“The LORD detests lying lips, but He delights in men who are truthful.” Proverbs 12:22 NIV Two weeks before our third baby was due, Grant […]
Get the Story Straight
“The LORD detests lying lips, but He delights in men who are truthful.” Proverbs 12:22 NIV
Two weeks before our third baby was due, Grant and I splurged and bought a new point and shoot 35mm camera. For those of you born after the 1980s, we used to have to buy film, take pictures and pay to have the film developed. We loaded our new camera with film but didn’t have time to break it in or learn how to use it because Becky surprised us by arriving two weeks early. Grant managed to shoot the entire 36-count roll in the delivery room and was anxious to get it developed. But there was a problem. He couldn’t get it to rewind, and instead of taking the camera home and reading the instructions, he opened the back of the camera and exposed the film. All of our first pictures of Becky were completely destroyed. I was beside myself with disappointment. We took more pictures the next day but it wasn’t the same.
As the years progressed, we accumulated hundreds of family photos but there was always a noticeable absence of Becky’s delivery room pictures. Grant and I knew why, but in Becky’s mind (thanks to her sisters), she had her own reason. Gwen and Shannon told Becky she was adopted and Becky believed them. She went through a plethora of serious emotions – all because they were “just kidding”. It was two or three years later before she had the courage to ask us and we set the story straight.
I see children exaggerate, lie and tease all the time, and then follow their comments with the retraction “just kidding” if confronted with the truth. Those two words have become an excuse for being mean. But “just kidding” can’t erase hurt feelings. Joking around with someone is more often than not one-sided, and for the person being picked on or ridiculed, it’s not funny at all.
A good rule to teach your children is to always tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Anything else – even the absence of truth…or “just kidding”…is a lie. Oh, and one more thing…practice what you preach. Your children are watching and listening!
God, I don’t ever want to have fun at the expense of someone else’s feelings. Give me sensitivity and self-control to guard the words I speak so they are uplifting and never hurtful. Help me remember my children learn from the way I talk to others, and the way I talk to them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Don’t Jump to Conclusions
“To answer before listening – that is folly and shame.” Proverbs 18:13 NIV
In the early 80’s shortly after Becky (our #3) was born, we needed more room and moved to a large house with magnificent trees in the front and back yard, perfect for our girls to climb in! All was great until the first cold snap hit. Overnight, the entire block was covered with a thick blanket of fallen leaves. Autumn had arrived. Within the next couple of days, everyone in the neighborhood had their leaves raked and bagged…except for us.
Time was the issue. Grant had a lot of irons in the fire. He worked full-time at Texas Instruments, rode his bicycle dozens of miles each week, hunted, coached girl’s softball, taught 8th grade Sunday School and attended night classes at McMurry University. There weren’t enough hours in his day or days in his week.
I’d just finished feeding the kids supper one evening when the doorbell rang. Grant was at school. An elderly man from down the street (the one with the immaculate lawn) politely introduced himself and asked when I thought we’d get around to raking our leaves. I was quite embarrassed. Apologetically I described how busy my husband was and promised we’d take care of it as soon as possible. When Grant got home and heard what had happened, he went outside in the dark and attacked the leaves with his mulch mower. Soon the yard was spotless, but that didn’t help me. I felt humiliated.
The next morning our doorbell rang again and the same little man stood at my door. “Where did your leaves go?” he asked. I was certain he’d be impressed as I bragged about Grant’s late night yard work, but there was an unexpected look of disappointment on his face. Shaking his head, he explained that he had hoped to use our leaves as mulch in his vegetable garden to protect it from the winter cold. That is why he’s asked about them. I’d gotten all worked up over nothing.
It’s a funny story with the joke being on me for jumping to conclusions and assuming the worst. However the experience provided an invaluable lesson to me as a parent. I learned things weren’t always what they seem, and you should never make accusations without gathering all the facts, especially when it’s your children. They depend on you to be their advocate and protector. Sometimes that’s easy to say and hard to do, but it’s so very important!
Look for the best in your children. Give them the benefit of the doubt by listening to their side of the story instead of first telling them what you think they did. Even if they turn out to be guilty, your attitude and approach will put you in a much better position to respond in love instead of reacting to the situation and to them. More importantly, it will save you from hurting their feelings by falsely accusing them when they are innocent.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me treat my children and others fairly. Grant me the wisdom to listen, ask questions and learn the facts instead of casting quick judgement. Teach me to expect the best and look for the good in all circumstances. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Put Your Hand In My Hand
“May Your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen Your precepts.” Psalm 119:173 NIV
Several years ago, my grandson Liam who was 18 months old at the time, came over to play. He was just in time for breakfast so I set him in his high chair with a bowl of dry Honey Nut Cheerios and a little spoon. I watched him pick up the spoon with his left hand, then meticulously move his right fingers into “spoon holding position” before placing the utensil in his right hand. It was clear he’d had some practice. With determination on his face, he carefully spooned one lone Cheerio and raised it to his mouth…only to drop it on the floor at the last second because he turned the spoon sideways.
I was amazed at Liam’s persistence and patience even though the cereal never quite made it to his mouth. He tried again and again, even replacing the cereal that fell on the tray back in the bowl. After a few minutes I decided to help. I placed my hand on his and held the spoon level when he raised it up so he could actually put the bite in his mouth. We played this repetitive “game” for a good little while, and he made some serious progress.
Little hands often need big hands to guide them…hands that are gentle, yet strong and experienced…and patient. Sometimes it’s the best way to learn. I fondly remember the touch of my Grandma Cline’s arthritic hands on mine as we crocheted in tandem for days until I could master creating the delicate stitches on my own. To this day, crocheting is one of my favorite and most relaxing hobbies.
