Capture Those Kodak Moments

Muddy drew 2“Fathers, do not embitter your children or they will become discouraged.” Colossians 3:21 NIV


Tree-climbing was one of my kids’ favorite pastimes in the summer. The children spent hours outside playing chase, cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians…all sorts of imaginative games kids play. Towering twenty-year-old trees afforded them a bird’s eye of the neighborhood which added to their enjoyment.

The family dog, Muffy, our long-haired English Cocker followed the children everywhere. She spent so much time outdoors that Grant put two buckets in the back yard so she wouldn’t run out of water and overheat. There was a water spigot by the back fence which made it easy to keep them filled.

One afternoon 3-year-old Drew decided to go for a swim…in one of Muffy’s water buckets. I might never have known, except that the buckets were at the base of our biggest tree where no grass would grow, so there was only dirt on the ground. And dirt plus water equals mud. At least Drew was considerate enough to take his clothes off first…

It must have been quite a show (and lots of fun), because when big sister Becky came banging on the back door to tattle, Drew’s little naked body was covered from head to toe in mud! Becky was expecting me to be angry with Drew for the mess he’d made, but all I could do was laugh. I told him not to move until I could go get a camera. I suppose Becky thought, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, because by the time I returned with a camera, SHE was naked and painting herself with mud too. It was one of those “Kodak moments” you never want to forget, and to their chagrin, I DO have pictures.

Later, a thorough hosing off was (mostly) all that was needed to clean up the mess…no harm done. Thankfully, I was in the right frame of mind to enjoy my kids instead of blowing up at them.

A child’s curiosity often causes them to try things WE know will make messes. It’s a part of their learning and exploring. When nurtured, curiosity develops creativity. When stifled, it makes children afraid to try new things…ever. Of course monitoring their curiosity can help prevent huge messes, but when the inevitable happens, remember to laugh AND take pictures! Cleaning up a little mud is far easier than mending a broken spirit.


Prayer: God, You have placed tremendous potential for creativity in my children. Guard my words and actions so I don’t inhibit their growth. Give me the patience and self-control I need to guide but never quench their tender spirits. 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.

Dads Are Important

IMG_0001“As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love.” John 15:9


Many Christmases ago, mom and dad ordered a log cabin playhouse from Sears and had it delivered to Abilene for our little girls. The children spent countless hours in the back yard imagining themselves to be everything from pioneers to cowboys…it was the gift that kept on giving!

One cold morning, I looked out our glass sliding door into the backyard and caught several tiny mice scampering back and forth on our patio…from the cabin to Muffy’s dogfood bowl. When I say “caught”, that doesn’t mean literally…I actually just saw them. For the record, I DON’T DO MICE!

Eew! I made another grim discovery. Mice don’t swim. One of the little gray critters had crawled up the side of Muffy’s water bucket and sadly (?) fell in. Disgusting.

So what’s a mom to do? The girls want to go outside and play. The dog needs to eat. There is a dead mouse floating in the water bucket. Hmm. It’s time for an emergency call to dad! Then…until Grant could come home and rescue us, NOBODY was allowed to open the back door…not even for the dog!

Dads are important for lots more than killing rodents. Dads help shape the feeling of self-worth in their daughters like nobody else can. The relationship between daddy and daughter sets the foundation of her future relationships with men. Be the giver of hugs, encouragement, compliments and regular “dates” with your daughter. Your love will cause her to set high standards…and look for a man to treat her right…just like you do!


Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for giving me a wonderful dad who loved me and always made me feel special! Help me live a life that would make him proud. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Good To The Last Drop

IMG_0048“For with You is the fountain of life, in Your light we see life.” Psalm 36:9 NIV


There are some things you hate to see come to an end…lazy summers, a good book, the coziness of a warm fire, vacations, a Scotty P’s chunky Oreo shake, {insert your favorite things here}…but nothing on earth lasts forever.

Too many distractions…even too many favorite things…keep you from enjoying any of them to the fullest. It’s impossible. There’s not enough time. A few years ago, a young mother in our church taught me a valuable lesson. She was interested in her daughter participating in our 4th and 5th Grade Leadership Program and wanted to understand the level of time commitment it required. After gathering the information, she said she’d discuss it with her daughter who would have a decision to make. Their family rule was you had to give up an activity before you could add a new one. Wow! What a mom!

