My new blog is called “Souls in the Sandbox” and can be found here. I hope you’ll come join in the conversation over there!
My new blog is called “Souls in the Sandbox” and can be found here. I hope you’ll come join in the conversation over there!
Lately I’ve been reading Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life, a fruitful read. She writes:
“(Writing) is life at its most free…, because you select your materials, invent your task, and pace yourself… The obverse of this freedom, of course, is that your work is so meaningless, so fully for yourself alone, and so worthless to the world , that no one except you cares whether you do it well, or ever…
A shoe salesman – who is doing others’ tasks, who must answer to two or three bosses, who must do his job their way-is nevertheless working usefully. Further, if the shoe salesman fails to apear one morning, someone will notice and miss him. Your manuscript, on which you lavish such care, has no needs or wishes. Nor does anyone need your manuscript; everyone needs shoes more. There are many manuscripts already – worthy ones, edifying and moving ones, intelligent and powerful ones.”
Indeed. And if there are many manuscripts out there, how many more blogs are out there in the world today? Somewhere upwards of 133 million, evidently. It’s insane. The world is flooded to choking with blogs, and we all need shoes more.
And yet I blog. I’ve been blogging here now for well over two years, and on I go. Thousands of Christian moms blog on parenting, and oodles of them do it way better than me. But after wondering about it and praying through what the heck I’m doing here exactly, and if it’s worth it (1 woman among 133 million), I’m still here. God’s given me ideas and the words to express them, and I’m a better person and mom when I do that. Truth crystalizes at the keyboard. The blurry comes into focus. It’s how He made me and a huge part of how He shows up in my life, so on I go.
The surprising part is the New Beginning part. After blogging here for two plus years about the young lives that reside here – new beginnings in the form of our four sweet faces – the blog itself is getting ready for a new beginning. I wasn’t looking for that and didn’t expect it, most of all in a season of having just added a fourth child and a homeschooled kid to the mix. But our God is a surprising God at times, isn’t He? And He’s been pretty clear about this, so off I go. New name, new look, new level of web-engagement, searchability, and potential exposure… Though same topics, same tone, same me. It’s a bit exciting, to be honest.
So here’s to a different kind of new life being born within the next week or two. Kind of interested to see where God might go with this in His time. I sure hope you’ll come with me to find out.
Last month, a friend and I communicated about her tendencies toward being a pushover and my tendencies toward being, how did she put it?, “overly confident.” Indeed, I have a fairly strong personality, I can be pretty intense, and yes, I can come across as overly confident. In an email I wrote her, I said: “I come by a domineering spirit honestly – all my family members are prone to it in one way or another – and find that gentleness is the fruit of the Spirit I tend to most lack and need to pray for God to grow in me.”
And that’s the truth. I wish I were a more naturally gentle person. And I wish I were more gentle with my children in my mothering. Don’t get me wrong, I have my gentle moments, and there are lovely quiet, warming moments that my kids and I do share. Moments in which I am (as dictionary.com states) “kindly, amiable, not severe or rough.” They just aren’t as plentiful as I’d like, not by any stretch.
Two verses jump to mind when it comes to gentleness: (more…)
Tonight we held our long-awaited Kindness Celebration. After two months of recording small acts of kindness that the children display on our large, posted, gangly Kindness Chart, the butcher block paper was finally full so we threw ourselves a little party to celebrate. The kids were beyond ecstatic, having asked about it for days now — “Is the list long enough yet? Can we have our Kindness Celebration now?”
The format was simple. Here’s what we did:
–Announce the pending Kindness Celebration, suggesting a trip to the store to pick out all the ingredients for custom-made ice cream sundaes. Rousing approval of that notion.
–Spend all of dinner talking about what kind of sundaes everyone was going to have. In between, read the first half of the items on the list, praising the kindness of the do-er in each case. Review our kindness Bible verse: “God our Father is kind; you be kind!” (Luke 6:35, The Message)
–Go to the store, bring the ingredients home, and make the sundaes
–Read the second half of the items on the Kindness Chart aloud, again praising the kindnesses shown.
