What Is Important to You? (Your Children Know)

“What is important to you?” our pastor asked. Before I had finished making a mental list, he continued, “Your children know by your words.”

“Your children know.” These words keep ringing in my mind. Children know what is important to us by what they hear: by our words to them and in front of them.

Our words can either be like “apples of gold in settings of silver” or “full of deadly poison.” (Prov. 25:11; James 3:8)

The Scriptures command us to teach our children the ways of God. Consciously or not, we teach our children all day. We encourage them and reprimand them. We teach them the path they should follow. We talk to them about what we think is important.

We cannot hide what is really important to us from our children. They know by our words and actions. A sobering, but important, truth...

Teaching our children the truly important things

Is cleanliness important? Our children know it by how often we remind them to wash their hands or clean up their room.

Do we want our children to be good friends? They know it by the way we encourage them to play together and share.

Are good manners important? Then they’ve heard “Sit up straight,” “Say ‘yes ma’am,” or “Say please” countless times.

Listen to yourself for a day. [This might not be fun. It wasn’t for me! Some of my priorities were way off. But acknowledgement and repentance are the first steps toward change, right?!]

  • Are the character traits that you are encouraging by your words the most important ones for your child to be learning?
  • Are there some areas that are so important, your child has mastered them and you no longer need to constantly remind them?
  • Are there character traits that you should be teaching your child, but aren’t?

Of course, it’s not just what we say to our children that molds and trains them. What we say in front of them (and how we say it!) is equally more important. We must be careful what our children hear!

We can tell our child to “be respectful and obey” until we’re hoarse, but if we then talk disrespectfully to our husbands or disparage our mother (or mother-in-law!), our own words contradict us.

Children are natural imitators.

  • If we want our children to be grateful, our mouths should overflow with thanksgiving for the many, many, many, many blessings God has given.
  • If we want our children to love their family, then we shouldn’t be complaining about the piles of laundry or countless messes we face because of them.
  • If we want our children to joyfully worship, then our own lips should spill over with songs and prayers from our heart.

As sinners, we will fail. Without Christ’s mercy, we can’t raise godly children. But He has promised to give us wisdom and grace if we ask: wisdom to teach our children in His ways. Grace to teach them by our words to them and in front of them of the truly important things.

Look Into Your Child’s Eyes

“Enjoy your kids, they’ll be grown before you know it,” has got to be the most repeated advice given to moms with young children. I can hardly walk into a store without a sweet grandma pausing to smile at the kids and remind me, “They grow up so fast!”

I believe it.

Each child added to the family seems to make the “play” speed of life a little faster. The time between Christmases feels shorter.

photo by your pic photography <3

Recently I was talking with my mother-in-law and she repeated the sage advice but added, “Make sure you take time to look into their eyes.”

Eyes are the “window of the soul” and “the light of the body.” (Matt. 6:22) Of course I look into my children’s eyes! I love them. But I’ve been consciously stopping to do so more.

  • When I look into my infant’s eyes, her whole face lights up like I’d handed her the moon with a few stars thrown in.
  • When I gaze into my toddler’s eyes and smile, I don’t need to add “I love you.” He knows it and wraps his arms around me.
  • When I look into my preschooler’s eyes, life’s little vexations seem little again.

Gazing into a child’s eyes is like pushing the pause button on the fast march of time.  They grow up so quickly. Push the pause button often and gaze into their eyes.

Linked up at Proverbs 31 Thursdays, Finer Things FridayHandful of Heart and Better Mom Monday 

“Mama, Are You Happy?”

“Mama, are you happy,” my four year old loves to ask. She has a knack for asking just when I need the reminder. Like when I’m scrabbling to get dinner ready  before company comes or wishing I could take a nap.

“Why YES, I am,” I answer. How can I not be when I have beautiful trusting blue eyes looking up into mine.

“Mama, why are you happy? Is it because you have three little children to love?”

There’s only one right answer to that question!

photo by polishpnut 

Then we start our own version of “The Happy Game.”

Try it. You might like it as much as we do. Especially if you’re playing with a toddler! They have a wonderful ability to notice and be thankful for the many little blessings that surround us each day.

  • I am thankful for a God who loved me so much He redeemed me.
  • I get to be married to the man of my dreams. He loves me. I am very grateful.
  • I am grateful for children who decorate the carpet with cut-up magazine scraps. I am happy I get to stay home with them.
  • I have clean water to give my family to drink. I didn’t have to haul it up from a well! I even have a working refrigerator to keep it cold. I am so thankful!
  • My family has warm clothes to wear. I am happy. Especially because I didn’t have to sew them!
  • I am grateful for the weeds, sticks and leaves my toddler brings me to show his love.
What are you “happy about” today?