God’s hand is there to guide us…young and old…when we need it too. But most of the time He waits for us to put our hands in His. How much easier could life be if we went to Him in the beginning, instead of as a last resort!
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, give me nurturing, loving hands that my children can trust and learn from. Teach me to use my hands for guidance but never for control. And may Your hand be upon me as I seek to walk in Your will. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Guard Your Mind
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
Philippians 4:8 NIV
When I grew up, life was much simpler, decidedly slower and unquestionably cleaner. Evil wasn’t in your face every time you turned on the television, went to a movie or even walked through the hallways of a public school.
Times have changed. We live in the age of communication. Our children have access to the most perverse and illicit forms of evil imaginable…right at their fingertips via the internet on their smart phones and other digital devises. One of the frightening crazes young people take part in is sexting…using cell phones to take and send pornographic pictures of themselves and others. Parental controls are no match for techno-savvy kids who find ways to get around even the most sophisticated software roadblocks. Students have told me many kids carry a second cell phone their parents don’t even know about, to bypass supervision. Oh how I wish there was a way to protect their minds like a bicycle helmet protects their heads! Sadly, there is not.
The best defense against evil is a strong defense. We can’t make our kids keep their minds pure, and we can’t be with them 24/7 to monitor everything they see and listen to. We have to develop in them a desire to choose purity over unrighteousness on their own. How? Discuss purity issues as a family. Don’t take away or limit access to things without offering better alternatives. Explain why certain movies, words, activities and friends aren’t appropriate. Reasons are always more effective than rules. No disinfectant known to man can disinfect a dirty mind…images last a lifetime. Make it a priority to teach your children to protect and closely guard their minds from filth!
PRAYER: God, protect the innocence of my children by guarding their minds from filth and perversion. Create in them an appetite for good and a distaste for evil. May they never fall prey to the enemy’s temptation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Protect the Ears
“You, LORD, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked.”
Psalm 12:7 NIV
Kids take some pretty hard hits growing up – other children can be cruel and hurtful with their words, leaving emotional scars that take a long time to heal.
In the early 90’s when we still lived in Abilene, woven poncho jackets were the “in” thing for boys to wear. We gave our 9-year-old son, Drew a red-and-tan striped poncho for Christmas, and he bought a blue-and-green one for himself with Christmas money. He proudly wore one or the other of the ponchos almost all the time. Right after Christmas, we moved to Plano. When classes resumed in January, Drew was faced with starting all over in a new place. On the first day of school, he wore his favorite poncho, put on a brave face and walked through the glass doors of the unknown.
Drew was cute and instantly popular with the fourth grade girls which didn’t set well with the fourth grade boys. Over the next couple of weeks, the boys jealously picked on him, ridiculing everything about him – especially his poncho jackets. He came home in tears one afternoon and threw his ponchos in the trash. In retrospect, I should have talked to the teacher but Drew was embarrassed and begged me not to.
On the outside, kids can appear resilient when they are emotionally beaten up. But many times they build defense mechanisms on the inside, compartmentalizing hurt feelings so they can cope. In some cases, they stash feelings away so deeply it becomes difficult to have a healthy relationship…even with someone who isn’t hurting them.
How nice it would be to place protective gear over our kids’ ears so hurtful words would slide off of them like water off a duck’s back! Without that option, we must make ourselves available – just like Jesus is always available when we need Him – to comfort, offer perspective and provide encouragement. What may seem small and insignificant to us can translate into devastation for our child’s self-esteem. Watch, listen and be ready with open arms to embrace your child when he needs you. A parent’s love, prayers and support are the salve that soothes the pain and prevents a forever broken spirit.
PRAYER: God, may my eyes and ears be keen to observe when my children hurt on the inside. Grant me sensitivity and wisdom to help them emerge from each circumstance without permanent emotional scars. Draw them unto You and allow them to sense protection in Your presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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.
Thanks Dad For Saving My Life
“For He will command His angels…to guard you in all your ways.” Psalm 91:11 ESV
We go through life never realizing how much we impact the lives around us. When my grandchildren were little, they absolutely adored their Uncle Drew. In their minds, he hung the moon. Drew dressed cool, taught golf and played the guitar…and he let the boys borrow his hair gel to get that special sought-after spiked look. They wanted to look like him and be like him. He was their hero.
When Drew was five, we took our kids to Six Flags and rode “Judge Roy Screams”. Drew was just barely tall enough to fulfill the hight requirement to ride the roller coaster, but the passenger’s safety bar didn’t come close to securing his wiry little body in the seat. It was an accident waiting to happen. As the cars twisted, turned, climbed and fell, a petrified Drew slipped under the bar and onto the floor. Fortunately, Grant was there to pull him to safety and hold him close until the ride ended. As the ride slowly rolled back to the starting point, Drew looked into Grant’s eyes and with sincere gratitude exclaimed, “Thanks dad for saving my life!”
We can’t always be within arm’s reach when our children face danger. But we serve the God who knows no boundaries and to Whom distance means nothing. The Bible says He will command His angels to guard us…and our children. That doesn’t mean we cast all caution and wisdom to the wind. But at the same time, we do NOT have to walk in fear where our children are concerned.
Pray specifically each day for God to protect your children from harm – physically, mentally and spiritually. Release them into His care at the start of each day. God is both able and trustworthy! Remind your children as they walk out the door that you’ve asked God’s angels to go with them. Not only do you send them out with God’s peace, but you also plant a seed of faith inside them as they see YOU trusting Him!
PRAYER: God, thank You for watching over my children and commanding Your angels to guard them everywhere they go. Place a wall of protection around them and destroy any weapon the devil might try to use against them. 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.