–Allow each child to share which kindness documented on the list s/he most enjoyed doing. Then allow each child to share which kindness s/he most enjoyed receiving. Finish by having everyone at the table recite the Bible verse together.
It was almost startling to see how exuberant the children were about the party and every little part of it. They adored it. And when we read the recorded kindness that they’d done, they both beamed in turn. And beamed again. And again. Our son, almost 6, actually said at one point: “It made me feel so good when you read that, I think I grew four inches!” (Clearly he got that line from a book. But still, it was adorable, and telling.)
We all know that positive reinforcement is important, and most of us have heard that it takes seven spoken praises to balance out on spoken criticism. But this exercise was an amazing opportunity to remember and specifically call out right actions performed by our children and actually celebrate them. To encourage the good and selfless moments that take place in sibling interactions, seldom though they may be in a given day. It was a chance to reinforce the good my husband and I see in our children, and to make a big deal about it. It was a perfect example of the kind of “building others up” that Paul talks about in Ephesians 4:29. Our kids were very built up by our little party and its events. And it gave them a chance to actually experience how good it can feel to do kind things for other people – not just in the doing of the kindnesses, but in the remembering of them.
This project was such a success that I’m contemplating covering several of the fruits of the spirit in this manner. Up next will, I think, be self-control as that is one area that our kids could use a lot of work. Stay tuned for more.
I was thinking this morning about reputations, and the importance of having a good one. This came to mind for two reasons. First: I’m using a new babysitter this morning for the first time. And second: it’s my son’s first day of (a type of) school. And in both cases, the concept of reputation comes into play in a big way.
This year my son is participating in a Christian homeschool academy called Artios that meets every Monday morning from 8:45 to 12. This morning was his first day of school, and he was excited and nervous, as every kid is on that auspicious occasion. As we were driving up in the car, we talked through the school’s rules again and reviewed the kind of student he needs to be. Attentive, polite, respectful, obedient, etc. “Is it ok to be mean to other kids or to tease people?” I asked him. “What if the teacher tells you to do something you don’t want to do?” And the like. Surprisingly, he was very interested in this and wanted to ensure that there were no other rules he needed to know that we hadn’t covered. We talked about the importance of timeliness, and I assured him that I’d see to it that we arrive on time – despite traffic – because yes, being on time matters. When I pick him up afterwards and we debrief the morning, I will ask him about these things as part of the conversation.
A reputation, I was thinking as he and I talked, is built on such things as these. You behave righteously because God calls us to do so, not because you want to impress other people, but the impression you give to other people also matters. Because how you behave reveals the kind of person you are: polite or rude, obedient or defiant, attentive or spacey, timely or late, rowdy or calm, dependable or flaky. Is my kid viewed as a positive influence on people or a negative? The fact is that course of a person’s life is, to a real degree, shaped by the character traits he displays to the world. When a person hears my son’s name, what impression of him will come to mind? (more…)
When my husband and I did our pre-marriage counseling back in 1999 with our mentor couple – the pastor who married us and his wife – we took a personality test. The results indicated that we were polar opposites, which – with the blind naivete so typical of new love – I entirely disbelieved. We had so many striking similarities, after all. We were cut of the same cloth; soul mates! It didn’t take too long into our married life for me to realize that the test was right and I was wrong; my husband and I are night and day. Opposites did, in our case, attract — and they still do. I am an extrovert with a strategic thinker’s mind, and he is an introverted dreamer. Last year I was introduced to a book called The Temperament God Gave You, and when I read the two-page summary description of the melancholic, I about dropped the book. It was as if somehow had interviewed my husband comprehensively and written a thorough description of his personality and inclinations. The insights I found there were actually very helpful – to me and to him – and we found the book so useful we bought a copy for later reference.