Linked up at Teach Me Tuesday  and A Wise Woman

Make the Punishment Fit the Crime

There have been many times in history when punishments did not fit the crime. In 1776 there were almost 200 capital offenses in England. The list included crimes like stealing a horse or nice candlesticks.

Alexis de Tocqueville, in part of his masterful (but long-winded) work Democracy in America, contrasts the justice system in America with that in France in the 1800s. He tells how, in France, a person could be executed for stealing candlesticks. Often, however, the criminal would be let free because, well, death for candlesticks just doesn’t seem quite right. Judges, juries and public opinion cried for mercy.

In America, he argued, punishments actually fit the crime, so they were respected.

Photo by Robin Davis

What on earth does this have to do with the 21st century? Well, a lot. For parents. (Am I weird that a history book made me think of parenting?) We’ve all witnessed the scene of a mom with an ornery kid in Wal-mart:

The child pulls a Snicker bar off the shelf.

“Put that back Johnny,” says mom.

“But I’m hungry,” Johnny retorts.

“But I said put it back.” [Duh!]

Johnny puts it back but grabs a Kit Kat and grins at Mom.

“Put that back RIGHT NOW or, or you can’t have candy for a year!”

We can sympathize with Frazzled Mom, but rest assured she won’t carry out her threat. Dad will intervene,  siblings will plead, Johnny will start behaving and Mom will give in. The punishment did not fit the crime.

Whether in Wal-mart, the van or at home, moms often resort to threats to get their child to behave. “Your room better be clean in five minutes or you won’t get any dinner!”  “Stop kicking your sister’s seat or we’ll quit soccer!”

It may work the first few times, but sooner or later Johnny will realize that Mom won’t carry through on her threat.

Rather than resorting to daunting threats that you know won’t get carried through, establish rules with reasonable rewards and consequences. And always follow through. Let Johnny know that pulling food off the grocery store shelves means that he won’t get a snack on the way home (for example). Let him see that your rules are just and that disobedience is rewarded. Every time. Justly.

Johnny will start to respect the rules when he finds that the punishments are just… and he can’t finagle his way out of them!

Am I the only one that finds parenting tips in odd places? Have you?

Little Milestones

photo by Lesley Mackin

My daughter picked up a wash cloth off the floor (thanks spittupy baby!) and started to wipe her hands on it. Just as I was about to remind her that “the floor is dirty and we don’t wipe our hands on washcloths from the floor” she said to herself, “You don’t wipe buttery fingers on your clothes. Butter will stain them.” She was quoting from a conversation we had yesterday.

Taking their first step, saying their first word and reading their first book are major milestones in a child’s life. But each day with little ones is filled with milestones.

Little milestones.

They’re easy to miss. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to me that my toddler ate all his breakfast instead of dumping it into his cup (like he did every day the past week.) I’m sure it took a lot of self-restraint. Wiping her fingers on a dirty washcloth meant that my daughter had learned not to wipe them on her clothes.

Loving the Little YearsTeaching a child is a lot like teaching math, as Rachel Jankovic puts it in her hilarious and inspiring book Loving the Little Years. Just as you master the  basic addition of saying “please” and not coloring on the walls, basic subtraction gets thrown into the mix. It can feel like they’re never getting it. There’s always a new attitude to adjust or new concept to conquer. But really they’re passing milestones all the time. All that training will pay off.

Don’t be discouraged! Addition is easy now.

Linked up at Women Living Well Wednesdays and Handful of Heart

 

“You Can Do Anything”

“… but not everything.” ~ David Allen

photo credit

All weekend I was dying to write. To just sit down at the computer and write. But life is full, especially with three little ones that need to be taught and potty trained and fed. And we were busy. Too busy. We moved from one event to another with just enough time in between to make it look slightly less like a tornado hit the living room.

“You can do anything, but not everything.” The words have run through my mind dozens of times since reading them on Money Saving Mom.

Of course there are exceptions, but if you throw your entire being into achieving a goal, the chances of success are excellent.

None of us can do or be everything though. We must choose what is important in the calling God has given us. That is part of the challenge and joy of womanhood. Building a home is a balancing act, full of choices. If you choose to spend the afternoon nap time attempting to fix a WordPress error, you won’t have time to write a post or iron clothes.

Guilt so often plagues us: “Will my daughter suffer musically if she doesn’t start an instrument until she’s six?”

