Fasting Fruit

Our church is on a 3 week fast.  We always do this in January.  Our children typically participate along with us and choose something to fast from (what they’ll give up) and something to fast for (what they’d like to see God do).

I enjoy hearing their hearts on what they’ll be praying for and what things they feel God is leading them to give up for the 3 weeks.  Sometimes it’s hilarious, the younger ones especially.   There’s always the one who gives up something they totally hate or never eat. . .”I’m giving up . . .pomegranites for the fast.”  Like we were even going to eat those this month anyway.  This person is usually 4 or 5.  Funny.

This year, one of mine, has recently been struggling with bad attitudes.  Especially when playing electronics or having to walk away from them.  Or losing games.  Or things just generally not going their way.   Often.  They lost their electronic priveledges for a couple days.  This is mid-fast mind you.  So, I tell my husband that I believe that this child should probably just fast from electronics the rest of the fast (at the time 2 weeks to go).  But, I don’t thing I should make them, so I just pray that God will lead them to voluntarily choose this.

A couple days later, this child comes to me and says that they think they should go without a couple more days.  They’re still stuggling with their attitude, but wanting to do better.  And they have realized the less they play devices, the easier it gets to avoid tantrum behaviour!  Wow.  I just thank God.

A couple more days go by and the child comes to me again.  They say that they feel they’re supposed to just give up the devices for the remaining time of the fast because they still have some things to work out and being without devices is making it much easier.

I then tell them that I’d been praying for this.  That God would speak to them and convict them of this.  I say how proud I am.  Of their efforts to get their heart and attitudes right.  But, even more, because they are hearing God’s voice.  Listening and responding to that Holy Spirit conviction inside them.  Praise God.  Pretty cool!

Don’t forget to pray.  Pray for your children.  Pray for them often.  And pray for them to hear God’s voice and be convicted of things that God wants for them.  Especially when you’re hitting a wall with someone and you don’t know what to do with a particular child or behavior.  Pray that God would convict them and motivate them to seek change!

 

 

 

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The perfectly behaved toddler.

I don’t have one.  If you find the cure all, train all, fix all, perfect answer that works the same on every one. . .well, I’d probably not believe you anyway!

So seriously, though, I couldn’t resist putting some ridiculous title on what I’m about to say.  I currently have a 2 going on 3 y.o. who may be the most challenging toddler I’ve had so far.  I’ve had 7, a couple with very strong wills.  This one still is way more challenging.  He’s busy, he’s non-verbal, possibly some hearing problems and some known vision ones.  It’s hard sometimes to know how to teach and train a typical toddler, but with limited communication it’s overwhelming at times.  And he’s not calm or quiet or still.  Ever.  He’s the one, who when  you look away. . .has escaped the stroller seat, climbed the furniture and is standing on top of something, possibly dangerous, laughing hysterically with a disturbing gleam in his eye!  Goodness!

So now to the point.  I’ve recently been encouraged by the Serenity Prayer, the long version.

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.   ~Reinhold Niebuhr

How does this apply to toddlers?  “Give me the courage to change that which should be changed…” is such a powerful concept!  What can you change, today?  Choose little things.  My favorite to start with is “Sit, be quiet and stay.”  Teach your children, all of them to do this everyday.  Work on it everyday.  Have everyone sit.  Explain what you’re doing.  “We’re going to practice sitting still and being quiet!”  Give the littlest ones a book or a toy.  Don’t give it back if they throw it.  Sit by the littlest ones, they’ll need help and reminders to master this concept.  It’s huge!  Transforming.

If you could at any time ask your children to gather, sit down and be still for say, 15 minutes or 30 minutes, couldn’t that radically shift the stress of a situation?  Children and adults have lost the ability to be content without entertainment.  I know this sounds simply, maybe silly.  But try it.  I had forgotten.  Then after Christmas craziness, family, travel, sugar and all I realized I had a grumpy toddler.  I practiced this.  What an instant difference!  He cheers up.  Not forever, but I don’t need forever!

When you take away everything, all the stuff and the freedom to move about and interact, they quiet.  Outside, but also inside.  Then, when released they are calmer for a time.  Grateful for the freedom again whether they recognize it or not.  Waiting builds patience.  Lack builds gratefulness for their toys and things.  Peace with nothing makes peace with anything easier.

