Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Just a Bit of Water, Mom.


"Davis," says I, "Davis, brush your teeth, get your drink and off to bed with you please."
Yes, indeed. I know that if I ask this obedient-to-a-fault child to do something, it will get done. As I pass by the bathroom door, I see his cup is being filled up. With full assurance, I continue past the bathroom, intent on cleaning up the kitchen, knowing that my son will be in bed momentarily. But alas, no quick footsteps toward bed. What is this? Back to the bathroom I traipse. Ah. Here is the problem. He has chosen to ingest his 4 ounces of H2O one toothbrush-full at a time. "It's going to take all night!" he says with a smile and a wink.

I had not my camera. If I did, this is the look you would have seen.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

You Are

There is so much in the Bible that I want my kids to understand that sometimes I just become overwhelmed at the thought of writing it all in their hearts. I wonder where to start. I wonder what to focus on. We have got the Old Testament stories down really well by now. My son has repeated back to me nearly the entire book of Genesis. I am so thankful that this foundation is laid.

I took a queue from Janice Beeghly, who seemed to answer the question of where to go next. She nearly commanded me to begin to whisper God’s truths into my children’s ears every night. So I have said nearly every night since, “Davis, did you know that ‘you are God’s masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which He has set aside for you to do’?” (Ephesians 2:10) He asked a couple of times why I kept on saying that. I told him that it was because it was true. Now I whisper in his ear, “Do you know what you are?” And he says, “God’s masterpiece.” And then he finishes the verse for me.

So I started wondering, what else does the Mighty God say that “you are.” Oh my lands, it is the most wonderful word study you will ever do. Just simply typing those two words in my favorite online concordance (crosswalk.com) yielded me dozens of “you are” statements that I can’t wait to write on the hearts my children. And as I read them I saw just how precious God the Father sees them. And me. I want these Truths written deeply in their hearts so that if ever they begin to err in their thinking about themselves (“Maybe I am worthless”) the truth that is in them will shout out “No!” and they can take such thoughts captive and replace them with the truth: You are holy and dearly loved! (Col 3:12)

Janice spoke in September of 2005 about praying scripture for our children. So I can take that same verse from Ephesians and say, “Thank you, Lord that Davis is your masterpiece….” But praying a scripture like Jeremiah 32:38-40, which says (and I am paraphrasing now) that God is going to make an everlasting covenant with my kids and that He will not turn from them and that He will put the fear of God in their hearts so that they will not turn from Him – now that is a harder scripture to pray. Why? Because my youngest has not yet accepted Christ, and my oldest may have accepted, but who is to say that he will not turn from God someday? What puffed up audacity I would have to have to pray such a thing! And besides, that was a verse about God’s chosen people, Israel, some 4,000 years ago. Not only did I really struggle praying it, I also struggled with saying to my sons such things that were not yet true.

Janice was quick to give an answer: consider the myriad of things you can pray and speak to your children. We know that the Bible is by definition the will of God and that whenever we pray using direct scripture, we are praying God’s will. So we can know for sure that it pleases God to claim these promises for our children and (here is the hard part) BELIEVE THEM TO BE TRUE. What we tell them about themselves they will see as truth.

So onward I go, writing on the tablet of their little hearts that:
you are in the Father, and the Father is in you” (John 14:20).
Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God.” (1 Cor 6:19)
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9).
“For you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness” (1 Thess. 5:5)
“But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed” (1 Peter 3:14).
You are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God” (Gal 4:7).
You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
You are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God's holy nation, His very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Onward indeed!

Joy's Challenge

Joy in the Journey posted a great challenge this week and I am going to take her up on it. I encourage you to zip on over to her post and get equally inspired.

Here is the challenge I am accepting:

1. I challenge you to, every day for one week, write down 5 things that you are thankful for about your husband.
2. For one week, refrain from saying (with your mouth OR body language...this includes eye rolling) ANYTHING negative or unkind to your husband.
3. At least twice a day, speak words of kindness to your husband.
4. Plan and cook one special meal that you know you husband will love!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What Else are you reading?

