Category Archives: Family

Connecting with people: lessons from the photoshoot

Photographer
Image via Wikipedia

I joined my friend Jessica Beebe from Remembrancer Photography for a photo shoot today.  We’re getting some photos ready for a new blog I’m developing.  (I’ll keep you in the loop as launch day arrives.)

I posed and pretended to be America’s Next Top Model.  We laughed and strutted down the hallway of our beautiful church building.  As she shot moment after moment, I learned some things about connecting with people.

1.  Lean in :

     It physically shows your interest.  You become engaging and open to the conversation or event before you. 

2.  Lean back:

     It physically shows a lack of interest, an aloofness, even a superiority.

This caused me to wonder if the same holds true in one-on-one conversations.  Sometimes, I sit back to listen to someone because I’m more comfortable.  Do I seem aloof or uninterested?  That’s not my wish.

With my children, I occasionally stand over them and dictate the days events.  Granted, as a parent a certain amount of superiority helps move things along, but if I want them to know I’m really interested in what they say and what they think, will the simple act of leaning in convey my inner thoughts?

This will require investigation. 

Have you noticed other types of body language cues that help you connect better with others?

My choice today:

Lean in to the conversations which really matter.

 

 

Advertisements

Dance shirtless on a hill

A man and a woman performing a modern dance.
Image via Wikipedia

For many of us,  school has begun.  Today, I prayed as I stood beside my kids and they prepared to enter the classroom.  I prayed for them and their ability to make wise choices.  I prayed for their teachers.  I prayed for the school and district leadership.  This is but the beginning, the prayers will continue all year because God directs me to do so.

I’ll offer guidance and struggle with them as they face life issues in this compact environment.  But my inabilities shout their presence within my mind.  I can’t open their eyes and enable them to pick their friends wisely.  I can’t sit in the room every day seeking understanding of how to better strengthen their minds.  I can’t whisper in their ears calming thoughts in anxious moments.

God can.

Because I believe in His strength and fortitude no matter what the circumstance, I hand off my precious people into the arms of others.  Some whom I know and some I don’t.  But God’s guidance remains within me and my husband.  His directions enable my children.  I trust Him.

In the midst of prepubescance and angst ridden second graders, my hope is this:

they will feel so confident in their faith, they will be capable of dancing shirtless on a hill. 

But, what does that mean?

I’ve provided a link to a 3 minute TED talk given by Derek Sivers.  His talk encourages and guides leaders, but I saw something else.  I saw one kid.  A boy whose passion for music and love of life burst out and became contagious to everyone around.

The kid’s gutsy and energizing wish to move inspired and brought others along for the ride.  That’s what I hope for my kids. 

Watch it here. 

May my children love the Lord and trust Him enough to stand out and dance, even if it seems like they stand alone.   The Lord wants our joy to overflow in such a way that we dance (literally or figuratively) before Him.

“Then young women will dance and be glad,
   young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
   I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. ”  Jeremiah 31:13

If we know this is true for our children, maybe we’ll be capable of living within that truth ourselves.

My choice today:

Dance shirtless on a hill.  (Okay, as a chick, I’ll wear a shirt.  But you get the imagery, right.)

Do children ever inspire you?  What have you seen or heard that makes you want to become better?

 

Last day of summer break: things to do

An orange check mark.
Image via Wikipedia

1.  Sleep in one last time, check.

2. Watch a favorite T.V. show together, check.

3. Take that bike ride you talked about for the past few months, check.

4. Organize backpacks and supplies, check.

5. Return books and videos to the library (otherwise I’ll forget and build up fees), check.

6. Look in their eyes long and hard, check.

7. Talk about the summer and all we did, check.

8. Sort through at all those pictures, check.

9. Plan the clothes and food for tomorrow, check.

10.  Give solid and squishy hugs off and on all day, check……

 

No regrets, no take backs or do overs.  This summer’s a wrap.

My choice today:

Wrap up this summer with God’s blessing, and pray for the teachers and this next school year. 

Boredom busters, who needs them?

Science Jamboree
Image by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr

Do you remember the amazing things you did with boredom?  You learned to shuffle cards.  You rode a bike with no hands.  You built models or wrote stories.  What a treasured life we lived!

Now, we have so many activities designed to occupy our time or our kids time.  We can go to the public pool, the park, play sports, take classes, play video games, watch television, or surf the internet.  We pack our moments so full, there’s little space for other experiences.