“Are the kids getting enough socialization?”

“Mrs. Jone’s son is reading Shakespeare already! We’re still on Winnie the Pooh. What are we doing wrong?”

“Will too much red food coloring kill my kid?”

Guilt can push us to do more and go more. But you can’t do everything. As Naomi from Works of Anselm beautifully puts it, we must choose not just what is best for five year old Johnny, but what is best for the whole family.

We must make time for the important duties, learn to say “no” to the unnecessary, and be at peace about the rest.

Linked up at Living Well Wednesdays

Dealing with Great Expectations (of a Full Night’s Sleep)

Expectations surround us. We expect things of others, of nature, of ourselves. Other expect things of us. Many times expectations are reasonable. Most of the time they are met.

The sun rises. The chair holds our weight. Husband comes home from work. The internet stays connected. Baby falls asleep.

Expectations are a necessary part of life. Imagine what life would be like if we paused each time before sitting down to fully test the chair’s ability to hold our weight. Or constantly tested the ceiling strength to make sure it didn’t cave in on us. Or tried to will our heart to pump blood. We become conditioned to the way the world works, and expect it to continue working the same way.

photo by Gareth Weeks

However, expectations aren’t always met. Sometimes I find myself unconsciously expecting motherhood to be easy. It’s not. I think “homemaker” is the best career ever, but it’s not easy. Babies aren’t born mindful of their mothers’ sleep needs. Toddlers don’t come preprogrammed to share, ask nicely or go potty in the potty chair. Nobody said motherhood was supposed to be easy. Choosing to bring a life into the world means choosing sacrifice. Choosing to sacrifice time, money, personal time and, in a very real sense, our bodies as we raise up our children.

What’s wrong with expecting at least six hours of uninterrupted sleep? Nothing. If you don’t have an infant, sick children or an odd work schedule.

Have you ever noticed how much expectations affect attitudes?

Daisy is an angel baby and sleeps well at night, most of the time. Then there are those nights. If I crawl into bed at 10:00 expecting to roll out of bed in the morning rested and ready to start the day and baby gets up three times and the toddler wakes up an hour early, it’s easy to get upset. To think that somehow I was robbed of sleep I should have had.

If, on the other hand, I go to bed embracing my calling as mother to small children, knowing that this stage of life often calls for a sacrifice of sleep, then getting up with them is much easier. I still might be groggy, but I didn’t expect six solid hours of sleep. Choosing instead to trust in God’s plan for my night.

Life is full of trials, petty and big. Instead of expecting the road to be always easy, expect God to give the grace to handle the road He’s picked.

Linked up at Proverbs 31 Thursday

You Can Be a Good Mom…

Ever think you're a failure as a Mom for not serving all organic, fair-trade, fresh foods. The kind of food your serve does not make you a good or bad mom!

The search for the elixir of health spans centuries. In the mid-1800s Sylvester Graham invented a wonder food: the graham cracker. This simple cracker was part of his cure for alcoholism and sexual desires. Rumor had it his bland diet (which banned meat and spices) would indefinitely lengthen your lifespan.

His enthusiastic following was somewhat dampened when he died at 57.

“Nature will castigate those who don’t masticate,” claimed Horace Fletcher, last century’s impassioned advocate of mastication. Mastication, or the chewing of food, became a health craze due to his zealous work.

He preached that you should chew each piece of food 32-100 times and not swallow until your bite of solids turned to liquids. Supposedly, it took him 45 minutes to properly masticate an apple. Even liquids should be “chewed” in order to digest them properly. This, he claimed, would give health, lengthen life and help save the world.

When he died at 69 his theories gave way to calorie counting.

Food doesn't define you.

The temptation to worship at the altar of health is still going strong today. Health standards have replaced the moral standards of the 50’s. Whereas a girl in the 50’s would have been plagued by guilt over sexual impurity, today food impurity has taken its place.

While feeding our families healthy nourishing foods is a worthwhile pursuit as mothers and homemakers,we must guard against health idolatry.

The Scriptures teach that it isn’t what we eat, but our thoughts and actions that defile us. Even a diet of Twinkies wouldn’t defile our souls (and you might even live as long as Sylvester Graham!) Our bodies weren’t made to live forever and no diet’s going to change that fact.

Gratitude turns the focus from the food to the Giver of the food. Sometimes, the best choices are prohibitively expensive, but hunger satiated with less-than-organic meals is cause for gratitude.  God has provided more than all that we need.