Besides a handful of blogs, what are you reading? Drop me a comment. And if you are not reading anything right now, what do you intend to (wish you could) read next?
  • I am reading a fiction novel by Elizabeth Elliot titled "No Graven Image." She is a good novelist.
  • I am in Hebrews in my Bible, sitting in Chapters 10 and 11 right now.

One of "Those Days"

Today was one of those days. One of my kids did not get adequate sleep so everything was an argument, an excuse, painful, or outright defiant. Why is it that when kids are tired and cranky that every tiny tap is a meltdown blood-curdling injury? I must have heard "owie-ouch-that hurt!!" ten trillion times (with only one legitimate injury). In an effort to move the evening along and get Said Cranky Kid in bed early, I served dinner at 4:11 PM. I decided that much earlier (i.e. in the 3 o'clock range) did not seem quite right - but it would have been 4:00pm on the dot but we had another injury tragedy, followed by four excuses for why he would not wash up, followed by tears, one series of spankings for disobedience, six very dramatic sighs, and one final "I'll sit, but I'm not gonna eat." It was a busy eleven minutes.

After picking at the addmittedly tasteless and dry chicken, complaining at every bite of carrot, and rolling the soft white bread-and-butter between the palms to make an edible snake, all three children were tossed gleefully into the bath.

I was at my wit's end, so tired of the antics. So-so-SO wanting the evening with this one child to come to a close, I debated how I would do bedtime. You know what I wanted to do: read him the shortest board book I could find, skip prayers, administer a quick kiss on the forehead, flip the light out and muster a semi-pleasant "sleep tight." But the Lord convicted me in the middle of that daydream. He pressed into my heart the reminder that love is muscle. Action. And that God's love is reflected when I respond in love regardless of how far to the end of the rope I am.

So after an unusually trying day, and with a verse in Hebrews rattling around in my noggin, "Let us consider how we can spur one another on toward love and good deeds," I grabbed three books of decent length and the hand of my Freshly Bathed Boy and we sat in the living room and read and cuddled. At the beginning of the reading session, I was filled with dread just wanting the child in bed. But by the time we were done, we had made eye contact several times and his eyes had been bright and smiling as he made his cute comments about this page and that, and I all but forgot the exasperating day.

Now, this is no fairy tale. There is no "and they lived happily ever after." This child, who had so sweetly cuddled with me moments before, got up from that chair and responded to my pleasant-toned "its time for bed" and proceeded to throw four tantrums on our 15-step walk to his bunk.
The truth is that on some days, parenting is just miserable and it feels as if nothing - or very little - is redeeming about the day. Walking in the spirit rather than in the flesh does not work magic. Our children, born of our very own sinful flesh, still choose at that moment if they will walk on the path of righteousness or sin.

But God in his mercy, gave us day and night. And we awake each morning to a new day, fresh with new challenges and new opportunities to choose to walk toward our children in love, or to allow sin (my sin or my child's) and the separation sin creates to grow a little more.

Today was rough. Tomorrow will probably be tough, too, because catching up on sleep takes a few days. But God, please fill my heart with Your patience, wisdom, and gentleness. Crowd my mind with Your Word. Help me to reflect Your love of my children in what I say and how I act.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

"Leftovers"

The video of Weston, filmed by Mommy, tells the story...

video

Yup. he just opened that cupboard and helped himself. Proof yet again that he's the third kid. (Don't worry... it was more of a "George Costanza eats that chocolate eclair" event than anything else. I'm not that bad!)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Too Much, Too Fast

Some days I wake up and I feel like I've fallen behind before my feet hit the floor. Like I hit the snooze button one too many times and I've missed the window for my shower, and the whole day is shot. I will never catch up. The kids argue with each other and I don't know how I will handle the conflict -- but no sense dealing with that one, because another one is fast on its heels. And the picky-eater-teething-feverish-toddler won't eat the oatmeal I had prepared but before I have time to think about what my next move is, he has thrown the bowl on the floor and now I have to clean before I feed. And the toddler is still hungry but now he is crying because I won't let him eat the sticky oatmeal off the floor (he has changed his mind about his meal preference) not because I have a huge issue about floor eating but because I can't remember the last time I mopped.