Don’t give up, dear Mamas who feel overwhelmed and exhausted!  Find a small thing that should be changed in your home or family and have the courage to change it.  Over time that collection of small, subtle changes will add up to great change and transformation!

Correction. . .Life is Tough.

My sweet, hubby. . .who’s freakishly adept at both editing/fact checking and knowing the names of songs, artists, years of release and such. . .kindly pointed out a needed correction to my post yesterday.  Apparently, I was mistaken.  The shirt from the Randy Stonehill concert and the song of the same title is actually “Life is Tough.  God is good.”  Whoops.  What’s funny is the title, “Life is hard.  God is good,” is actually also a song title from the 1990’s by a singer named Pam Thum whom I’d never heard of before he filled me in today.  Both songs are easily found on YouTube if you’d like to actually listen to them.  What’s more remarkable. . .he hasn’t even read my post yet, still somehow managed to fact check it.  In fact, I’m not sure he’s read any of my posts to date.  But, to be fair, he’s been living with me and hearing me think out loud for over 16 years and is very often a sounding board for ideas whether he wants to be or not!

So, pardon my mistake.  And thanks to my song genius husband who caught it first so I could give correct credit where credit is due!

Life is Hard. God is good.

Recently, I had a tough conversation with someone whom I care about deeply.  They are hurting and I can’t really help.  That’s a place I really dislike.   Something they said got me thinking about my own family.  We have been through some tough things.  My husband has a foot problem (20+) years old that limits his mobility.  He’s also going blind.  We’ve lost a daughter and parents.  We live with autism.  Shoot – we have 6 living children.  Some days it’s awesome and full of blessing . .some days it’s hard.  I tend to look at our situation without always seeing the toughness of it.  It’s my reality.  My normal.  I certainly can look around the world, throughout history, even in my own city and quickly realize how very, abundantly blessed I am.  Life is hard.  God is good.  (That’s a Randy Stonehill shirt that my hubby owns)!  When I saw that shirt a couple of years ago. . .I knew we needed to own it.  What a powerful set of six words.  It covers over a multitude of life realities.

Someone was counseling us once. . .we were going through a rough patch.  They listened a bit to what was currently going on in our lives.  Their response, “That’s overwhelming.  It’s too much.  No one could handle all that.”  They were trying to be encouraging, but it was really discouraging to me.  I thought we needed some support, some encouragement.  You know, “Life is Hard.  God is good,” kinda moment.  But somehow those words really discouraged me and kinda made me mad.  Like is was hopeless.  Nope.  You can’t do this.  It’s too much.   For the record, these are dear friends, and they had the best of intentions!  And we are still in great relationship with them to this day!

So, here we are, many years later.  Many hard things have come and gone.  And yet, we’re doing okay.  Our marriage is good.  Not perfect, but good.  We’ve been married over 16 years and we are still very much in love.  And we like each other too!  We enjoy our children and have lots of fun with them on a regular basis.  So how is it that we have managed to weather the storms of life and come through together and stronger.

Here are a few things that I realized we do that I think are key to maintaining a strong, healthy family.

  1.  Christ is Center – God is truly at the center of our family.  We read the Bible together.  We pray together.  We worship together.  We talk about spiritual issues, doctrine and point things back to God’s Word.  I won’t discuss frequency here, because that’s very much not the point.  But these things are normal, on-going occurrences in our home.
  2. Mend Fences Often – I don’t think a day goes by when someone isn’t “cleaning up” with someone else.  Children admit their mistakes and apologize and ask forgiveness when they’ve hurt another sibling or been unkind.  Derek and I often apologize to each other when we realize we’ve hurt the other person.  Perhaps most importantly, Derek and I often apologize to the children.  When we are harsh, impatient or offend them in some way we go and make things right with them.
  3. No Sweeping Under – Related to number two. . .but we really don’t allow things to just be forgotten or “swept under the rug!”  We stop life.  Chores, school, plans, goals. . .whatever may be happening will often halt to discuss and fully resolve an interpersonal conflict.  This takes time. Sometimes lots of time.  It can even be exhausting sometimes.  But the return on that investment of time and effort is truly priceless.  We decided early in our family to resolve conflicts fully.  Your issues don’t go away or get better with time. . .they tend to simmer and stew and explode  or at least cause decay!
  4. Encouraging Words – Both with our children and with one another we attempt to use our words to build up and not tear one another down.  This one is hard.  I talk.  A lot.  When you talk a lot you usually end up saying things you shouldn’t say.  The Bible has good examples of this principle!  I get in trouble here sometimes.  But, when I’m wrong, I go say so and apologize and do better the next time.  This is really important for spouses too.  I try to speak about the good qualities of my husband to others and sometimes out loud when I know he’s able to hear.  I think it’s good for your spouse to hear you singing their praise to someone else!  It encourages them and builds trust.

