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.

Life Can Get Messy

IMG_5625_JPG“Not we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong.” 2 Corinthians 13:7a NIV

Home ownership is one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment a young couple can experience. Grant and I were filled with pride when we closed on our first house in Lubbock, Texas and set about the task of updating it in contemporary earth tones that were so popular in the 70’s. We carpeted the living areas with a bright rust shag (ouch! those visual memories are downright repulsive) and had brown and gold plaid indoor-outdoor carpet glued to the floor in the kitchen and dining room. You’ll have to take my word on this…at the time, it was quite stylish.

The year was 1976. Gwen was just learning to walk and nothing at her eye level was safe…this I learned the hard way…

Grant was at work and while I folded clothes in front of the television, I totally forgot there was an “attack toddler” on the loose. Can’t you just hear the drum beat from “Theme From Jaws” playing in the background? Dum dum, dum, dum. All of a sudden, I snapped to my senses and sensed the proverbial “quiet”. No noise in the house outside of Monty Hall describing his latest challenge on “Let’s Make a Deal”. No pitter patter of little feet. No Gwen. If you get nothing else from my blog, remember this equation…”quiet” plus toddler equals disaster.

I began the search, starting in the bedrooms, working my way through our Jack-and-Jill bathroom, past the entry and into the kitchen. Where was she? Hmmm. The door to the pantry was slightly ajar. I placed my hand on the doorknob and opened it slowly. I will remember that next moment for the rest of my life. I can laugh now, but at the time…it wasn’t the least bit funny.

Gwen…AND my beautiful new (ugly) indoor-outdoor carpet were soaked – not just covered – with a full bottle of Aunt Jemima’s Maple Syrup! It was the most horrible mess you could imagine, with no simple clean-up possible. There were places we stuck to on that kitchen floor until we sold the house eighteen months later!

The truth is…there are times when life will get messy and there is no easy way to clean it up. You can spend time living in the mess, or you can figure out what got you there, and work on preventing it next time. For me – the syrup went on a high shelf from that day forward. In life…we must examine ourselves and break habits and patterns that keep making our life miserable or getting us into trouble.

Help your children learn to avoid repeated personal disasters. If they continually find themselves in unpleasant situations or constantly getting in trouble…they can change their messy circumstances by making different and better choices. To quote Benjamin Franklin, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. It’s always better to avoid the mess in the first place, instead of trying to clean it up later! Reading through the book of Proverbs and discussing it with your children is a great way to help them gain God’s insight on how to act and live.

Prayer: God, help me teach my children to follow Your path and live by Your direction so they can avoid painful messes in their life. When they don’t, I pray You’ll give them strength and wisdom for the clean-up process, and that they’ll learn not to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Be Flexible

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Do not be anxious about anything.” Philippians 4:6 NIV

Very few things in life are free, but I’ve found one you never have to pay for…it just magically appears in abundance with every child you have…laundry!

When my four kids were little, they didn’t make laundry hampers big enough for the mountain of clothes we generated. The only way to possibly get caught up for 30 seconds was to load everything in the car and take it to a laundromat. And that wouldn’t last for long. Most days, my trusty Maytag labored nonstop, and the den couch served as a dumping ground as each load was pulled from the dryer. I folded what I could, but there were diapers to change, meals to cook, places to go…you get the picture…the only time our couch functioned as a real couch was when we had company.

One Saturday afternoon, a family from church arrived at our house unexpectedly. When the doorbell rang, I was horrified! I couldn’t let them see my piles of laundry on the couch…what would they think…where would they sit? I immediately yelled for everyone to help me. We each grabbed armfuls of clean clothes and raced to hide them in a bedroom. And all for what? It turns out, all that for our friends’ entertainment! They watched (and thoroughly enjoyed) the whole comical exercise through our living room window. After I got past the humiliation and embarrassment, I was able to laugh about it (sort of)!

In those days, I took myself – and my pride – way too seriously. I had a very rigid and unrealistic standard for what my house had to look like before any guests could enter. That put unfair pressures on all of us. It’s good to try to be neat and orderly, but insane to think it would ever be perfect as long as four little children were running around.

I was like Martha in the Bible (Luke 10)…consumed with my many tasks…trying to make everything just right. Jesus told her she was too worried and distracted by “things”. I needed to be flexible enough to let some things go…and enjoy more moments with my kids, with my husband and with my Lord.

Slow down. Rearrange schedules so your family has time to be together. Read a book. Take a walk around the block. Play cards. Bake cookies. Watch a movie. Allow yourself the freedom to let the laundry sit an extra day and seize a moment with your kids while a moment is still within your grasp.

Prayer: God, my kids are growing up right before my eyes and if I don’t slow down, I’m going to miss it. Teach me not to worry about things that can wait. Help me be flexible and smart enough to let the main thing be the main thing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Hug Your Kids!

IMG_0006“Laying His hands on each one, He healed them.” Luke 4:40b NIV

Medicine has come a long way in the last 50 years, and aren’t we glad…

When I was 3-years-old, our family accompanied my dad on a business trip to Denver. While we were there, my 8-month-old sister, Karen, got very sick and was placed in isolation at a children’s hospital. That trip is probably one of my earliest childhood memories. Grandma and Grandpa traveled by train to stay with me so mom and dad could stand vigil at the hospital. Doctors didn’t know what was wrong with Karen. To make matters worse, my parents weren’t even allowed to see her for over a week. They were told they would be a distraction and hindrance to Karen’s recovery…I would NOT have made a good 50’s mom!

Today, doctors and nurses want parents to be with their children in the hospital 24/7 because of the great value their touch provides. Studies indicate skin contact promotes healing. It helps children gain weight, cry less and become more relaxed. Parents of preemies in the NICU are actually encouraged to cuddle skin-to-skin with their baby as soon as it’s safe for them to leave the incubator. Touching promotes healing.

All children need their parent’s touch, whether they’re sick or well. Human contact creates a physical bond that goes beyond what words can say. Coca Cola advertisers knew it when they created the lyrics for a commercial:

“Reach out and touch somebody’s hand, make this world a better place…if you can.” Hugging is a great way to give your child the sensory feeling of being loved. And that leaves them in a better place emotionally!

When Jesus walked on earth, one of the ways He healed people was to touch them. By His Spirit, our hands can bring health and wholeness with their touch.

Make it a habit of hugging your children every day. Establish hugging rules…hug before going to bed, when leaving for school, when coming home, etc. How many times can your family find reasons to hug? Post the list on your refrigerator and put it into action.

Prayer: God, thank you for touching my life and allowing me to sense Your love. Help me look forward to hugging my children every day so they will feel MY love. Give us all a huggable spirit that will never grow old. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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