My sister calls it "defensive parenting" - when all you can do is react (usually poorly) to every situation that comes your way. There is no anticipating what your child will do or say next and so there is no proactive plan of attack hanging out in the wings.

Say I plan a trip to the library. I know the usual battles that will come up. And if I don't plan for them by talking the kids through them, the trip is exhausting and not one I am excited about doing again soon.

My battles: getting both big boys to stay with me while I walk - hands full of books and a squirming baby - from the car to the library doors; who is going to push the outside handicap door button - and who will push the inside door button; will the kids play computer this time?; will we actually read books there or just grab and go? And my personal favorite: controlling the kids while I am unloading and re-loading books into our library bin while the nice library-lady is scanning all 800 books we couldn't live without.

On my reactive parenting days, while we are waiting for the books to all be scanned, I am asking Jackson for the fourth time to not climb up the metal detectors, and then I am craning my neck to see if Davis is still getting a drink of water near the outside doors where 756 suspicous strangers have just entered and exited the library, all the while holding a baby that is fighting with all his might to hold a book firmly between his slobbery lips (right in from of the library police!), and that same Official is calmly reminding me of the 4 books that still have fines on them, "Looks like you have $1.85 in library fines... would you like to take care of that today?" Yeah. I would. Let me just pull that third arm out of my back pocket so that I can get that for you real quick.

Yes, I love feeling like one of "those moms." Its heartwarming to receive the sideways glances from unsympathetic grown-ups that scream, "Get CONTROL of those monsters!"

But in all fairness, a little fore-thought (and perhaps one less bop of the snooze alarm) could have prevented the whole scene. I know Jackson will climb up the metal detectors (why do they make them to look like a jungle gym anyway?), and Davis is always parched when we walk up to that desk. I know the definition of insanity, so I should instead try something new, hoping for a new result... "Ok boys. When we get up to the desk, I want you to sit with your backs to the desk wall and with your hands on your lap. Got it?"

There is really nothing profound about this example but the idea of parenting proactively is actually quite profound. It takes mental energy and prayer for divine wisdom to do it well. It requires sitting up and taking notice at the parenting situations you find yourself in and asking questions of it.
What will I say next time he does this?
What was his motivation when he did it?
What attitude was in his heart?
Is the behavior disobedient or just annoying?
What would the Bible term this kind of disobedience?
And when I figure out what behavior they should "put off", what behavior can I encourage them to "put on?"

Who considers these things, in the heat of the moment and instantly has solid answers? Very few. Certainly not THIS parent. But God has very clear instructions to believers, that we must ask for wisdom and when we do, He delights to give it to us (we hear the delight in the written prayers of Paul):

Ephesians 1:15-17
15 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.


Colossians 1:9-11
9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience...


So in light of how much the Lord loves to give us wisdom and knowledge of Him, and considering how godly a task it is to raise God-fearing children, allow me to encourage you today to take a moment to sit at the feet of our Lord and asking Him for wisdom and knowledge for how to handle all your parenting situations. He will delight to answer such prayers.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

It's About Time

for a picture installment. So, here are recent ones of my precious little men.

"A boy, a cat, and a gun in the sunshine."
Jackson, nearly 4.




This is the expression that comes right before he tries to trick you with a joke or prank.
Davis, 6 1/2


Weston, 14 months, with a bit of lime on his pallet.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Mixed Up Lyrics

Jackson is my singer. I tell him often that God has placed a song in his heart. He has a rather refined taste in music for such a young child, though his comprehension does not keep pace with taste. When he was just almost two, his favorite song was "Awesome God" by Michael W. Smith. And then at 2 1/2 he liked "Graceland" by Paul Simon. And for a couple of years of his nearly-4-year-old life, he did not want anything to do with children's music. It was like it hurt his ears or something.

