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Toddling Along

Today’s 10-Minute Tuesday post is on the prompt “Toddler”

xy+NaiZ5SBibbrRWXUJb0gToddlers have a bad reputation. They’re said to wear out their mothers, challenge anyone in their way, and be impossibly hard to keep up with. They’re just learning to explore their world, so they wreck havoc wherever they go.

I have an 8-month-old grandson who has just started pulling up on everything and is beginning to cruise from furniture piece to person’s leg to couch, figuring out where it is he can go next. And, maybe it’s because I’m Nana now, but I think it’s the best thing ever.

Babies need to explore their world. It’s what has to happen in order for them to figure things out. They need to face challenges, they need to overcome those challenges on their own, and they need to test their boundaries.

325xpAUERdKaBNwe257SpABecause I have my grandson 5 afternoons/evenings/nights a week, I get to help him navigate some of those challenges and learn to respect the boundaries. My 16-year-old daughter, who helps a lot with him, is fond of chanting “Choking hazard! Choking hazard!” if there is the slightest small thing that might end up in his mouth.

We are all aware of the dangers.

Before he even became mobile, we hauled the pool fence out of the attic, just in case someone should forget to latch a door and he would make his way to the pool deck. Having barriers and boundaries in place is wise, but cushioning his every tumble would just set him up to expect to never encounter a difficulty.

I keep him from pulling the cats’ tails while teaching him how to treat them nicely.

I keep a fence up around the pool, but take him swimming to allow him the joy of the water on a hot day.

I move games with small pieces while allowing him to touch and taste and explore those things that he does not yet know how to open.

IMG_0142Freedom within guidelines. This will help him grow and learn and develop in a safe environment without making him fearful that there’s danger around every corner.

God gives us guidelines as well, not to keep us from having fun, but to keep us safe while growing and learning and developing.

If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed (John 8:36), but do not use your freedom as an excuse to sin (Romans 6:15).

When I put up the pool fence for my grandson, it wasn’t so that I could say to him, “Ha! See that refreshing water? Looks fun, doesn’t it? Well, sorry! You can’t go in it!” No, that would be very mean of me. I put it up to keep him safe. He is a baby. He doesn’t know how to swim. If he were to wander into that water, he would drown. And that would be a tragedy for us all.

In the same way, God’s guidelines are not to keep us from having fun, but to actually give us a chance at abundant life.

We, like toddlers, want to move and explore and learn new things. It’s a joy to watch. But when we get close to those things that could hurt us, God is there to move us away. It’s the loving thing to do.

GZ9wojPiR+uwCUeIxWm7CAWe diligently watch Zayne whenever he is with us, because at this point, though he is not yet a toddler, he is crawling around as quickly as he can, seeing what there is to see and what he can explore (read “get into”) next.

I will never stop watching him, because I love him to the moon and back and want him to be safe while still desiring that he experience as much of his little world as he can.

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The Evil Step-Mother Myth

IMG_0528In Disney’s lovely live-action remake of “Cinderella,” (reviewed here) viewers aren’t disappointed in the evilness of the stepmother and stepsisters. We expect villainy, and we receive it when Ella’s beloved father passes away and she is left in the care of a woman who has taken her disappointment and channeled it into hatred for a girl who only longed to call her “Mother.”

In this particular rendition, Ella is much more compassionate than the Cinderella figuresstepmother of the past. Though she is mistreated, she still acts kindly. She truly cannot understand why she would be so hated by this woman and asks questions to try to figure that out.

In real life, the evil stepmother, like the sharp-tongued mother-in-law, rarely exists. Most step-parents simply want to build relationships with the kids of their new partner and, though I have no statistics to back this up, I would surmise that a majority are successful.

Ella and stepmomI speak of that with which I have no personal experience. But I would guess that how a child responds to a parent’s new love would depend on the circumstances. Are they very young and lost a parent to death? Are they from a fractured home where one parent plays them against the other?

Are they teenagers in great need of the love and support of a missing parent? Have they been involved in the dating process of their father or mother?

So much depends on age and circumstance, that I don’t think there is any way to say that something works but something else doesn’t. I have a sweet friend who married an older man who was already a grandfather. She became not only an instant stepmom, but an instant grandmother as well. Her husband’s children and grands love her.

