Train Up a Child

117_1739I couldn’t wait to start school! When the big day arrived, I was up at the crack of dawn, dressed and ready to go. Armed with my “Big Chief” tablet and two sharpened pencils, I snuck out the front door – too impatient to wait for my mom and baby sister – and walked a half mile to Woodlands Elementary School all by myself. By the time my frantic mother caught up with me, I’d found my way into a First Grade classroom and was standing in line to meet the teacher.

Public school was much different in 1960 than it is today. The Ten Commandments were displayed in every classroom, Mr. Barnes (our principal) led us in “The Lord’s Prayer” each morning over the loudspeaker, we couldn’t chew gum, girls had to wear dresses, and if we misbehaved, we would get paddled (at school and later at home!)

Manners were a big deal back then. Kids said “yes ma’am” and “yes sir”, “no thank you” and “yes please”. Boys were taught to open doors for girls and always allow them to go first. It was rude to interrupt when someone was talking, arguing with adults was virtually unheard of, you never put your elbows on the table and the most important rule was the Golden Rule. Call me old-fashioned, but I still place a high value on manners. I’m proud of my kids for training their children to be polite and considerate of others.

Proverbs says even children are known by their actions. How they behave dictates what people think of them. As children grow older, the way they act can have a great impact on their future. Google “good manners” for an exhaustive list of suggestions and teaching materials to use in your family. It’s never too early to start…bad manners will be caught…good manners must be taught!

Prayer: God help me teach my children to be respectful and considerate of others…place in me the persistence to require right behavior from them no matter how much extra time it takes! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

P.S. Those of you who know me know I couldn’t write today’s entry without including my number one pet peeve. So here it is: “no problem” is NEVER the right thing to say when someone says, “thank you”! The proper response is ALWAYS “you’re welcome”. Always.

Passing the Hat


“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.

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.

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.

Life Is a Contact Sport


“He (God) will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Psalm 91:4 NIV

Football… it is the sport that caused butterflies to fill this mother’s stomach every time Drew stepped onto the field. The sound of bodies colliding made me cringe and I had to cover my eyes whenever my son was at the bottom of a pile of boys twice his size. I was relieved when he turned in his shoulder pads for a set of golf clubs!

Shoulder and knee pads do protect football players from most blows…but not all of them. Every year dozens of injuries, some tragically debilitating, occur and young men’s lives can be changed forever.

Raising four children taught me insensitive people can inflict as much harm on someone as any aggressive contact sport…although it’s more unexpected and harder to identify. Mean words, whether intended to or not, cut like a knife into the psyche of a child and cause immense damage.

Drew had a teacher in elementary school who should have been a drill sergeant instead of an educator. At least then she would have been picking on people her own size. She yelled all the time and belittled students in front of their classmates for asking “stupid questions”. By the time we learned about it, the school year was over and the damage was done. It took years for Drew to unlearn his feelings of “being stupid”.

I wish I’d understood more back then about praying for God to shield my children’s minds…and about speaking specific blessings over them daily. It could have made such a difference. As Christian parents, we have the right to boldly approach the throne of God and ask for His mighty protection against any plan the devil has to kill, steal or destroy our children. It is up to us to learn the promises of His word and to get down on our knees and claim them for our sons and daughters.

Prayer: God, I ask You to cover my children with Your shield of protection. Strengthen them and keep the enemy from knocking on their door. By Your power, I bind and cancel any plan the devil has to steal them from Your will and destiny. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Surviving the Bullies

1964 4th grWhen I went to school in the 60’s, there were no rules to protect kids against classroom bullies. We had three categories of kids: the cool ones, the uncool ones, and those who somehow flew under the radar and escaped all the drama. For most of my elementary years, I was in the uncool category…awkward and lanky, uneven bangs, a nose too big for my face…lots of things for people to laugh at and make fun of.

The cool kids maintained their status by “putting down” the uncool kids. They teased and talked about us with made-up stories and pulled mean pranks on us. I even had a 5th grade teacher in Houston who was chummy with the cool girls and said mean things about me (in front of me) to the other girls!

Did it hurt my feelings? Of course it did. Did I ever show it? Not on your life. I stuffed those feelings way down in my socks and pretended I didn’t hear or didn’t care. It never occurred to me to tell an adult or my parents because it was my “normal”. I thought I had to accept it. To this day, I’m not sure how successful adult intervention would have been. When kids want to bully another child, they will always find a way.

Despite being bullied, always being chosen last and not being invited to the popular kids’ birthday parties, I grew up secure and confident with my self-esteem intact. How? I had the best home life a child could ask for. Little did my parents know how emotionally beat up I was at school. But when I came home, they treated me exactly the opposite. They lifted me up. They made me feel special. They took time to listen to my ideas, my dreams and my stories. They nurtured and admired my talents and showed me unconditional love. I knew by the way they treated me that I was important to them…and I chose to believe their opinion of me rather than the opinion of the school bullies.

A wise man once told me it takes seven compliments to soften the sting of one negative comment. Whether your child is ever bullied or not, remember to look for the good things in their life and tell them you’ve noticed. Make it your goal to fill the positive side of their emotional bank and offset anything the world may throw at them!