We do it because it’s expected.  We fear making poor choices, and we don’t want boredom.  What’s the thrill of boredom?

On its surface, boredom causes lethargy and decay, but if guided by caring parents who see a plus within a boredom experience much more occurs.

Let’s imagine…

  • a future musician minus boredom….no intrigue, no musical development, no passion.
  • a future artist minus boredom…no mistaken sketches aiding future development, no creative color blending, no mixing of mediums. 
  • a future computer tech minus boredom….no knowledge of deeper computer reasoning, no understanding of why people sit there in the first place, no ideas for improvement.
  • a future magician minus boredom….no finger dexterity, no ability to shuffle a card deck, no show.
  • a future mom minus boredom…no doll games, no babysitting, no practice, no skill.

Many great and small feats begin with a little undirected free time.  At first it flusters the mind and body, not knowing what to do.  But with a little elbow room and a touch of guidance from a mom or dad who cares, kids venture outdoors, pick up paintbrush or pen, read, write, examine, experiment or build.

Maybe that’s why God wants us to honor a sabbath.  From rest comes creativity.  His creative juices will never be topped, and He rested.

My choice today:

Allow a little boredom and keep eyes open to offer needed direction.

5 steps to better bonding with your kids

by freedigitalphotos.net

We adore them, those worming, squirming, strong-minded kiddos of ours.  But that doesn’t mean we get them.  Closeness to them matters more than job security and a good credit line, combined.  Yet, try as we might our ownership manual never arrived in the mail.

We must push their buttons and coax their minds in the hope that we will parentally succeed where others have failed.  What can we do?

5 steps to better bonding with the most complex gadgets we have, our children:

1.  Ask questions. 

Not inquisition style, but inquisitive style.  We ask because we care.  Their thoughts are way more fascinating than TMZ.  Even silly questions build foundations.

I enjoy ones like, “If you could bring any toy with you on a long plane ride, what would it be?”  Remember, when they answer, they share their opinion.  Opinions aren’t wrong.

2.  Think ahead and make the questions complex. 

Remember the good ‘ol days, when your family asked you questions, and you responded with the standard one-word response? Conversation didn’t get very far.

Solid questions require thought.  If you were answering, could you respond quickly in one word or with detail.  Kid convos which include details grow the conversation, lack of details kill it, and not in a good way.

3.  Answer questions.

If our children know they can approach us on any topic, and they won’t be chastised or criticized, the likelihood they’ll return for more questions increases.  I knew a teacher who had a poster in her class which stated, “The only stupid question is the one you never ask.”  If we stick to that attitude, our kids know it and welcome our involvement in their lives.

We will have to let them know we’re open to their questions, though….especially if we have older children.  A simple statement like, “Do you have any questions for me?” opens the conversational door to our lives.  We will have to repeat the phrase often before we hear strong content questions, but silly ones still help them trust us.

4.  Make eye contact.

Ever have someone talk with you who doesn’t look at you?  It’s disconcerting.  This happens to children constantly.  We often need to stoop down to make eye contact, and this small workout pays off more than regular trips to the gym.  It shows how valuable we feel they are.

5.  Plan play times.

Not play-dates with friends, but family play time.  Make sure it suits your family’s personality.  Play could involve word games or rhyming.  It includes video games or Twister.  Play can be as detailed as a full-fledged family baseball game or as simple as a round of Angry Birds in the doctor’s office waiting room.

As parents ,we often tell our kids what to do and not to do, but play enables us to simply enjoy being together, because we like one another.  You could sign up for every movement activity in town and join team after team, but if your family doesn’t enjoy time together, you’ll miss valuable connections which last a lifetime.

My choice today:

Make the effort to build bonds with my kids.

 

In comments, share ways you strive to build better bonds with your kids.

How does God fit a pair of jeans on a lily? (part 2)

In my earlier post, I mentioned how I struggle with certain Bible verses.  Matthew 6:28-30 bothers me because I cannot imagine how God supplies clothes.  But because God invites us to test Him in the arena of money in Malachi 3:10, my husband and I decided to let the testing begin. Many people I know don’t test Him with their money though, why is that?

Why don’t we test Him?

I’d like to say it’s because we’re so capable, and we don’t really need His help.  But in truth, we doubt He’d really come through.  It comes back to my question above, “How does God fit a pair of jeans on a lily?”

What would we do if He did flood us?