Two weeks ago I was watching my nearly four-year old daughter and the “recital” for her ballet show (quotation marks not gratuitous). As this tutu-clad group of pre-ballet girls wandered vaguely but adorably around the room vaguely following the directions of Teacher Pam, my daughter stood shyly in the back with her hands in her mouth. It took her nearly ten minutes to begin participating in the group, though once she did involve herself she gave herself to it and enjoyed it. When I spoke with Teacher Pam afterwards, she said that she spent a lot of time watching for the first few classes and eventually, though coaxing, warmed up to the group and the activities. My friend, after a week of teaching my daughter’s vacation bible school class earlier in the summer, indicated the same thing: “She tends to hang back a bit and watch everything, taking it all in.” And yet, she was content, behaved appropriately, and had nothing but enthusiastic reports about both experiences (ballet and VBS).
My initial and knee-jerk response to watching the ballet event and talking to Teacher Pam was, I admit it, slight concern. Was she going to be a painfully shy or an overly cautious kid? Would she make friends in life? Would she do OK? It was a silly response, because I know I have a perfectly lovely, relational, and even highly spirited child in this girl; she’s a fabulous and very competent kid. But suddenly I was faced with how different she is from me; our reactions to situations are completely opposite. And this feels a little unsettling to me, because I don’t totally know how to relate to or encourage her. I’m a get-in-there-and-tackle-things kind of girl who, even to this day, needs to work hard to quell my instincts to be overly talkative and directive. [And I still sometimes fail at this.] She, on the other hand, will sit quietly and watch everything for a long time before she feels comfortable entering the fray and fully participating. (more…)
The green and white checkered dress she wore with the little harness top as she wandered barefoot on the sidewalk was enough to melt my heart. We picked it up some place by way of hand-me-down; it’s no hand-sewn gem by any stretch. And yet that sweet fabric, against her strawberry blond hair with her chubby little biceps swinging free… it’s absurdly adorable. Sitting with her sister and rolling a ball back and forth across the cement, it created a snapshot in my brain that I hope will lodge there forever. In that instant I saw fully for who she is, the undeserved gift – beyond generous – that God gave us in her.
This week she turns two. Seven hundred some-odd days of waking up with this small person in our house, sharing our moments and days with her. Her playful smile and extroverted personality, her inquisitive spirit. Her humor and show-offy antics win the affection of strangers as much as family members. “What a happy child!’ everyone comments. And she is. She is a joy.
I was struck this week with the extravagance of the privilege we mothers hold in being able to know our young ones so well, have such an inside track on their development and emerging personality. I know the silence upstairs that likely means my toddler has gotten into trouble. I know the noise she makes when she needs the potty. I can interpret her cries – frustrated, hurt, angry, tired. One morning as I was translating a few new phrase of her particular “dialect” to her father – “No, she’s saying, ‘Watch this, Daddy!'” or “That means, ‘More milk please,'” – I was struck by the wonder it is to hold this role in the life of another human being. We are witnessing the unfolding of a one-of-a-kind human that God created with His own hands in His image. And no one else gets a front-row seat like this, at least not as close as ours. Nowhere near. It’s amazing.
That we get to witness this process, and not only witness the development of a person but help train and direct this soul – this baby becoming child becoming adolescent becoming adult – is remarkable. Why should God give us such a privilege? He need not have. But He does.
“From the fullness of His grace we have all received one gift after another.” (John 1:16) And this child, as each of my children, are truly such gifts.
Happy birthday, my sweet and beloved two-year old girl. No one loves you more than your daddy and I do, except the Father above who made you. To Him be all the thanks, and all the glory.
There’s a word that comes to my mind probably daily when I survey life in our family at this stage: scrappy. We have snatches of calm, pleasant, smooth life – a half hour here, a few minutes there – but the vast majority of it displays scrappiness of one sort or another. The 4- and 6-year old get into fits of silliness that have them ignoring mom and them fighting with each other, ending in tears and correction. We don’t get home in time for the baby’s nap so she starts to melt down. The toddler has an potty accident or a tantrum or starts throwing food off her tray. Somebody won’t stop whining or interrupting or throwing a fit (or all of the above). The floor was immaculate 19 minutes ago but now the carpet almost can’t be found for the junk strewn all over it. If you have multiple young children yourself, you didn’t need to read through those examples because you could insert five of your own, probably just from today.