This is Time Management 101 in a nutshell. Don’t put more on your plate than you can eat. And don’t fill your plate so full you can’t savor the taste and enjoy the meal. Simpler schedules give the mind breathing room, and oxygen is a good thing for brain cells – and your soul!

Busy schedules keep us from doing important things – like sleeping, exercising, praying and reading our Bibles – just to name a few. The pace you set your child’s body clock to now is the minimum pace they will run on when they grow up. Pray. Ask God to help you. Hard and counter-cultural as it may seem, set boundaries for yourself first, then for your children and family. A wise pastor once told me, “keep the main thing the main thing”.

I believe in living life to the fullest…but the older I get the more I realize “less is really more”. Teach your children that life is good to the very last drop. And make sure they aren’t moving so fast the drops get left in the bottle or fall on the floor!


Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me slow down and experience a life without regret…help me to stay focused on You and the important people in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Love That Refrigerator Artwork!

Maddy K“Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV


We all like to have someone admire what we’ve made…and children are no exception. When they cut, paste, draw, paint, color or write, it is an expression of who they are. When we stop to read, comment and look for genuine reasons to compliment their work, it is a huge esteem-builder for them. When we post their artwork on our refrigerator, put it in a special album or frame it for the wall, we go the extra mile by encouraging the creative talents God has placed inside them.

One Sunday after church, I watched a little boy waving the craft he’d made in Sunday School in front of his mother. His eyes were bright with excitement and pride as he eagerly awaited her praise. You can imagine my shock when I saw her grab it from his hands and without as much as a glance to see what it was, toss it in a trash can and keep walking. This mother of four never noticed the disheartened look on her child’s face as he followed her out the door. A teacher overheard her comment, “I’m not going to trash the house up with more junk.” It broke my heart.

The best teachers my children ever had were ones who didn’t put big red circles around their misspelled words…they wrote “nice job” at the top and worked on the spelling another day. Red marks and criticism can stifle a child’s imagination…because of a fear they might make a mistake.

Artwork, school papers and little hand-written notes may not be perfect, but they are special to your child. Take a real interest in what they make. Let them see you value their creations — even if it’s nothing more than putting their papers in your “special box” in the closet. Your approval will generate a desire in them to do more, to try harder, to grow better…you hold the keys to their confidence in your hands. Don’t lock the door!


Prayer: God, give me a sense of wonder and amazement when my children bring me their artwork and creations. Help me to be an encourager so the creative gifts You’ve placed in them will continue to develop. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

The Twirl Test

Becky In Tutu“And because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path.” Psalm 19:128 NIV


For every little boy who’s dreamed of becoming a policeman or fireman, there’s a little girl who wants to be a ballerina. My theory is, in many instances, they just like the clothes. Fortunately for my three girls, Grandma had a closet filled with recital costumes, prom dresses, hats, high heels and gloves. What a time they had (my mother included) pulling everything out, listening to stories of who wore this or that, and parading up and back as they modeled for an ever-present audience…the camera.

Becky was the smallest of the granddaughters, and the only cousin who could fit into my sister’s old ballerina costume – the daisy-studded one with a yellow tutu skirt. Somehow the sandals didn’t do the outfit justice, but all the same…when the straps slipped over Becky’s shoulders, she WAS a ballerina. I wonder what visions danced in her head as she dizzily twisted and twirled in circles so her tutu could fly with the wind! When she worked in the kids’ department at Nordstrom, she told little girls that every dress needs to pass the “twirl test” to make sure it’s just right.

It’s too bad the “twirl test” doesn’t apply to everything in life. If there was an easy way to tell when other things were right (or not), think how many mistakes we could teach our children to avoid. There’s another test that became an iconic phrase in the 90’s…”what would Jesus do?” The profound simplicity of this question is possibly the best test for decision-making you can give your child. Ground them in the Word of God, enlighten them on the heart and character of Christ, and simply remind them He is with them wherever they go and whatever they do. Would He approve? What would He say? Hmmm. That might just work for us grownups, too…


Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me arm my children with the knowledge of the character of Christ so they test and make their decisions based upon what they believe He would do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Along For The Ride

Becky on Vacuum“…consider carefully how you listen.” Luke 8:18a NIV


In the busyness of life, kids are often just along for the ride. We take them with us, but we’re not really with them. Instead, we’re gabbing on a cell phone, listening to talk radio, texting friends or we just want some “peace and quiet” so we tell them to be quiet.