Maybe we’d drop our lower jaw so far down, it could pick up dust bunnies.  Our sense of awe would be monumental.  We’d want to tell other people to test Him too,  because the pluses are that great.  We might even feel embarrassed at how inept we really are and appreciative at how completely apt He is.

Our knees might buckle, and we’d find ourselves on the floor looking up at His immense aptitude wondering why we didn’t do this earlier.

The test

Years ago, my husband and I decided to call God’s bluff.  We put our money where our faith was and watched intently to see what would happen.  It wasn’t some grandiose university study, but we took it seriously.  On pay-day, the first 10% of moneys brought in went directly to our church.  Occasionally, we gave more if a special need came up, but always 10%.

I was skeptical and nervous but viewed it like a weight loss regimen.  Instant results might not show the depth of long-term gains.

We’ve seen results we never imagined.

The results

Some results appear subtly, like a connected relationship that keeps growing stronger between us and God as well as between each other.  Other things jump out,  like checks showing up in the mail a day before a major payment comes due.

Many friends have made the blessings possible because of their generosity, but over time, when it happens again and again, we’d be deceiving ourselves if we didn’t give God the credit.

Cars last longer than they should, clothes show up at our door step (nice clothes), and much-needed dryers and lawnmowers get donated out of the blue (thanks John and Kelly).

The picture attached shows how the flood gates of heaven pour out on my kids, and I’m humbled to be along for the downpour.

How can you receive these blessings?

I can’t say I totally know, because I don’t decide the gift, but I trust the Giver.  Here are choices our family makes, and we see God’s blessings in the midst:

1.  The tithe thing works.  We give to God our tithe and offering (aka 10% of our money), because He gave us the ability to earn it.  It’s our expression of gratitude.

2.  We accept any gift with a smile and a hug.  Pride jumped out the window years ago and we found the blessings of a prideless life. Sometimes we don’t need an item someone gives, but we search for its proper recipient.

3.  We don’t attempt to control what gift we receive. (as if that were possible) We trust God to supply, even if that means we don’t get to see a cool movie or go to restaurants all the time.

4.  We always say thank you to the person who gives and the God who inspired them.

What about the lilies?

Now I begin to understand the meaning of this verse.  If God so chooses, He could clothe us all.  He could give however He chooses to give. If our eyes are open to His actions, we’d be stupid to claim any credit for the deal.

My two little lilies find themselves fully clothed for fall and school without a single store visit.  For that I say, thanks to my amazingly generous friends.  But I also say, “Praise God, thank You!” to the King of my life.

My choice today:

Recognize how much more God can and will do, when I surrender my skills and power to Him.

How does God fit a pair of jeans on a lily? (part one)

Day lily
Image via Wikipedia

Certain Bible verses stump me.  They pose a thought or idea my mind cannot fully grasp.  Over time some of them have become clearer with practice, persistence and patience.  These are some of those verses:

“And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!”  Matthew 6:28-30

The first time I read those words, I pursed my eyebrows together and thought, “What on earth is this talking about?  How does God fit a pair of jeans on a lily?”

I didn’t get it.

I couldn’t fathom how God would cloth a person as easily as he decorates a flower, it’s so much more complicated than photosynthesis, right?  I mean there are styles to consider and fit.

I could easily spend an hour in any given store trying on item after item and wind up not buying a thing.  How would God carry out such a feat?

I’ve spoken with many people about how they assume I shouldn’t take scripture literally.  They’d tell me it’s an example of God’s strength and capacity, not His fabrication methods.

But in other parts of scripture, He’s darn literal.  I mean Jesus didn’t figuratively die on a cross, He really sacrificed Himself.  Peter didn’t figuratively deny knowing Him, he outlined it in detail.  So, what if God truly desires to cloth us?

I never imagined I’d be testing this, but God does invite testing in one arena.  Our money.

In other stuff, He repeated points out, not to test the Him, but monetarily He says, “Go ahead.”  Actually, He put it this way:

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be  food in My house, and test Me now in this,‘ says the LORD of hosts, ‘if I will not  open for you the windows of heaven and  pour out for you a blessing until  it overflows.” Malachi 3:10

Now that’s a lofty promise onto which we often attach our own expectations.  We think He might give us more money, and He might.  We imagine He could grant us a better job, and He might.  But often, we get so concerned with our own capacity to make a buck and pay off our own debts, we fail to put Him to the test.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you more about this test, but for today:

My choice today:

Trust God enough to take a risk for Him.

Stay at home? Am I dumb or something?