I have another friend, the one who suggested this topic in fact, who is about to embark Anastasia-and-Drisella-cinderella-2015-38263792-960-790on step-parenting a pre-teen girl. I can guarantee there will be challenges there, because there are challenges with parenting a pre-teen girl when you’re their biological parent.

Love covers a multitude of sins. Communication, unity between parents, and lots and lots of love covered in lots and lots of prayer will help any step-parent do the best that they can do.

Does it guarantee success? Well, since children have free will just like adults do, no. But you can be confident that if you walk with Jesus through the journey, your relationship with Him will bring greatly needed peace.

 

images from: imdb; youtube.com; usatoday; picture lights

A Grand Adventure or My Grandson?

horses by oceanThere will be no vacation for us this year. No foreign excursion. No Alaskan cruise. No bungalow on the beach. No mountain cabin by a crystalline lake.

Not that those things were very affordable in the past, but this year is different.

This year, David and I have committed to keeping our almost 6-month-old grandson for my son and his girlfriend when they are at work.kSlUPi%vRdWg+mZXzteP6Q

When we first learned of our grandbaby’s existence almost a year ago, the assumption was that they wouldn’t be able to keep him because they were very young, unmarried and would not be able to pull if off financially. They had thought it through, talked about it, and decided that adoption was the way to go.

And that’s what they told us when they finally got up the nerve to tell us about the baby.

But no, grace dove in and we were under it’s unrelenting power. If they wanted to keep this baby boy, we would do everything we could to help them, short of paying their bills. We would provide childcare—Nana Daycare we call it—and call upon our vast network IMG_9540 2of friends to help provide the necessities for setting up a home with a baby.

So this year we will take no vacation, but we will rest in knowing that God’s grace gave us this sweet gift instead.

You are the trip I did not take,

You are the pearls I could not buy

You are my blue Italian lake

You are my piece of foreign sky.

Anne Campbell

 

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. Join the fun!

 

Restore the Fathers

Jesus with childrenFather’s Day is just around the corner. How very appropriate and heartbreaking that the immigrant crisis—children being torn from the very breasts of their mothers—now center stage in our country should be garnering so much notice at this time.

My grandfather was an immigrant. Granted, his parents went through the arduous process of coming legally, but had they not been able to do that, if they had been fleeing a dangerous situation and needed refuge, I can’t even imagine what would have happened had my grandfather been taken away from them.

We lost our younger son at Sea World one time. It was only for a few minutes, but the terror that was in my heart during those few minutes has never been forgotten. Had anything happened to him, I would have been devastated. So to know that hundreds, no, thousands of parents are experiencing their children being taken away from them by authorities in a country they thought would be their refuge is completely unimaginable.

The law of the land, they say. It’s biblical to obey the governing authorities, they say.

How they can look themselves in the mirror or even sleep at night is beyond me.

Families belong together. There is no excuse. Maybe the parents have broken the law, but IMG_0654there are better ways to handle the situation. I’m not a fan of illegal immigration, but I am a fan of people. You can’t treat them like animals. They are not cattle or sheep to be separated for slaughter.

It’s Father’s Day on Sunday. While you’re celebrating your own father, or being a father, or fathers that you know, take time to pray for those fathers who have had their children forcibly removed from their care by the governing authority, that they would be restored to their children.

And weep for them, as I’m sure Jesus is doing even now.

“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” — Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 19:14)

This post is a part of the weekly Five Minute Friday link up. Come join in the fun!

 

image from vvsventujuparapija.lt

First Ask Why: A Book Review

Parenting books are plentiful, it’s true, and trying to fit your family into the mold of what others have done is impossible. So it’s refreshing to read a parenting book that gives you the freedom to be your own family while still suggesting principles that will help point your children to Jesus.

First Ask Why coverIn this her first book, Shelly Wildman encourages parents to engage in intentional discipleship, positioning your kids to follow Jesus as they grow in independence. By asking why we do the things we do, we’re taking a closer look at our efforts as a family.