Life is hard.  God is good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back Story & Grace

I recently talked with my children about grace.  Having grace for others and trying to understand their situation.  So often it’s easy to look briefly into someone else’s life or at their actions and make quick judgements.  We say or even just think that we know what they should do.  We know how they could solve their problems.  As we talked, I told my children when you find yourself tempted to judge to ask three questions.

Do you know their back story?

Do you know their current situation?

Are you able and willing to help?

Everyone has back story.  Every situation has backstory.  It not just the why, but usually the underlying big why behind what we do, how we feel, how we react and so many of the choices we make.  Where did you grow up?  What was your family like?  What are your hopes and dreams, your disappointments, your betrayals, hurts and wounds?  These form your backstory.  The backstory of our lives affects how we perceive the world around us and how we interact with those in our lives.

Current situation.  What’s going on in their life?  Right now, today, this week, or even this year.  What is their home like?  Are they struggling in their marriage, finances or at work?  Why are they doing what they are doing?  Not the big, deep why like back story.   This is more akin to temperature.  Current story tells you what their day-to-day life looks like.  Their capacity, margin.  This matters.

Finally, are you in their life?  Are you willing and able to help?  You think you have an answer to their problem, but are you willing to get involved in the solution?  It is easy to say you know what someone should do. . .it’s a lot harder to get involved and help.  Getting into someone’s life is messy, time-consuming and complicated.

Ten years ago, we lost our daughter, Hannah.  She was three, sweet, beautiful and then gone.  We were devastated.  I remember walking through the grocery store, numb.  My baby was gone, my world was shaken, but I still had two little boys at home.  They needed me to function, but I was having a hard time breathing.  I remember being in that grocery store and thinking that all these people were so near me and yet had absolutely no idea that my heart was broken.  I looked normal but was far from it.  It hit me that there had to be others.  Other people in crisis walking around, seemingly functional, but devastated inside.

It shifted the way that I perceive people all around me.  She might have lost her child too.  He might have lost his wife.  She might be struggling with chronic pain. He might have just lost his job… house, car, dog.  She might have a new baby and be sleep deprived.  There might be abuse at home.  You just don’t know.  Give people grace.  Strangers, friends and family.  You don’t walk in their shoes or live their lives.  Don’t pretend you know what’s best for them or that you know everything about their problems and how to solve them.

And when people judge you, and they will, this still applies.  Do you know their back story and situation?  Are you willing to lovingly confront them, get into their life and help them learn how they hurt you with their judgements?

I think before we speak or even mentally pass judgement about someone else’s life or failures we should take a moment to assess.  Do I know their stories, both past and present?  Am I willing to take the time to help?  If you cannot answer yes to these, then do you really have the right to speak up, or even judge them in your heart?  Or do you need to just give them grace.  Work on your own issues, perhaps offer to help, and give people grace, especially when they’re struggling, give them grace.

 

Early Bird tip #1: Childbirth Classes

You want a natural birth?  What about a childbirth class?  The ideal time to take a childbirth education class is probably around 5-6 months.  You are getting bigger, so it feels real enough to take all the information seriously.  You have had some time to read up on things and get a sense of what is important to you and what kind of birth experience you are hoping to achieve.

I teach The Bradley Method® so, of course, that’s the class that I think everyone should take!  But, there are certainly other options out there and not all areas have an active Bradley® Instructor.  I definitely think taking a good, natural childbirth class is essential, especially for a first time mom wanting a natural birth.

