Pray this for your family

Lord, help us to love each other sincerely. Help us to hate what is evil and hold on to what is good.

That we may be devoted to one another in brotherly love; giving preference to one another in honor.

Help us to be eager to serve You; rejoicing in hope, persevering in hard times, devoted to prayer.

That we may contribute to the needs of others, practicing hospitality, rejoicing with those who rejoice and crying with those who are crying.

Help my family not to be haughty in mind but to see others as God sees them, knowing that we are all of equal value in His sight.

If possible, so far as it depends on us, help us to be at peace with all people, not being overcome by evil, but overcoming evil with good.

Amen. (Romans 12:9-21)

Starting the new school year right…as parents

It’s the first day of school and your child is excited about the new year. He sets his alarm, gets his clothes ready for the next day and goes to sleep early. You think, “Wow! this is going to be a great year!” Or maybe you’re the one that needs to keep reminding your child to get to bed. Then you drag her out of bed the next day and she’s running late because she can’t find matching socks. “This is going to be a terrible school year,” you say to yourself.

You might think that I’m about to say that starting the new school year right would be to get more of the first example kinds of days and less of the second. That might be nice, but the reality is that it’s not often the case. We may have control of some of that, but good and bad days happen to everyone. They are just a part of life. So how can we start the school year right?

Attitude. The fact is that if we let our attitude be dictated by our children’s behavior, we miss the opportunity to help them grow. If we feel it’s going to be a good year when everything goes our way and feel it’s going to be miserable when things don’t go as expected, we are basically just thermometers of the environment. When we just react to the situations around us we tend to state the obvious. “You’re going to be late.” “You should have gone to sleep earlier.” “You’re teacher’s not going to like that!” etc. etc. This helps no one and exacerbates the child. What we need is to be a thermostat.

Speaking of stating the obvious, a thermostat doesn’t just read the temperature, it changes it. When your child makes mistakes that lead to consequences, he already feels bad. Help him see the hope on the other side. This is the chance to help him see that not all is lost. It’s not the time to make him feel worse, no matter how badly you want to do that!

This school year, remember that your child is more than the grade she gets, the behavior she expresses or the discipline she exercises. It’s important to our kids to know that we love and support them no matter what. Discipline them if you must and let them suffer the consequences of their decisions. There might be some things they need to work on just like us, but our show of love and affection does not depend on their behavior. Setting our thermostat on that consistent level will help us start the school year off right.

Making family work with older kids

Raising a family has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life. Besides the fact that we had six kids to raise, they were all different, were in different developmental stages and liked different things!

Now that they’re older, making family work is mostly about keeping relationships growing and healthy. Having just been on vacation with most of our family, I was reminded of just how different they are from each other and how it can work, even when they don’t always agree.

One of my biggest jobs now that they are mostly adults is to be an example. I’ve always had to be an example, but I used to have to season that with rules and consequences. Now I have to mostly respect my children. I need to respect their decisions, their way of thinking, their choices. I don’t have to agree with everything they say or do, but I do need to respect them. In turn, they respect me and hopefully, their siblings as well.

As a parent, I think one of the biggest challenges we face is to know when to make the switch from authority over our children to encourager and advisor. Many parents try to force, manipulate and bribe their adult children into doing what they want. While it may work temporarily, I have seen two things happen to families over and over again.

First, the children resent the parents. As soon as they realize that their parents are somehow living vicariously through them or that their parents are using them as some kind of trophy to display for the parents’ self esteem, adult children will resent their parents.
Second, parents end up losing the one thing they are desperately clinging to. Their kids will not want to be near them. When parents start to feel rejected, they often blame the child instead of taking a hard look at themselves and examine whether they are contributing to the problem. If the adult child feels he is being judged or blamed, if they feel that their parents don’t like who they are or they don’t feel good enough for their parents, the chances of them wanting to be with their parents is slim. Who wants to spend time with someone who doesn’t like you? Again, they may be guilted into visiting, but the relationship will be superficial and fake.