Moms and kids
Image by andrewmalone via Flickr

The stay-at-home stereotype

No one wants to say it out loud, but those of us at home feel it and hear it.

Like the bubbly blond in “Singing in the rain“, we want to say, “What do you think I am, dumb or something?”

A blogging friend of mine, Amy Storms, wrote an article about how she felt when someone responded vocally to her choice as a stay-at-home-mom.  She wanted to punch that person. I’ve felt it too.

In various T.V. shows or articles, the mention of stay-at-home accompanies the expression, “it’s the toughest job on the planet”, but the tone always indicates a follow-up comment, “and I’d never do it.” 

I’ll be honest, I never thought I would stay-at-home, until my kiddos were born.  I’m not knocking my mom’s parenting style, just giving background to my story.

The latch-key-kid

In my early years, my parents found a babysitter for me and my brother.  We’d go to school and at the end of the school day, we’d walk the block to our babysitters until mom or dad picked us up at night.

By the age of eight, my parents felt I had matured enough to stay home by myself, while my younger brother walked to the babysitter.  At the time, society called me a latch-key-kid.

I had a key to our house.  I walked myself home and remained until my parents came at night. I watched T.V., nibbled on any food in the house, and sang while looking in the mirror, imagining myself as a music star.   I also felt very lonely.

Many of my early lessons about people came from fictional T.V. shows. I developed a fear of others, because as a young child I became aware of my limitations.  Locking the door and hiding from the world will do that to you.  While I had a strong mind and got good grades, I lacked adult connections and guidance.

By the time my mother was able to stay at home with me, during my teen years, I had already developed certain patterns for how I dealt with life.  I didn’t consult her opinions.  She was there, but I hadn’t learned how seek her help.

Parenthood choices.

Leaping ahead, my husband and I married in my late twenties.  I already had a career for which I had earned a Master’s degree.  We happily used our two incomes and enjoyed our couple time.  Then came kiddo number one.

My work enabled me to bring her along, and she rolled around on my office floor. As she began to walk and get into things, I hired a homeschooled teenager to watch her nearby.  But, she felt lonely because the teen watched and didn’t play.  My daughter begged me to put her into preschool.  Begged me.  She said, “Please mom, I want to play with the other children!”

I had never heard of such a thing before that moment.

Then came child number two.  The energetic one.  The one who cried every time my office phone rang.  She required more personal attention.  She deserved personal attention.  In the math of our household, my income brought in less than my husband, so I made the sacrifice.

The sacrifice. 

That’s how I see it.  I made a sacrifice for my kids.  I liked the pluses and instant gratification I received in the work place.  Working project to project, we see success or failure instantly.  Getting a pay raise because of strong productivity might as well be our personal trophy for work done well.  We hear kudos from our fellow employees.  We gain confidence each time things work correctly.

Did I mention I was a pastor at the time?  A youth pastor.

I adore telling people about Jesus and helping make an eternal difference.  But a friend of mine gave me valuable perspective when my first child was born.  He called me up and said, “Congratulations on your new ministry.”

That’s how I view my kids.  They are my ministry. 

In simple terms, they are the only ministry I alone can do.  In work, employees come and go.  One accountant quits, another is found.  Even in ministry, one pastor leaves, another comes in.  No one is irreplaceable.  No one but parents.

My children trust me as their mom and no one else. I know this because I lost my father in a car accident and many men wanted to aid our family.  Many took me and my brother under their wing.  But none could replace my dad.

As a parent, I’m irreplaceable, and I answer to God for my choices.

“Fathers,do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4 (I know it says fathers, but moms we aren’t off the hook.  At the time, women didn’t read.)

So, here I sit at my computer seeking ways to strengthen and use the brain I’ve been given while hearing my girls play in our living room.  I’m here.  I’ll stop typing when they need me.  I play with them.  We talk about all aspects of life.

It is a hard job, but like Tom Hanks said in A League of Their Own, “It’s the hard that makes it great.  If it was easy everyone would do it.”

Why is it hard?

1.  I get no pay raise, even though I see success.

2.  It requires me to use skills, which don’t come naturally:  cleaning, cooking, peace making, society building (aka friend connector for my kids).

3.  Rarely is the expression “Thank you” used honestly. (except on Mother’s Day or my birthday)

4.  I often feel unheard and undervalued.

Why do it?