The message that spoke the most to me was near the end. In a chapter titled “Strengthening our Ties,” Shelly confronts something that families these days don’t want to hear: We’re too busy.  She says, “Driven by today’s American culture, parents often believe that if their kids don’t play sports or aren’t involved in some other activity outside the home, then their lives won’t be successful. But that argument plays on parents’ fears and emotions. We can’t fear being a little countercultural when it comes to protecting time together as a family, because that time together makes us stronger.”

I confess to feeling that fear. College applications and having a resumé filled with accomplishments drive us to over scheduling our families so that we teeter on the very brink of burnout and exhaustion. What are our kids learning from this?

That performance matters. That who they are will forever be tied to the things that they do.

My 9th grade daughter is concerned by the fact that she doesn’t have any activities to add to her resumé. She’s in virtual school (meaning she does all her classes remotely on a computer), so obviously extra curricular activities are not as easy to engage in.

But more important to me than the status of her resumé is the status of her heart. Have we made an intentional effort over the 15 years of her life to point her to Jesus?

Prayer, service, cross-cultural experiences, family memories. All of these and more are areas in which Wildman encourages parents to disciple their kids. When asked what makes her book different from other parenting books, Wildman answers:

“So many parenting books are ‘how-to’ books. They seem to say, ‘Just follow these 10 steps first ask why memeand here’s what you’ll get in the end.’ But I don’t believe we can parent by formula. I think we have to look at our unique family and ask why.

“Why are we doing what we’re doing as a family?

“Why are we emphasizing these spiritual values? And are there others we should consider?

“Why are we even here as a family? What’s our purpose for being put together in this unique combination of individuals?

“Asking why gets to the heart of the matter; it exposes our motivations and desires for our family. Asking why leads to intentionality. And asking why helps give our children a sense of purpose as we lead them.”

First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship is available now for preorder on Amazon, CBD.com and Barnes and Noble.

Web_Shelly-2Shelly Wildman is a former writing instructor and author of the forthcoming book First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship (Kregel). Shelly holds degrees from Wheaton College (BA) and University of Illinois at Chicago (MA), but her most important life’s work has been raising her three adult daughters. She and her husband, Brian, have been married for 32 years and live in Wheaton, IL. Shelly speaks to women’s groups in the Chicago area and spends much of her free time mentoring young women. When she has time, she loves to cook, read, and travel.

 

Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind—a book review and a giveaway!

IMG_9112You often hear the saying, “Parenting isn’t for cowards.” Oh, how true that statement is. Even if your kids aren’t running off the rails, there are challenges and fears and missteps all along the way.

As kids approach adulthood and get ready to leave our little nests, the anxiety can ramp up even more. Did we teach them all they need to know to survive? What if they never want to come visit? How will I know that they are still making good decisions?

The truth is, we can’t know all the answers to those kinds of questions, but we can trust that God has our kids in the palm of His hand, no matter what direction they may presently be going.

After reading Brenda Yoder’s Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind, I am reminded that all along this journey of parenthood, I am not alone.

Writing mostly to women, Yoder, who is a licensed mental health counselor, addresses the big issues we face as we prepare our kids for independent life: Mom grief (which is most definitely a real thing), building family ties, setting boundaries, self-care, marriage during the fledging years, among many others. I found myself with a crick in my neck from all the nodding I was doing in response to what I read.

One such nod-inducer was this statement: “Being a mom is something you do; it’s not IMG_9113who you are. When you accept this, you’ll be more peaceful, confident, and free as each child walks out the door.”

Yes!

So many of us moms have centered our lives around our children, that we have no idea who we are apart from them. But the natural order of things is for our kids to move out and move on. And when we are so wrapped up in trying to make sure our kids turn out just the way we want them to, their mistakes can shake us to our core.

Yoder says, “Your children’s struggles can paralyze you if you let them define your faith, your family, or your parenting. It’s not accurate to define yourself by the choices your kids make.”

How freeing is that? Our job is to follow hard after Jesus. What our kids decide about their own faith is theirs alone. We influence, we guide, we counsel, but someone once said that parents take too much credit when their kids succeed, and have too much guilt when they fail. Yoder says, “Contrary to popular belief, it’s not your responsibility to raise godly kids. It’s your responsibility to be a godly parent.”

IMG_9114In many ways, our clinging to our kids can be a detriment to them. Yoder says, “Our children need permission to say no to our expectations so they can say yes to God’s gifts and callings.”

