Loose Teeth Didn’t Stand a Chance

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV


Most kids get excited when they start to lose their teeth because it’s a sign they’re growing up. But at our house, the kids would all agree with me that their DAD was the most excited person when one of their teeth showed signs of becoming “ready”. They usually approached me first, but I don’t do teeth.

Grant, with Frankensteinesque eagerness, employed many tactics to remove baby teeth, including tweezers, slippery fingers, locking surgical forceps, and strings wrapped around the tooth and then tied to a slamming doorknob. Forceps worked the best, but it always took several jarring attempts to get them locked onto the tooth…most unsettling to anyone (like me) with a queasy stomach! Did I mention, I don’t do teeth!?

Seldom was a tooth the winner with Dr. Grant in the house. Following each victorious extraction, after a warm gargle with salt water, the young patient would be all smiles, posing for pictures and anticipating a visit from the “pretend” tooth fairy. To this day, I still have a small glass bottle filled with dozens of tiny enamel nuggets. I’m probably the only one (except my mother) nostalgic enough to wish I’d kept them separated by child.

Baby teeth are just place-holders. They become useless and are meant to fall out so new, permanent teeth can grow and take their place. When we accept Jesus into our heart, our old sin nature is like a child’s baby tooth — it falls away and makes room for our new life in Christ to grow and blossom.

Pulling baby teeth makes a great object lesson for teaching children about letting go of old things (selfishness, lying, cheating, stealing, etc.) and allowing Jesus to create new desires, motives and attitudes that glorify Him. Remind them it’s only when the old is gone that the new can come in.


PRAYER: Heavenly Father, Your world is filled with object lessons! Open my eyes to see them all around me. Help me take advantage of each teachable moment so I can bring Your truths to life for my children. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

On the Outside Looking In


“…man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7b NIV


There are two things every household (with children) needs in the summertime…a revolving door and a fly swatter. When the kids are inside they can’t wait to go out, but when they’re outside, they keep coming back in. I’ll bet the guy who named “In-N-Out Burgers” in California got the idea from little kids!

Children are specialists at seeing what’s going on inside, even when we try to keep them on the outside. Years ago when I called the home of a friend, her young child answered the phone. I actually heard my friend whisper, “tell her I’m not here”. The part about not taking my call was no big deal, but telling a child to lie? Wow. That’s huge.

On the outside, mom didn’t want to talk on the phone and thought nothing of using her child to run interference with a “little white lie”. The sad thing is her daughter was smart enough to see beyond those outside actions…and got an “inside” subtle message that it’s okay to lie if it gets you out of something you don’t want to do.

1 Chronicles 28:9 said the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive. We can’t hide from Him. And most of the time, we can’t hide from our kids. They pick up on our motives more than we realize…good or bad. If we want to be able to trust them when they are teenagers, guess what? We have to lay a foundation of honesty inside of us first…while they are young. Gone are the days of getting away with saying, “do as I say, not as I do”. That doesn’t work anymore.

Identify key character issues and discuss them with your children. Search your own heart and make sure your behavior and motives line up with the behavior you expect from your children. Remember they are always on the outside looking in!


PRAYER: God, I need you now, more than ever. Please purge the things from my heart that need to be gone. I want to lead my children down the right path…help me to get there first! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Words Mean So Much!

“He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.” Proverbs 21:23 NAS


My fifth grade teacher didn’t like me, and at the ripe old age of 10, even I knew it. To this day, I remember Mrs. Chadwick talking about me and ridiculing me in front of all the other students. I would either pretend not to hear or act like it didn’t bother me. But on the inside, not only did her words hurt, they began to rip apart my self-esteem. It didn’t occur to me I should tell my parents. After all, she was an adult authority figure in my life. Who was I to question her?

Modern society has legitimized sarcasm and labeled it comedy. Many people think its okay to put someone down, call them names, or make fun of them, especially if it’s followed up with the disclaimer, “just kidding”. But it’s not okay.

The Bible teaches us words can be a blessing or a curse. Whether spoken in sarcasm or in an uncontrolled moment of anger, words like “stupid” and “clumsy” or “what’s WRONG with you?” definitely fall into the latter category. We have the responsibility as parents to protect our children. Yet without realizing it, sometimes our words are what bring our children the greatest harm.