He is now less than a month away from his forth birthday and he has been enjoying kid music, and especially kid's singing praise songs. At the lunch counter yesterday he was singing the tune "I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever. I will sing. I will sing..." Well, the little guy had done his best to understand and remember the words to that song and he serenaded us with the following lyrics:

"I will see all the commercials of the Lord forever. I will see. I will see...."

It was priceless!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

An Ode to Picky Eaters

We ran into this little poem while reading from our Winnie-The-Pooh Storybook Treasury. Tonight I dedicate it to Davis, Ainsley and all the other picky eaters out there.

What shall we do about poor little Tigger?
If he never eats nothing he'll never get bigger.
He doesn't like honey and haycorn and thistles
Because of the taste and because of the bristles.
And all the good things which an animal likes
Have the wrong sort of swallow or too many spikes.
But whatever his weight in pounds, shillings, and ounces,
He always seems bigger because of his bounces.

A.A. Milne
"Tigger Comes to the Forest and Has Breakfast"

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

WFMW - Schedule THIS.

If you have ever wished (to no avail) that you could create a "way we do things" and a "when we do things" with the kids, this post is aimed at you.

To start with, some minds are made for creating systems and order. For example, they love coming up with spreadsheets that detail out every hour of their day. Other brains were created to maintain an existing system or order. Give them that pre-made spreadsheet and they go to town!

However, Ask a systems-creator to actually maintain their brilliant system and you might find that they are all gusto in the first week, and then quickly peeter out, unable to keep up with the demands of their awesome way of doing something. Furthermore, ask a natural-born "maintainer" to come up with a brilliant system for making the day go (albeit theoretically) smooth like silk and you might find her eyes welling up with tears because the task seems insurmountable. The bottom line here is that most of us stink at order, though we all long for it.

So might I suggest a gentler way to "schedule" your day with your preschool kiddos.
  • First, find a fixed point in your day that pretty much happens whether the sky falls or not. How about lunchtime.
  • Next, decide on something that you would like to see happen every day, like picking up toys before naptime. If your brain works like mine, it gets all excited and goes crazy at this step, so let yourself dream about the wonderful things you could accomplish with your kids if there was a schedule, but then hold back and PACE YOURSELF!
  • Talk about it with your kids. Say, "starting Monday, we are going to..."
  • Start super slow. Finish the sentence you started above with, "...spend 5 minutes picking up our toys," even if you know it would really take a solid 15-30 minutes.
  • Add chunks of time or tasks as the weeks progress. "Starting on Valentines Day we are going to spend 10 minutes picking up the toys." Then, "Starting in March we are going to keep working until the whole place is clean!"
  • Continue to build around that fixed point. "Spring Break is coming, kids" (like your preschoolers have any idea, but you get my drift, right?) "and starting then we are going to do one chore each day before lunchtime."
  • Stay positive and fun. Make games out of things as they adjust to the demands of the schedule. If one day is a disaster, focus on what did get done and start fresh tomorrow.

Now, I don't care if your house is clean before naptime or if your kids are doing chores, but can you see how I am building around a fixed point (lunch), and doing things in small increments in order to create a routine? You are not overwhelmed at the task of maintaining something impossible, and the kids are not overwhelmed by a sudden major shift in their day. This is also a great way to establish a bedtime routine, get kids ready in the morning, accomplish homeschooling tasks (I might imagine), establishing a quiet time when naps are no longer part of the day, or...

I have been working off of this principle since January 1, 2008. I started super small, like I described, with just '4 minutes of reading the Bible after lunch.' Now it is early February and the kids and I have sucessfully added the following things to our after-lunch-and-when-mommy-gets-home-from-work routine:
  • Recycle the under the sink pile
  • Feed the cat
  • Pick up the baby toys that the (now napping) baby pulled out that morning
  • Do one extra chore, for example laundry (I have to think ahead on that one and write in on my kitchen dry-erase board the night before or during breakfast.)
  • Read a couple pages in The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes.
  • Practice our weekly verse (supplied for us by our Sunday School class)
  • 40 minutes of Bible Quiet time (even the baby participates in this: I place him in his crib with lots of toys, binkis, and his favorite CD...we have been slowly working up to this with him!)
  • A quick snack
  • And then the big reward: 30 minutes of some beloved show we have TiVoed (one of these days I think I will post something on the virtures of digital video recorders).
The kids then play (usually quite happily) until dinner time. Granted, that hour can still be a bewitched one, with tempers on the edge and tears-a-plenty. The only thing I have found that works here every time is an earlier dinner, a spoil-your-dinner healthy snack, or TV (lame!). Got any ideas on that one?