I wonder what it’s like for a two-year-old to have an inquisitive mind, a world to discover, and nobody to answer their questions. I watch parents in the grocery stores and at shopping malls…and in many cases, the only words to their children are “in a  minute”, “not now”, or worse…

We (as parents) are the most influential people in the lives of our children, but there is only a small window of time to instill truth and values in them before the world begins to tug at their ears and their heart.

Practice the art of listening to your children. Ask questions that require more than a “yep” or “nope” response. Then listen and ask more questions. Listening requires patience and time. Your undivided attention helps to build their self-esteem. Never put off or ignore your child when they come to talk. If they believe you will always listen, it sets the foundation for them to believe God listens when they talk to Him.


Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive me for the times I’ve put my children off when they wanted me to listen. Please give me discernment to sense their need for sharing thoughts, questions and dreams. Thank You for always listening to me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Memory Markers

IMG_0031“See to it that you really do love each other intensely with all your hearts.” 1 Peter 1:22b NLT


Waiting is hard – at least for me. Sometimes I play a game with myself, intentionally “marking the moment of anticipation” to look back upon after the event. My first recollection of doing this is when I was in Junior High, planning a New Year’s Eve party at my house. All my friends were coming, including an older boy I had a crush on. I had butterflies in my stomach imagining (and hoping) that at midnight he might try to steal a kiss. I could hardly wait. As I stood in the den that afternoon, I thought to myself, “some day I’ll look back on tonight’s party and it will have already happened”. Strangely enough, I remember the anticipation of the moment, but not the party itself…or even if I got the kiss I was dreaming of.

Memory markers help me pause, look back and consciously think about special times and the important people in my life. At the beginning of a new year, I reminisce over years gone by and the people I’ve loved (like my dad and grandparents) who are no longer with me. I miss them terribly and will cherish the memories of them as long as I live.

Each day is a gift. MAKE the time to build memory markers with the people in your life who mean the most to you. Speak of your love and share your memories often so that what you have treasured is passed on to future generations. Most especially, tell your children how very much they are loved — over and over again. Your love and Jesus are the two most important things you can give them!


Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for blessing me with family and friends. Give me wisdom as I order my steps, so that I spend time living life to the fullest with the people I love. 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.

Spaghetti Manners

IMG_0010“Discretion will protect you and understanding will guard you.” Proverbs 2:11 NIV


Life is full of rules and sometimes we grown-ups get so hung up on controlling our kids that we over-rule their little personalities…and forget they need to be KIDS!

When I was young and living at home with my parents, we ate lots of spaghetti…not the short stuff either. My mom always got the long packages – and each one of us would dish up a plateful. I wish my dad was alive to ask if he ever slurped his spaghetti when he was a little boy…or whether he was making up for lost time as an adult who could do whatever he wanted to do.

Dad taught me to slurp my spaghetti. The trick is starting with the very tip end of a piece of spaghetti and placing it gingerly between your lips and then methodically beginning a slow sucking that draws the spaghetti into your mouth at a snail’s pace. The more sauce on the spaghetti, the bigger the mess that collects on your upper lip and chin as it’s pushed aside by the moving noodle. Once you have mastered sucking one piece, you can move up to multiples…what a fun way to enjoy a meal!

Doesn’t this make you want to head into the kitchen right now and put a pot of water on the stove? Can you imagine what a whole table FULL of kids racing one another, showing off their spaghetti sucking skills? This is what memories are made of! I can’t say I’d ever let my kids eat spaghetti like this at Macaroni Grill, but in the sanctity of your own home, toss out the rules about manners for an evening and try it! My kids loved spaghetti nights and I can still remember their laughter as we sat around the table together, slurping spaghetti and enjoying one another.

For all the times you really have to be tough on the kids, make up for it by lightening up in unexpected ways when you can. As you do, help them learn to distinguish between which “rules” are guidelines for etiquette and social acceptance – the kind you can selectively break now and again, and which rules start with a capital R and must NEVER be broken. Reading through the Proverbs with your children is a great way to help them learn Biblical principles which, in my book, have many of the Rules you should never break.


Prayer: Heavenly Father, give each of my children the desire and self-control to follow Your rules and live by Your principles. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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