Think about the words you use when you speak to and about your children. Do they lift, encourage and affirm them? If not, it’s time for a vocabulary change. Sit down as a family and discuss ways to de-word and re-word your home. It’s a lesson none of us are too young (or old) to learn.


PRAYER: God, forgive me for saying things to my children I didn’t mean. Please heal their wounds and help me have the self-control and wisdom I need to guard my tongue every time I speak to them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Who Can You Count On?

“…I [the Lord] will never leave nor forsake you.”

Joshua 1:5b NIV


Several years ago, Grant asked our oldest grandson to help him clean and mulch the large flowerbeds in front of our house. They agreed on an upcoming Saturday both of them were free. When the day arrived, Grant took Caleb for an early breakfast before working him all day in the scorching sun. Caleb was a hard worker and the yard looked wonderful when they finished.

A few days later, we discovered Caleb had missed his first soccer practice (which was scheduled after he’d signed up for yard duty) on that same Saturday morning. We felt terrible knowing how important soccer was to Caleb, and that missing a practice could impact his playing time on the team.

When asked why he didn’t tell us so we could reschedule, 15-year-old Caleb made my heart proud with a simple response: “I promised Papaw first”. There is little doubt Caleb wanted to be on the soccer field more than doing manual labor for his grandparents, but he felt it was important to honor his first commitment…even if it meant sacrificing more than just a Saturday.

Kudos to Gwen and Marcus for modeling strong character and teaching their kids the importance of commitment. When children see promises kept by their parents, it fortifies their faith to believe God’s promises. “Caleb’s resolve to do the right thing brings honor to the God he serves and will take him far in life. He is becoming a tremendous example for others, both young and old.

God does the same thing for us…He promises to be with us always, no matter what. If He ever seems far away, it’s because we’ve run from Him…He hasn’t left us. He is the God of countless wonders, the God of countless answers…a God to be counted on in good times and in bad.


PRAYER: Heavenly Father, it’s hard to comprehend how wide and deep Your love for me is…even when I sometimes get so caught up in my life I forget You are here. Help me be the kind of person You and others can always count on. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Learn When to Let Go

Shannon on her 1st birthday, 3-16-79

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”

Isaiah 43:18 NIV


It was a Sunday morning. I was crouched on my knees leaning over the bathtub shampooing Gwen’s long blonde hair while our one-year-old Shannon crawled on the floor behind me waiting for her turn in the bubbles. I’d already plugged the curling iron in so it could get hot. I thought it was safely out of reach on the bathroom cabinet…

All of a sudden, Shannon let out a blood-curdling scream that wouldn’t stop. She was less than three feet from me, but with my back turned I didn’t see her pull on the electrical cord and grab hold of the curling iron when it fell on the carpet.

Despite her hysterical screaming, Shannon didn’t let go of the curling iron. Her tiny hand clenched the hot metallic barrel and I had to literally pry it off. Her hand was severely burned. I later learned that when children (and adults) feel sudden pain, our muscles respond by tightening up. In Shannon’s case, that response caused her to hold tightly to the very thing that was hurting her.

I credit Abilene’s West Texas Rehabilitation Center and a very special physical therapist, Mary Lou Garrett, for saving the use of Shannon’s hand. Every day for weeks, Shannon went in for a sterile hand bath followed by painful debriding of the dead skin. There was nothing easy about this process…this was Shannon’s thumb-sucking hand…and that never changed. She sucked her thumb through medicine, bandages, gloves and every other creative obstacle I could think of.

Almost everyone has painful experiences…some physical and some emotional. We can hold onto bitterness, hurt, disappointment and even anger for a lifetime. It’s a natural reaction. But if we do, the hurt will continue to fester inside of us…and it won’t go away. The sooner we learn to let go of things that hurt us, the healthier we will be!

Teach your children a simple exercise in letting go. When they get upset or hurt and are “hanging on” to an offense, have them imagine that offense sitting in their hands. Is it something they like? Do they want to keep it? Does it hurt when they think about it? Then it’s time to hand that offense to God once and for all. Instead of dwelling on something that hurts them, train them to give it to God and let HIM deal with it…so their healing can begin.


PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me teach my children to never hold on to past hurts, but to give You those painful things so Your Holy Spirit can bring healing to their minds and their hearts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

More Effective Than Grounding


“And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”

Matthew 6:13 NIV


When our oldest daughter Gwen started taking driver’s education classes, my mother gave us an extra car she didn’t need anymore. It was a little Chevy Citation hatchback – nothing fancy, but the price was right and it was in great shape. Unfortunately, Gwen hated the car. She was embarrassed to even be SEEN in it, and horrified to think of driving it. Grant took pity on her, and as soon as she got her driver’s license, she got his sporty red Nissan and he drove the Citation. Life was good – for Gwen and for me. As the mother of four, I was thrilled to have a new driver in the house who could run errands and drive herself to and from school. The time savings was huge – except when she did something wrong and Grant took her car keys away. It easily added an extra hour of driving to my schedule every day. After a few “groundings”, I had a heart-to-heart with Grant explaining that when he grounded Gwen by taking her driving privileges away, he was in effect grounding me too. Because then I had to drive her everywhere. We were in agreement she needed to be punished. We just needed a different plan – something that would motivate her to make good choices without making my life more difficult. The answer was simple. We wouldn’t keep her from driving. We would make her drive…the Citation.

This was the worst (or best, depending on your point of view) punishment EVER. And it worked! Just a hint Gwen might have to drive the Citation was enough to keep her moving in the right direction.

Staying on the right path is never easy. Temptation is constantly pulling at our kids …trying to seduce them into making harmful choices that can affect their lives forever. As parents, it’s our job to steer them in the way they should go without breaking their tender spirits. What works for one child won’t necessarily work for another. As “painful” as it was for Gwen to drive that Citation, she was better off in the long run, and likely saved from situations that could have caused her real pain. We must stay on our knees and seek God’s direction for the right kind of discipline needed in each circumstance, so our kids stay healthy and safe as they grow into the young adults God wants them to be.


PRAYERHeavenly Father, I pray You will continually guide each of my children towards the path You have set out for them. When they stray, help me know how to discipline them in a way that brings repentance and not rebellion, in a way that molds but doesn’t tear down and in a way that plants in them a desire to follow You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Busted

galveston-jail“For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” Luke 8:17 NAS


As a young mother, my days were spent teaching our four children the importance of choosing right instead of wrong – and how to know the difference between the two. At times it seemed I was fighting an uphill battle because even when they clearly knew better, the kids were deliberately disobedient. To make matters worse, when I confronted them, they lied. And if there’s one thing this mamma doesn’t tolerate, it’s a lie. I can’t tell you the number of times I doubled a punishment because dishonesty was added to the “crime”.

Despite their sneakiest efforts, I always managed to find out when my children did something wrong. I didn’t have eyes in the back of my head. I just had a secret weapon – prayer. I knew if they didn’t get caught, they’d grow comfortable making wrong choices and continue to walk down a path that would eventually lead to bigger risks and more serious consequences. So I prayed – regularly –  a simple prayer in line with the truth of God’s Word in Luke 8:17. I asked Him to expose all things where my children were concerned, and to cause all things hidden to come into the light. The result? Time and time again, when they least expected it, they found themselves BUSTED!

Because it was God and not ME who found them out, the kids learned even if nobody else saw what they did. . .God saw. And no matter how carefully they spun a lie. . .God knew. Eventually, each one of them decided right is better than wrong. Always. No matter who sees or doesn’t see.


Prayer: God, thank you for being faithful to your Word and for helping me teach my children they couldn’t get away with making bad choices. Continue to work in their lives so they will walk in integrity in every circumstance. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Passing the Hat

Lima-Hat-Web

“Be careful…that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” 1 Corinthians 8:9 NIV


There is something about a daddy’s hat and a little boy…need I say more? It it’s Drew’s, Liam wants it. At the ripe old age of one, Liam was already copying his dad. He would even swing his arm when he walked…just like daddy did (who by the way picked that trait up from his dad). Kids are in many ways, their recycled parents. Scary thought, isn’t it!