For more great tips and other Works For Me Wednesdays, visit Rocks In My Dryer.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Obey. Honor. Exasperate?

It is my responsiblity to teach our church's "family sunday school" this week and our little curiculum book has me teaching Ephesians 6:1-3

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may go well with you, and that you may have a long life on the earth.

Can you believe this is my verse? If anyone knows me, they know that this is my swan song for parenting advice. Well, actually, the thing I am actually known for saying is "obey mommy the first time" (swat-swat). (Please, no hate mail for the spanking reference...let's agree to disagree for the sake of the limited blog space available.) "To delay is to disobey" is another phrase my kids could repeat in their sleep.

There are two points in this verse that are eye-popping. First, children are asked to obey and honor. Those words are not synonyms. Oh no, sir. You can obey with your lips and legs, but be extrodinarily dishonoring. Visualize a teenage eyeroll and under-the-breath "What-EVer!" followed by the action you requested. Now you know what I am taking about (because you remember doing it, right). You may have obeyed, but there was no honor in it. And THAT'S NOT what God is asking of His children. Honor comes from the heart. Honor is in the attitude. So be careful, Jenne, that you don't find obedient lips accompanied with a dishonoring heart something acceptable.

Which leads me to the second brilliant point (God's brilliance, not mine), which is in the verse that immediately follows 6:1-3. Eph 6:4, struck a new parenting chord in me. **Warning fellow Cornerstone Sunday School families: spoiler ahead.**

It is hardly appropriate to teach the instructions to children without also including the instructions to parents. Verse 4 says this: Fathers, do not exasperate your children, but bring them up in the teaching and instruction of the Lord.

God, in his rich mercy, carefully included these instructions to parents. It demonstrates His deep mercy and compassion. He requires obedience of His children but he also knows our parental fallen nature. Our children are completely subject to our temper and flaws. Our children are at the mercy of Mommy and Daddy from the time they are conceived to the time they leave our home. I am deeply convicted that as I require my children to obey and honor, I must heed these instructions the Lord has for me and my husband.

Exasperation: Nothing you do is right. Nothing you attempt is understood. It is a hopeless place to be. How often do we, as parents, not take the time to bend down and look at the world from our child's perspective, with their limited ability to communicate, their short stature and inexperienced emotions? Truly, taking this bit of instruction "do not exasperate your children" to heart as a parent, requires thought, patience, and humility. Often enough, I think I know what's going on when one of my kids "disobeys." Sometimes I am right on. But sometimes I could not be farther off the mark. And when I am off the mark - when I assume the worst of my child in a situation - when I asked 8 times already to put shoes on and shoes still are not on - and assume discipline is in order I could be in danger of draining the hope out of my child. When all it would have taken was a glance around before the spanking to see that the shoes he was trying to get on were actually getting too small and his little muscles just could not squiggle the footwear in place nor could his youthful attention span outlast the task, I have exasperated him.

Thank you, Lord for revealing Your heart for the family: obedient children who honor their parents, and parents who are careful to display mercy, patience, and humility to their children. I am so thankful that You made our children to be vibrant and resiliant so that they can easily overcome the common mistakes You knew we would make when You decided to entrust us with Your most vulnerable creation.

For some book ideas on dealing with the heart issues, check out Ginger Plowman's book Don't Make Me Count to Three, and Diane Moore's book Parenting the Heart of Your Child. And for some great encouragement for those who struggle with exasperating the kids, I enjoyed Grace-Based Parenting, by Tim Kimmel.