Making family work is about love, mercy and grace. While they are younger we instruct, we set boundaries, we love, we discipline and we model. But when they become adults, we hold on loosely to our ideas of who they should become and what they should do.

Remember that after all is said and done, we are not the ones in charge, God is. He is more than able to set them on the right course. Whether we realized it or not, God was always in charge. He just allowed us to come along for the ride. And for that I am grateful.

A tribute to my mom.

My mom would have been 79 years old today. Even though it’s been eleven years since she passed away, I still miss her, I still reflect on her life. As I get older, I find myself relating more to her and I feel like I understand her better.

For instance. I love seeing my family around the table. I love being in conversation with them. I love spending time with them. And I get that from my mom.

My mom cared for family. She cared for her mom, she cared for my cousins, she cared for my dad and she was fiercely loyal to her kids. My mom was a major giver.

This week we are on vacation. For dinner today, at the suggestion of my son Isaac, we toasted to her life. Than we went around the table and talked of our memories of her. I couldn’t help wonder what my kids and grandkids will have to say about me.

My mom left a huge legacy for us. A legacy of love that involved quality time, ejoyment of life and always food! I was keenly aware of it today.  So here’s to you, mom! Happy birthday!

It Passes So Fast

When my kids were all younger and in strollers, people would pass me by and say, “Enjoy them. It passes so fast.” I’ll admit there were times when I would think, “Really? Because the days just seem to drag on and I’m exhausted!” But of course,  they were right.

My oldest has been married now for 11 years and has two beautiful little girls. My second son has been away so long with undergrad and then in graduate school that most of our pictures in the last 7 yrs reveal his absence. My third will be graduating from college soon, my fourth is in college also, and in August we will be driving our 5th away to college as well.

Time goes very quickly, whether we are ready or not. I can’t count the times I’ve gotten stressed over the kitchen being dirty or math not getting done, the endless housework and all the driving. Yet come fall, I will only have one to drive around wishing I had more dishes in the sink, more shoes in front of the door, more people to feed.

So let me join those that have gone before me in saying, “Enjoy them. It passes so fast.”

To The Invisible Mom

We were in a quaint little chapel listening to a beautiful teaching about suffering and where God is at such times. I had never seen more relevance between those words and the audience as I saw it today. The room was small, the congregants few. Most were in wheelchairs, some falling asleep from medication they were taking or the result of going through stroke recovery or just sleepless nights that come from endless interruptions by nurses in the middle of the night. The pastor with his heavy middle eastern accent cried as he spoke about God’s love and how He never leaves us. It was obvious to me that he was very good at comforting the sick.

As he continued the service, he got ready to serve communion. Our family’s presence had been unexpected. We had brought the number of attendance to a whopping 20 people instead of the 10 that it would have been if we had not shown up. He looked up and said, mostly to our family, “In my 15 years of working at this facility, this is the most people I have had in a service. I apologize if I do not have enough to go around.”

I was instantly humbled and brought to tears. Here was this pastor with an obvious love of people and a wonderful gift of teaching and he had chosen to work in a place where for the last 15 years he did not serve the masses, but the few. He was touching lives one by one as they recovered and went back home never to return. Some could hear his words of encouragement, some could not. Most probably didn’t even know his name. To the rest of the world, he was invisible. But to heaven, his work is transcendent. The world will never know how good he is at what he does, but that’s OK. His message is not for them.

This got me thinking about a mom’s job. In a world where we equate success with popularity and fame, the job of a mom seems insignificant and pointless.  There is no fame, there is no recognition. Some of mom’s words even seem to land on deaf ears. Yet she continues. She instructs. She loves. She teaches. She disciplines. Those kids will grow up, move out, live their lives. There will be visits, but healthy kids move out. That was the goal. Like the pastor who is there for the sick but hopes they get well and leave, a mom who loves her children works her way out of a job.