Here are some things I’d recommend looking for in a class/instructor:

  1.  Birth Experience – Has she had natural birth(s) herself.  This is key.  Make sure.
  2. Qualifications- Is she certified or registered with a method or an independent teacher not affiliated with anyone.  There are certainly some ladies with amazing experience and perhaps not affiliated with a method. Bradley Method® instructors receive extensive training and on-going educational requirements each year.
  3. Philosophy/Class goals – Some hospitals offer free or inexpensive classes, but sometimes these classes aren’t truly geared toward teaching natural childbirth principles at all.  This varies greatly from area to area.
  4. Statistics – How do her students do in birth?  Most instructors can give you some idea of her students’ statistics.  My couples average around a 10% c-section rate and over 80% of the others achieve a non-medicated, natural birth.  That tracks very closely with The Bradley Method’s® national stats.  That’s key.  Make sure an instructor has a proven track-record of successful outcomes using the techniques/information she teaches.
  5. Personal recommendation – Ask your friends, especially those who had a good birth experience what classes they took  More specifically, who do you know that had a birth similar to what you’re hoping for?
  6. Look early – you can always sign-up for a class ahead of time, but sometimes ladies wait so long they can’t get the entire class finished before their due date!  Inquire early!

Happy birthing!  And don’t feel like you can’t keep looking, keep asking, keep inquiring. There are many great teachers out there, passing along what we know to those coming along after us. . .you’ll find one!

Please visit www.bradleybirth.com to locate a Bradley Method® Instructor near you! (more…)

Food and Faith

I recently attended a conference featuring Joel Salatin, well-known speaker and agrarian.  I have heard him speak before, read some of his books and even patterned my farming practices after his models.

I came home with his newest book, “The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs,” and have begun my journey through its pages.  I am being challenged once again.  Each time I read one of Mr. Salatin’s books I am freshly challenged to re-examine various life choices and practices.  But, this book is truly challenging me on a different level.  This book is written to Christians – an audience he’s never specifically targeted before – and delves quickly and deeply into many spiritual discussions.

Food and faith and inherently connected.  Inseparable.  I’ve known this, but never thought about it quite this way before now.  I’ve experienced the beauty of God’s creatures in my garden and watched in awe as the bounty of produce grows seemingly out of nowhere each summer.  I feel God’s presence as I garden and often pray as I work and thank Him for His provision and abundance and creation.

But this book is tying things together and raising questions in my heart that are new.  Does is matter how I grow food?  Does God care?  Does it matter where I buy food?  He even cuts deep with questions about sickness, disease and diet.  These are discussions we don’t really want to have, don’t really want to think about or take responsibility for the answers that follow.

Basically, do my food choices bring honor to the Lord?  Am I showing His love to others and representing His glory when I plant, eat, prepare, shop and purchase food?  These are tough questions!

To be transparent. . .We raise pastured chickens for meat and eggs.  That’s a decision I can stand behind and know it’s honoring the Lord.  Those chickens provide my family and a few besides with quality, wholesome nutrition and also honor the way God designed chickens to live and eat.  We plant a huge garden and eat lots of produce all summer – asparagus, green beans, cucumbers, peppers, onions, tomatoes, spaghetti squash, watermelons, radishes and more.  We preserve tomatoes, pickles, potatoes and squash and eat them throughout the winter and have plenty to share with others.  This is good.

We also make choices that are certainly questionable.  I allow my children some convenience foods, pizza, hot dogs and sugar or worse yet the corn syrup that creeps its way into so many things!  These are obviously poor choices, but hard to change and I certainly think the occasional indulgence is acceptable.

In his book, Mr. Salatin discusses creation worshippers and Creator worshippers. . .making the fair point that so often the creation worshippers do a better job of honoring God with food choices and animal care than the Creator worshippers.  Ouch!  But true.  How much more should those of us who claim God as King be about the business of stewarding His creation well and healing the land through our use of it than those who don’t even know Him?  Do we look at food choices as an extension of our worship, our faith, our trust in God’s wisdom and God’s way?  Or do we use faith as an excuse to eat poorly and farm poorly and then ask God to bless it anyway?

Heavy thinking.  But needed and good.