1.  It matters, on the micro and macro level.

2.  It shapes them.

3.  They need me.

4.  It reveals the depth of my love through my actions. 

If you can’t or aren’t staying at home, I pass no judgement.  This is my story, for better or worse.  In spite of my presence, things can still go wrong, and  I wonder what will get thrown back at me when they become adults.  But I can’t go there now, I have to be here.

I believe love isn’t just a word or a feeling, it’s an action we live.  While I know many parents express their love in multiple ways, this is how I live my love.

My choice today:

Actively love my family.

How about you?  How do you live your love?

 

Related articles:

What lense are you using?

I’ve started to learn how to improve my photography because of a website called Digital Photography School.  Each week I receive an email with a weekly photographic assignment.  This week’s task involves perspectives.

Instead of taking pictures while standing upright, the task of the week includes searching for unusual angles on everyday things.  On the website, many people submitted their beautiful photos and I felt inspired.   My hunt began.

My oldest daughter takes these challenges with me.  We motivate one another to think broadly and search for unusual photographic angles.

This approach to photos also applies to life. 

Instead of staring into our problems head-on, what if we pause and attempt to think differently. 

As parents, we tend to repeat the same patterns of discipline and reward on our children, even though the response we receive doesn’t match what we want.  On the job hunt, many people have experienced rejection where once acceptance met them.  In dating or marital relationships,  taking an alternate approach could also prove helpful. 

Adjusting our photographic lense involves sitting or standing or even lying down while looking at the same subject.  In life, we do this by trying to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.  What would they tell us?  We can even invite others into our story.  What if we ask what they would do or what they see from their perspective?  They could be helpful or not, but we’ll never know if we don’t ask. 

Check out how my daughter and I approached photos of the same light from differing directions.  The difference lies in our individual perspectives.  Each holds its own beauty, but I wouldn’t be open her angle, if she weren’t invited to share.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. (Isaiah 55:8)

My choice today:

Re-aim the lense of my life, seek a new perspective.

Lessons from the garden: an unexpected guide to family growth (part 3)

Manure, a field in Randers in Denmark
Image via Wikipedia

As I plucked invasive weeds from my yard, I found myself inspired by the plants that surrounded me.  This three-part series resulted from all my hard labor.

In part one, I shared about my love of plants and how  it taught me “Everyone is beautifully unique”. 

Part two allowed me to reveal three more lessons I learned, including:  we need others for success, watch out for weeds, and one person’s weed is another’s lily.

In part three, we’ll find out more about the nutrients which produce powerful growth and the odd places where they originate.

Lessons from the garden continued:

5.  Manure magic.

Yes, you are reading what you think you’re reading.  Poop does produce precious product.  Good mature comes loaded with outstanding nutrients.

I’ve watched it in action.  If the good gardener adds manure to their garden during the fall, by spring, you’ve got some gorgeous flowers and fruit. 

As a parent, we can interpret this truth to help us see the problems of life as ultimate blessings.  Much yuck can bring much yum.  But…and this is an important but (not butt), so listen carefully. 

If we toss manure onto the soil during the wrong season, it’ll fry the plants.  Manure added to plants in a hot land, during the hot season, makes the plants feel the heat stronger, and they fry.  Having said that, not all the poop which flies in the face of our family helps to strengthen it. 

As parents and spouses, we need to watch out for our beautiful garden (aka kids and hubby).  If someone flings poop their way, figuratively or literally, we need open eyes to see if it contains a possible blessing or if it’s just too much for this season of their lives. 

The wise gardener, scoops out unnecessary poop and protects an already hot plant.  Wise families do the same thing.  As I mentioned earlier, good gardeners get dirty. 

6.  Water brings wonderful refreshment

Gardeners use water to flick bugs away, cool plants, and feed them.  Rather than pesticide, many home gardeners prefer going out in the early morning to power spray bugs off foliage.  They do it because it works.  Some plants need the cooling mist water provides, and as we all know, without water any plant will die, even cactus. 

Where does a family get water?  Christ.  He’s the center of a strong family.  We simply cannot do it alone.  Throughout the Bible (old and new testaments) references pop up displaying God as living water.  Jesus claimed that title too as he spoke with a woman at a well. 

One of my favorite scriptural water references is found in Revelation 7:17

” For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’  ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ ”

His water protects us from that which would devour us.   He cools our anxious hearts.  And, only this type of water will ever fully nourish our family, and the more we seek it, the more we’ll find. 

My choice today:

Enjoy the water,  and keep my eyes open and ready for poop patrol, my family’s worth it.