That pastor will never know this side of heaven how significant his contribution was to those who most needed him when they needed him the most.  Moms, you will never know this side of heaven the impact you have had on the little ones in your household. Those who most need you when they need you the most. You might be invisible to the world, but to heaven, your contribution is transcendent.  The world may never know how good you are at what you do, but that’s OK. Your message is not for them. It’s for your kids. It’s for God.

 

 

 

New Years Resolutions for 2017 and beyond

I usually have the same New Years Resolutions every year. You know. Lose weight, be a better person, change some bad habits, etc. 

But once in awhile something happens that recalibrates my brain and sets me off to higher goals. More transcendent goals. Goals that will make a bigger difference in my life and the lives of those around me. 

This holiday it happened a few weeks before Christmas, when  someone I love very much, had a massive stroke. I thank God that this loved one is pulling through and is expected to recover.

However, during this time I’ve had time to reflect on how finite we are. How temporary life is. And how important it is that we make good choices while we can. So here are some of my New Years Resolutions for 2017.

1. Be there. I don’t know why, but when something goes wrong, when someone needs help, we often are wondering what to do. Do we show up? Do we wait for an invitation? Do we cancel our plans? Do we ask about it?

I’ve struggled with this before. And frankly, I haven’t always made the right choice. I tend to second guess myself a lot. I want to give people space. But what I have concluded is that it has always been better to be there than to wait. 

If it ends up being nothing, if I don’t get to help much, if all I do is lend a hug, it is still better to be there. Show my support. But this is not only true of emergencies, this is true of everyday life.

In 2017 I want to be the one that will be there. I want to put my priorities in order, drop the urgent, the unimportant and even some of the important and be there. Be there for the conversations, be there for the walk, be there for the hugs, and be there for the hard times. Be there.

2. Follow up. The first days at the hospital the waiting room is swarming with loved ones. The day the teenager gets in trouble everyone is on top of it to make sure they are disciplined correctly. The moment someone asks for prayers at church a whole team is rounded up to pray in a circle. 

But who makes the phone call to find out how it’s going a month after surgery? Who checks in with the teen two weeks later to just talk and see how they’re doing? Who asks how the marriage is going a month later?

I want to be the person who follows up. I want to be there when everyone else forgets because that’s when it might be needed most. I might have to write it on the calendar and send self notifications. But I want to be in for the long haul. I want to follow up.

3. Step out. Over all, I live a comfortable, predictable and very busy life. It’s hard for me to get out of my routine to do something that may not be familiar to me or might even cause me some discomfort. But I believe I will grow as a person to the degree that I am willing to step out in order to help others. 

This year I am stepping out in many ways. I’m joining my husband in the real estate business, I’m finally publishing my book and hoping it will help others in their homeschool journey, and I’m hoping to take more missions trips to Latin America. 

These are some of the ways I want to step out. Step out of my comfort zone, step out of my routine, step out of my strengths, step out of my security. 

So I’m still going to try to lose weight, watch what I eat and change some bad habbits. But I’ll be mostly focusing on those things which will go beyond 2017. As the year begins and moves forward I know I will have opportunities to carry out these new year resolutions. What about you? How can you be there, follow up and step out?

New Year Resolutions that transcend 2017

I usually have the same New Year Resolutions every year. You know. Lose weight, be a better person, change some bad habits, etc.