Over thirty-five years ago, God allowed me to see how influential my actions were. I remember it like it was yesterday. My personal wake-up call came when I walked in on Gwen and Shannon toasting one another with water-filled wine glasses. Grant and I weren’t big drinkers, but even an occasional glass of wine was already being emulated by our two toddlers. That “reality snap shot” changed my life forever. How could I expect them not to drink alcohol if they saw me do it? What if they couldn’t stop after one or two drinks? What if my actions influenced them to do something that would later destroy their lives or marriages? I never took another drink of alcohol.

Today’s blog is not about drinking…it’s about influence. As parents, we will ALL be copied. When we “pass the hat” to our kids, it comes with our habits (good and bad), our traits and our character. We must take a long, hard look at ourselves and make the necessary changes, so the person we are is the kind of person we want our kids to become.


PRAYER: God, it’s not just about me anymore. My influence is shaping my children and grandchildren. There are areas of my life that need to be cleaned up and gotten rid of. I submit myself to You. You be the potter and I’ll be the clay. Mold me into the person and parent I need to be. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

Eat Your Cake“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3 NIV


Child development specialists say children start out selfish and must be taught to share with others. Stand in a room with a group of playing toddlers and you will almost always hear the word “mine” emphasized with a push or a shove. Each child wants what the other one has, not necessarily to play with it, but just to have it. Too often, parents fall into the trap of buying duplicate “stuff” for their kids so nobody has to share…it’s just easier and more peaceful that way. Unfortunately, those children grow up thinking, “it’s all about ME”. They want their cake and eat it too. Somehow, the world doesn’t always work that way and sooner or later, that attitude leads to disappointments and failures.

It’s easy for me to say my kids learned to share. The truth of the matter is they had to because there were four of them and we didn’t have a lot of money. At some point in their lives, they all shared a bedroom with one or more siblings before getting rooms of their own. I was grateful for the invention of bunk beds and trundles! One day Drew asked me if he’d have to sleep on a bunk bed in heaven!

Despite forced sharing, we definitely had moments when selfishness precipitated knock-down-drag-out fights. The most memorable one was when Gwen and Shannon got into it during their adolescent years and Gwen had to go to junior high with a split lip after her younger sister Shannon punched her.

Beyond their tiffs and complaints, I’m convinced being in close proximity all those years, sharing spaces, toys and clothes, taught each of our children the values of compromise and selflessness.

God’s Word teaches us to put others first. For the selfish, that seems like naive folly. But in the eyes of our heavenly Father, He isn’t asking us to do anything He hasn’t already done first. He put us first when He allowed His Son to suffer and die on a cross, all for the forgiveness of our sins.


PRAYER: Heavenly Father, remove from me any selfishness that might keep me from seeing and doing Your will. May You be glorified as I serve You by serving others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Getting Through Tough Times

IMG_7593“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him.” Romans 5:13a NIV


In the “olden days” music was recorded onto a round disk like it is today — but instead of CD’s (they weren’t invented yet) these disks were about 12″ in diameter, black, and we called them record albums.

I remember music playing all the time when I was young. We sang a lot in our home, and the words of the little “ditties” my mom played penetrated my spirit and helped shape my developing personality. One of my favorites was “The Donut Hole Song” where Burl Ives sang repeatedly, “watch the donut, not the hole”. The lesson of the song was to be happy for what you have, rather than focusing on what you don’t have.

Another favorite was Frank Sinatra’s “Rubber Tree Plant” where an ant, faced with the impossible task of moving a rubber tree plant, perseveres and succeeds. “Any time you’re getting’ low, ‘stead of lettin’ go, just remember that ant…” The musical fable is an admonition to never give up.

Anybody can have a bad attitude. It takes more effort to put a smile on your face, be grateful for what you have, and never give up — despite your circumstances. The only way to do that well is with God’s help. He will give peace that passes all understanding, and help us face anything without feeling despair or defeat.

Children learn how to trust (or fear) by seeing how we respond to adversity. Their little eyes are always watching. Prayer should be our first course of action, not the last resort. Set aside a special time each week to share prayer requests with family — encourage and pray for one another. Look up passages on “trust” in the Bible. Give your problems to God and see your entire family’s faith…and peace…grow!


Prayer: God, I want my life to be a reflection of my faith in You. I need Your peace in my life. When I get caught up in my problems, help me remember to give them to You to untangle. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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