It’s just so scrappy – such a scrappy life at this stage. So often there’s nothing smooth-sailing, orderly, or Potty Barn Kids about it. The chaos can (and should) be well-managed and directed, and appropriate structure and correction can provide reprieve and areas of calm and regrouping. And don’t get me wrong, lots of fun can be have in the midst of the scrappiness, so long as the mom has made up her mind that she’s going to plow through it with enthusiasm, a sense of humor, and a thankful spirit. But scrappy it will remain, as long as the children are present, numerous, and young. And all of us are going to have “panic room” moments sometimes in the midst of it. (more…)
I’m a big fan of the ‘do-over’ when it comes to parenting. By which I mean: my kid messed up, so I correct her as necessary, ask her to say she’s sorry for the wrong doing, and then have her do it over. Go back and walk through the scenario in the right way, as it would have been done had the sinful attitude or behavior been absent.
I’ve blogged before, especially in my post Practice makes perfect, about how several of the parenting authors I admire encourage this and clearly spell out the spiritual importance of doing this. In Don’t Make Me Count to Three, Ginger Plowman says:
“It’s important to rebuke our children when they do wrong, but it is equally important, if not more important, to walk them through what is right – to put off as well as to put on (referencing Eph 4:22 – 24)… First, work through what a biblical response would have been. Second, have the child follow through with it… When we correct our children for wrong behavior but fail to train them in righteous behavior, we will exasperate them because we are not providing them with a way of escape. This sort of neglect will provoke them to anger… Anytime you correct your child for wrong behavior, have him walk through the right behavior… Pull out what is in the heart of your child, work through how your child can replace what is wrong with what is right, and then have your child put what he has learned into practice.”
Fine. All review so far. Here’s the new part: I was recently startled to discover that I was completely overdoing this, especially when it came to sibling conflicts. Example: son takes away daughter’s toy, daughter cries, I correct the situation, ensure that son gives toy back and apologizes, and that daughter verbalizes forgiveness of the transgression and (if she was rude in turn, which often occurs) repents in kind. This type of thing might happen five times in a day; on a bad, bickery kind of day perhaps up to ten. (more…)
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about anger, and how to respond when my kids are angry. I deeply appreciated Elizabeth Kroeger’s insights about children’s anger and blogged about it, in relation to toddler temper tantrums. Kroeger’s takes issue with the commonly held idea that there’s nothing a mother can do about a kid throwing a fit except ignore it, wait it out, or require him to do it elsewhere. In Raising Godly Tomatoes she writes:
“I see only evil in the uncurbed display of rage, selfishness, and wilfulness…. I am obligated to step in and curb temper tantrums and any other kind of wrong behavior… I do not allow temper tantrums in my home and so even if my children are frustrated, they do not have them (beyond the first few times they try, anyway). I teach them to ask me for help if they need it, and never to get angry and throw a fit just because they can’t do something. The bad habit of quickly losing their temper can be far more easily overcome (in a toddler) than in any proceeding year… The longer you pacify a child in this area (by comforting, ignoring, or distracting) the worse the situation will become. The longer you let it go on, the harder it will be to stop and the more tantrums you will have to deal with.”
Kroeger then goes on to describe her method for nipping tantrums in the bud, a strategy which has worked well for me on many occasions – including the one I described in my “What’s on the Other Side of that Temper Tantrum?” post.
Her assessment and conclusions on anger are compelling, and they convinced me that I should immediately and thoroughly quell any wrong-headed anger I saw in my children (and the wrong-headed kind, as most moms will likely tell you, constitutes the vast majority). I sought to train them that getting mad and throwing a fit because something didn’t go their way wasn’t acceptable – and to show them that they could harness self-control even when their instinct may be to tantrum. Fine.
Problem was, it didn’t work, at least not like Kroeger describes it. The methods she describes didn’t eradicate our children’s temper tantrums; my son in particular has lately begun throwing more fits (at age 5 – as described here) than perviously, despite my zero tolerance policy for this behavior. Still I continued in ambushing, outlasting, corner time, and the like. “Nothing good can come from his being allowed to hold onto that angry spirit,” I told myself. So I pressed on in the same way, and nothing improved. (more…)