But once in awhile something happens that recalibrates my brain and sets me off to higher goals. More transcendent goals. Goals that will make a bigger difference in my life and the lives of those around me.
This holiday it happened a few weeks before Christmas, when  someone I love very much, had a massive stroke. I thank God that this loved one is pulling through and is expected to recover.
However, during this time I’ve had time to reflect on how finite we are. How temporary life is. And how important it is that we make good choices while we can. So here are some of my New Years Resolutions for 2017.
1. Be there. When something unexpected happens, when someone needs help, we often wonder what to do. Do we show up? Do we wait for an invitation? Do we cancel our plans? Do we ask about it?
I’ve struggled with this before. And frankly, I haven’t always made the right choice. I tend to second guess myself a lot. I want to give people space. But what I have concluded is that it has always been better to be there than to wait.
If it ends up being nothing, if I don’t get to help much, if all I do is lend a hug, it is still better to be there. Show my support. But this is not only true of emergencies, this is true of everyday life.
In 2017 I want to be the one that will be there. I want to put my priorities in order, drop the urgent, the unimportant and even some of the important and be there. Be there for the conversations, be there for the walk, be there for the hugs, and be there for the hard times. Be there.
2. Follow up. The first days at the hospital the waiting room is swarming with loved ones. The day the teenager gets in trouble everyone is on top of it to make sure they are disciplined correctly. The moment someone asks for prayers at church a whole team is rounded up to pray in a circle.
But who makes the phone call to find out how it’s going a month after surgery? Who checks in with the teen two weeks later to just talk and see how they’re doing? Who asks how the marriage is going a month after prayer?
I want to be the person who follows up. I want to be there when everyone else forgets because that’s when it might be needed most. I might have to write it on the calendar and send self notifications. But I want to be in for the long haul. I want to follow up.
3. Step out. Over all, I live a comfortable, predictable and very busy life. It’s hard for me to get out of my routine to do something that may not be familiar to me or might even cause me some discomfort. But I believe I will grow as a person to the degree that I am willing to step out in order to help others.
This year I am already stepping out in  a few ways. I’m joining my husband in the real estate business, I’m finally publishing my book and hoping it will help others in their homeschool journey, and I’m hoping to take more missions trips to Latin America.
These are some of the ways I want to step out. Step out of my comfort zone, step out of my routine, step out of my strengths, step out of my security.
So I’m still going to try to lose weight, watch what I eat and change some bad habbits. But I’ll be mostly focusing on those things which will go beyond 2017.
As the year begins and moves forward I know I will have opportunities to carry out these new year resolutions. What about you? How can you be there, follow up and step out?

Silent Night, Altered Night

  • It’s the middle of the night and you get an unexpected phone call. They’re always unexpected. Whether your loved one had a deteriorating illness or a sudden accident, it is always unexpected; especially around the holidays

I love holidays, especially Christmas. Even with the freezing weather, Christmas is the time for warmth. A time to get together, love and be loved. But when our Silent Night is altered by sickness or death, what can we do to salvage it?

Don’t salvage it,  alter it. There’s no sense pretending we can just move on as though nothing has happend. It’s direspectful to the feelings of those who are hurting and it just isn’t possible.

Instead, think about how you can make the best out of a difficult situation. Perhaps you can spend some time celebrating the lost loved one by sharing memorable stories or making their favorite holiday meal in their honor.

Or perhaps you can alter holiday get togethers that will make the ill person more comfortable.  Does the reunion need to be shorter, or with just a few people?  Maybe there will be dietary restrictions. Can you change the menu?

Or maybe you have to cancel the get together completely. How about board games with just the family? Or maybe you can sit around the table telling stories.

Some families may be tempted to pretend there is no loss. But I find it difficult for people to heal when  they don’t acknowledge that they’re wounded.  And where there’s no acknowledgement, there is no freedom for others to open up and share their feelings.  Children are especially vulnerable when no one wants to “talk about it.”

So set the example. Open up. Be honest about your feelings. It’s healthy to admit that we’re human. And it teaches our children how to deal with pain and disappointment.

Alter the holiday to meet the present need. Next year you can go back to those traditions that mean so much to you and your family but can become a source of more stress if you try to force them into an already chaotic time, which is what crises bring.

Remember that the traditions, foods and parties are there to enhance the experience with family and friends, not the other way around. So let go of those things that will add to the stress of an already altered holiday and make a memory that includes the sorrow and sadness and make the best of it.

 

Surviving and enjoying the holidays with extended family

You hug everyone as you make your way to the kitchen with the casserole you said you would bring. Your kids are walking closely behind you, smiling uncomfortably, getting hugs and comments about how much they’ve grown and how they look like your mother’s cousin on her father’s side.

