we may have felt as children is often too painful to remember and is blocked out by many parents.

As I was talking to another parent about how needy our kids are, I was reminded about the reality of how vulnerable kids feel. We were discussing how there are times when our kids follow us from room-to-room, they interrupt our every conversation and they suddenly need to be the center of attention when we are on the phone. As I was really about to murmur, grumble and complain about this, I found myself in the midst of a very foggy memory, a feeling memory more than a thought memory, of how awesome it felt to be the center of my mother's attention even for a short while. (I was one of eight children so that could not have been easy for my mother to arrange!)I was humbled by the intensity of the memory and I had a revelation about how valuable my time and attention are.

Many studies have shown that the main criteria of a "good parent", one who raises well-adjusted children, is sensitivity. For a parent to have a heart filled with compassion for their child, even when the child acts in ways that may not be pleasing, to be ever forgiving of all transgressions, to grieve instead of becoming angry if the child goes astray and to always discipline (the root of this word is to teach)with a gentle, loving spirit are some characteristics of a sensitive parent.

Does the above description of a good parent, taken from secular studies, sound like a Heavenly Father that you know?

Today's Devotional:
Lord, help me to parent as my Heavenly Father parents me. Help me to always be patient and kind in all my interactions with my family. May all of my dealings with my children be cloaked in love and sealed with joy. May I exhibit infinite patience and forgiveness as I face all of the daily challenges of raising my children to be all that God wants them to be. Help me to be the concerned shepherd, always vigilant in loving protection, just as you, O Lord are my Good Shepherd. Open my eyes and my heart to any hurts from my own childhood, Lord, that may be affecting my ability to parent with joyful love. Allow waves of your healing Holy Spirit, my Comforter and Counselor, to be with me as I remember any pain that I experienced as a child to prevent me from passing that pain on to my children. I thank you O Lord for your faithfulness in healing me. In Jesus' Mighty Name, I pray. Amen.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Joyful Parenting

Hello all,

The Lord has encouraged me to write about joy for a long time. I am finally obedient to His call! That alone is reason for rejoicing. I have realized that although parenting is serious work, it requires a certain amount of levity. Or perhaps it is because parenting is such serious work, one requires humor to not go completely insane in the midst of things.

By the way, I am an expert on the subject of insanity. As a former psychiatrist, I am now dedicating my life to the flip-side of mental illness. I want to help people live with mental wellness. I want everyone to experience the joy that comes from living with joy.

As a Christian, I believe that the ultimate source of joy is faith in Jesus Christ. Improving my spiritual life has made such a difference in my parenting aptitude and attitude that I have started sharing some of my discoveries with other parents who come to me for advice. Praise God, I have been able to help many and I want to share the benefits of my mistakes with others.

Joy is a choice and an attitude. It takes a conscious decision to live a joyful life and particularly to parent with joy. But the rewards are substantial, for our very life and health of ourselves and our families depends on our level of joy. Joyful parenting is especially important (and beneficial) in though times. (and when you live with a toddler, as I do, everyday can seem like a tough time- as I am writing this blog my 1-year old just put a DVD in the VCR and my 4-year old is running around yelling "Never, never, never, never do that again" and the 1-year old is running from him laughing).

I better go deal with this situation. I will leave you with a brief devotional.

Dear Lord,
Help me to realize the importance of joy in my life. Keep me open to learning more about joy and how I can bring more joy into my life and into the life of my family. Lord, your Word says "This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it". Today, if I feel that I have nothing else to be joyful about, I will rejoice in the day that God has made and try to find something good in God's creation today.