While His Creation is lush with fresh fruits and teems with fish, He has given us “all [foods] richly to enjoy”, including decadently rich and chewy brownies. If you like them, the flavor of Twinkies reminds us of the goodness of God, and is another cause for gratitude.

  May be linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeHealthy 2Day ,Works for MeWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityFabulously Frugal & Simple Lives

Photo from Wikipedia & Free Images

Favorite Read-A-Louds

Since I seem to be stuck in the children’s room at the moment, I thought I’d share a few of our favorite books:

 

This is a tale of a little bird who hatched while his mother searching for food for him. He sets off to find her. After a long fruitless hunt, he is plopped back in his nest just as the mother bird flies home.

The minimalistic drawings  are adorable and the innocent bird “hero” claims sympathy instantly. Be careful though, we hadn’t read this one in a while and my toddler actually had tears running down her face while we waited to see if he would find his mother. It’s a good thing he does! Far from minimalistic, Fancy Nancy’s bedroom made me cringe. She must have at least one hundred outfits, but the story overcame my initial resistance. The theme: “‘I love you’—there isn’t a fancy, or better, way of saying that!'”

Chinese drawings and proverbs add spice to this story of two men: one wealthy and the other poor. In the end, they both realize that “peace and happiness” are greater treasures than endless bags of gold.

I have fond memories of reading this book with my mom. Illustrated with Eloise Wilkin’s charming artwork, it chronicles two siblings’ ordinary day of helping mommy. Everyday life can be an adventure too!

A classic. And so terribly funny. And like motherhood: one thing leads to another. Always.

What are some of your favorite children stories? Do you know of any good missionary or hero stories?

Failed Garden: was it worth it?

There's no such thing as a wasted garden experience. Even if the garden isn't fruitful, it's still worthwhile!

Gardening means hard work, sweat, and dirty hands. It means weeks of waiting for that first sun-ripened bite of produce, with the hope of many baskets full to follow.

But what if the garden doesn’t produce as well as you hoped? What if the produce you reap barely covers the cost of setting up the garden? Is it still worth it?

That’s the question I asked myself as I looked around our garden.

Powdery mildew attacked the zucchini and squash plants. Just as they were reaching the zenith of their producing power, they died. Yesterday we had our last stuffed zucchini from this year’s garden.

I had hoped to have a freezer full of shredded zucchini, but that won’t happen. Many of the other vegetables won’t even be producing before we have to go out-of-state for a month. (And we all know how well a neglected garden does in an Alabaman summer!)

Am I disappointed? Yes. Was it worth it anyway? Definitely!

Frustrated with how your garden turned out? Feel like it was a failure? Don't be discouraged! Here are five reasons even a "failed" garden is totally worthwhile.
If you’re looking for an upbeat, hands-on, gardening guide (with realistic pictures of bug-eaten leaves!) check out One Magic Square (affiliate link). It’s my all time favorite gardening book. 

Gardening restores wonder

Planting a seed and watching it sprout, grow, and blossom makes me stand in awe of God’s creation. I believe the world was spoken into existence. Wonder of creation should keep me dizzy with awe. I forget. Easily. Gardening reminds me. That makes a failed garden worth it. 

Gardening is an incredible science curriculum

Seeds are cheaper (and more fun!) than a child’s science textbook and open the door to countless questions about life cycles, biology, and nature. I don’t want my children to think of science as just a dry and boring subject. I want our study of science to open their eyes to the grandeur of the created world. Even a “failed” garden helps me do that.

Gardening helps you get enough Vitamin D

One of my goals for the year was to spend considerably more time outside than in the past. A garden forces you to get outside, breath in the fresh air, and bask in the vitamin D!

Gardening is good exercise

Finding time to exercise as a busy mom is hard. Gardening not only gets you outside, but it is good exercise too!

Gardening encourages gratitude

Finally, the garden was worthwhile because it encourages gratitude. Not only gratitude for the amazing variety of vegetables or a big glass of ice water after an hour’s hard work, but that even if my garden fails, we still have food to eat.

My children will not go vegetable-less because my zucchini died. For that I am very grateful.

Even a failed garden is worth it

Of course every gardener dreams of having a beautiful, bountiful harvest. But even when all the plants dry up or succumb to disease, a garden is still worthwhile because it helps us teach our children, increases our wonder and gratitude, and forces us to exercise outside.

So don’t be discouraged if your garden didn’t live up to your dreams. Even a “failed” garden is totally worthwhile! (And you never know, next year’s garden might be a smashing success!)

photo by Alicia Jo McMahan