For some families, they’ve been looking forward to this day for months. It’s a time to catch up. A time to celebrate family. A time to love and be loved.
For others, holidays with extended family are painful. It’s a time of judgement, arguments, bad memories and isolation.
If that’s  you, how can you turn that next holiday reunion into a positive experience for your whole family?  Here are a few thoughts.
1.  Have clear boundaries in place. Days before the get together, establish boundaries for yourself and your family. How long will we stay? What will we talk about? How will we respond to criticism or when uncle John has had one too many beers? What are the “hot buttons” to stay away from? And for really challenging situations, what will we tolerate and what will be a red flag that it’s time to leave?
Having those boundaries in place helps the family feel safe and united. While some may not think that the boundaries are necessary, others in the family will appreciate them
2.  Adopt a “help me understand” attitude.  Politics, religion, sexual orientation, presidential elections, life choices. These are only some of the subjects that can stir up strong emotions in people. You may disagree with the choices one of your extended family members has made or they may disagree with yours.
Adopting am attitude that says, “Help me understand,” can be disarming in a society where we pick and choose which of our biases we will feed. It is rare to find someone who will just listen to your point of view REGARDLESS of whether they agree. When you respect someone to that level, you earn respect. You can’t change their opinion or change their mind. But you can be an example.
Try to understand where they are coming from. What their experience has been. How they could have come to that conclusion from their experience. And coach your family to do the same. It will do wonders for your conversations with extended family.
3.  Be present. It’s easy to just make plans to be “in and out” when it comes to a family gathering. Especially if you’re single. There are so many other opportunities competing for your time. Some of which you might enjoy so much more! And if you have small children, the disruption of their schedule sets you off  for days.Its tempting to just come for an hour and then leave or not come at all.
But if you miss the gathering, you miss the opportunity for growth. Extended family is fascinating. Once upon a time, your aunts and uncles, cousins, or even just you and your siblings  grew up together. Once upon a time, the root family that brought you all together had dreams and aspirations. They did their best to raise their family. And now here you are  one or two generations later, enjoying the company of those who exist because of them.
Think of your immediate family. Wouldn’t you like to know that when they grow up, long after you’re gone  they will continue to get together, bringing their own families to reunions like this? Invest in that now. Be an example. Don’t  complain about having to go. Don’t let them skip out on the reunion. Bring them along. Tell them the funny stories about growing up with uncle Joe and why you love him. Share stories at the party of when you were all kids. Help everyone remember why they’re there and be present.
4.  Don’t sacrifice immediate family for extended family. Admittedly, we all have toxic or challenging relatives. Family members who say inappropriate things or put you in awkward situations. An aunt who prides herself in “speaking her mind” or an uncle who doesn’t approve of the way you care for your family. Or maybe they don’t like your spouse…ouch!
You may feel the pressure to side with extended family members over your immediate family just for the sake of keeping peace. Don’t. Remember that your spouse and children are your priority. Making fun of your kids in public breeds permission for others to make fun and you won’t always think it’s funny.
Your spouse and you are one. Speaking positively of him or her in public settings also sets a precedence. It tells your extended family that it’s not OK to speak negatively of your family and they can feel safe that you won’t speak badly of theirs.
5.  See extended family with finite lenses. My mom used to have a phrase she would say both dramatically and jokingly every year. “This will be my last year.” We used to laugh together about how she said that every year and every year she would be there for another get together. Then one year she wasn’t.
It’s been ten years and I still miss my mom very much. And when I think of our time together, I am both thankful for the time we had and regretful of the times when I was rushing for my weekly visit with her and didn’t have much time to stay.
Your extended family is finite. They won’t be there forever and neither will you. But on the holidays we get an opportunity to catch up. To value who they are even if we don’t always agree. To appreciate that we do have extended family and that we are part of a bigger story.
This is not the time to change them or criticize them or wish you came from a different place. No family is perfect. This is a time to enjoy. Who knows what next year will bring. Celebrate today.