Filled with much more godly wisdom and counsel, Fledge is an excellent book for anyone facing or in the midst of the empty-nest years. There is such joy we can find in these years if we lean into the Lord and trust Him with our kids.

You can preorder Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind” on Amazon before the March 16th release date by clicking here.

Consider joining the Fledge Parent Forum on Facebook as well by clicking here. A community of people in the same season is a great encouragement!

Enter a chance to win!

Leave a comment about why you need this book for a chance to win a free copy of Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind. One winner will be chosen on March 15.

 

*disclaimer: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

 

 

Rules and Relationship

It’s been a tough few months.

And when it affects my kids, it makes it tougher still.

Here’s the question: Does relationship trump rules?

checkoff-listI’ve been a parent for more than 21 years now, and I think I have a pretty good relationship with my kids. But I’ll tell you, they know there are rules. If I tell you to do something, you do it. Whining and fussing doesn’t get you anywhere in my house. My kids trust that I’m not going to tell them to do something immoral, illegal or impossible (although keeping their rooms clean does seem impossible at times). They trust that I love them and what I tell them to do is going to be for their benefit somewhere along the way.

Now, I’m human, and sometimes I want them to do something for my convenience. “Can you bring me my phone that I left on my bed? (because I’ve settled in my chair in the other room and you’re right there by my room)” But in the context of our relationship, they know that I’m not always doing that. And they ask me the same kinds of things, and more, because, well, kids.

Do they ever question my directives? Yes. Do I pull the mom card sometimes? (You know the drill: “But why?” “Because I’m the mom, that’s why.”) Yes. But they know that I love them. They know that they’re safe with me. They know that I ultimately want them to become fully functional members of society, and people who follow after God’s own heart.

When my kids have been pushing back against some of the things they’re told to do, child fighting with parentwhat I say to them is this: If you have a hard time obeying me, whom you can see, how much harder will it be for you to obey God when He requires something of you? This is practice for listening to God and doing what He asks because you trust Him and you know that He loves you.

I would think it should not have to be said that blind obedience to every authority is not wise. I’m talking about obedience in the context of relationship. Every parenting expert worth their salt knows that children thrive in an atmosphere of stability and boundaries. Allowed to run free with no rules, children will flounder. Loving guidelines and abounding grace create a healthy atmosphere for kids to thrive.

If my kids tell me over and over again that they love me, that’s going to mean a lot to me, but if they continually question my authority and break the family rules, some tough love is going to have to come into play. I wouldn’t stop loving them, but there would be consequences for their actions.

So how does this apply to our relationship with God?

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15 ESV). He didn’t say, “Keep my commandments or I will stop loving you.” In fact, in context, He’s just been telling His disciples all about going to prepare a place for them in heaven and sending them the Holy Spirit to help them. But He knew it would be important for them to do what He has told them to do. For their sake. Not under compulsion, but because they love Him and want to do what He says. Did they mess up? Sure. Look at Peter as a classic example. He denied Christ 3 times. But oh, the restoration that took place on the beach before a fire after Jesus was resurrected. (See the 21st chapter of the book of John.)

grace tattooI love my husband. We have been married for almost 27 years. He doesn’t want me to get a tattoo. I want one. Just a little one. Nothing huge. I don’t personally think there’s anything wrong with tattoos. But he doesn’t want me to get one. So am I going to go out and get one when he happens to be out of town? No. Why? Because I love him and I am going to respect this desire of his that I not get one. I do what he asks because I love him and I know that he loves me. He’s not asking me not to get one just to keep me under his thumb. I know he would love me even if I did get one, but it would be disappointing to him that I made this choice. And I would feel the break in our relationship.

Do I give rules to my kids and then reject them if they don’t follow them?

Will my husband stop loving me if I get a tattoo?

No. And we’re broken human beings who make mistakes.

We can be assured that God will not abandon us if we break His rules, put into place for our protection. But our disobedience is not without consequences. God’s love for us is not measured by how well we follow His rules, but our obedience can be a thermometer of how much we truly love God.

The gospel opposes earning but is not opposed to effort.

 

Images from agingwithpizzazz.com; whatisoppositionaldefiantdisorder.com; pinterest.com