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Well Check Your Heart

This post is part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for just 5 minutes on a one-word prompt without heavy editing and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “well.”

All parents know the drill. Every few months of a new baby’s life, they go to the pediatrician for a “well check.” This would be as opposed to a “sick visit.” At our pediatrician’s office, and I’m guessing at most similar offices, there are two separate waiting rooms for the well and the sick.

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As a parent, I was always grateful for that. I wish there was such a thing at an adult doctor’s office!

But I digress.

At these well checks, height and weight would be recorded, lungs and heart listened to, eyes, ears, nose and throat checked. The doctor just wanted to make sure that everything was progressing as it should in our babies.

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When our second was 4 months old, the doctor noted at his well check that he wasn’t gaining enough weight. That led to the dreaded “failure to thrive” diagnosis. He was thriving as far as we could see, doing all that he was supposed to be doing, but we had to do all this testing to rule out anything bad. Turns out—and his doctor figured this the whole time—my milk just didn’t have enough calories.

So we supplemented with formula and he was fine. So when the same thing happened at our youngest’s 4-month appointment, we didn’t have to go through the tests. We just started giving her rice cereal.

I was thankful for their doctor, and I was thankful for those well checks. It was always good to know that, for the most part, everything was going just fine.

Have you well-checked your heart lately? Listened to it? Checked its pulse? Determined that it’s staying soft?

20120722-083057.jpgPsalm 139:23 & 24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

That’s a very good place to start.

 

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Help! I Have A Teenager!

Today’s post is a part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. I write for 10 minutes, give or take, without any heavy editing, on a one-word prompt. Today’s prompt is “teenagers.”

People tend to think that parenting teenagers is pretty scary. It can be, if you’re not prepared for what you might encounter.

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For me, preparation for parenting teens started when they were born.

I mean, it makes sense, doesn’t it? If you are a constant source of rules and punishment and harshness when they are little, the rebellion they are going to feel when they are beginning to spread their wings and figure out what they are capable of will be greater. But if you are there to build a relationship with them, give them solid boundaries and are a safe place for them to process, then the likelihood of constant turmoil in your household will be diminished.

OK, stop right there. I’m going to make a big statement right now.

There are no guarantees. Your kids’ decisions are their decisions. All the best parenting you think you’re doing may not be enough to keep them from making stupid and life-altering choices.

Just like us, our kids are endowed by their Creator with free will. So don’t think that if your child starts down a path of destruction that the fault is yours. If you have been doing the best you can and leaving the results to God, then you have a clear conscience. Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes.

Maybe I let me baby cry in his crib too long when I was wanting him to take a nap. Maybe that’s why he chose to walk away from a path of faith.

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Maybe the time I yelled at my daughter for not doing something I had asked her to do made her try to find friends who would tell her what she wanted to hear, but ultimately led her into a destructive lifestyle.

We can second guess ourselves all day long, but in the end, we do our best to love our kids and bring them up to love and serve the Lord, but they ultimately have to decide how they want to live.

The greatest lesson I’ve learned over the past couple of years is that prayer is absolutely essential. And so is community. If my kids make bad choices, I can’t carry the burden of their behavior. To be able to share what’s going on in vulnerability and safety with close friends is life giving instead of life draining. I only have one teenager left in my house. In three and a half years, she’ll be 20. It’s been quite a roller-coaster ride, but God has been faithful as always.

FledgeI recommend a few books for those of you in the throes of raising teens.

  1. Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind, by Brenda Yoder. This book was definitely life giving to me as Yoder said, “We are not called to raise godly children, we are called to be godly parents.”
  2. Parenting Today’s Adolescent: Helping Your Child Avoid the Traps of the Preteen and Teen Yearsby Dennis and Barbara Rainey. It’s been many years since I read this book (it was written in 2002), but from what I remember about it, the principles were solid, #1 being have a close relationship with God yourself. Seems to echo the “be a godly parent” quote from above.
  3. Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teensby Paul David Tripp. Again, it’s been many years since I read this book written in 2001, and I can’t find my copy (I probably loaned it out to some parent of teens), but I remember most that Tripp talked about not being afraid. Of using every opportunity you have with your kids to build relationship. I do hesitate a bit on recommending something with a subtitle like “a biblical guide,” but I don’t remember this book being a “do this and get that” type of thing.

For me, the bottom line is that we are trusting God to keep writing our kids’ stories—and our stories as well. Our goal should be heart change, not behavior change, and only God can change hearts.

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Strong Willed Or Resolute?

This post is a part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. I take a one-word prompt that a friend has supplied and write for 10 minutes without any heavy editing and see what comes out of my head. Today’s word is “strong-willed.”

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When people hear the term “strong willed,” they probably jump to the idea of a strong-willed child. Oh, you know how hard they can be! They are stubborn, obstinate, tantrum throwers when they don’t get their way. There has to be special books written about how to parent them.

Nobody has ever seen a book called Parenting the Compliant Child. We think that would be easy.

But what if we started looking at being strong willed in its positive form? What if instead of being obstinate, these people were considered resolute?

I think about Jesus who resolutely set His face toward the cross. I would say His will was very strong.

Trouble is, I know with kids who are considered strong willed, their will is usually against whatever it is their parents want them to do. I didn’t have a strong-willed child, so I don’t have any parenting advice, but I wonder if a mindset change could make a difference.

Can a 3-year-old be reasoned with?

“You sure seem to have your mind made up about what you want to have for lunch. It’s too bad we’re not having that today. I wonder what we can do about that?”

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Makes me chuckle to imagine it.

I know the struggle is real, you parents of strong-willed children out there. So I would just like to offer hope. It won’t come immediately, in fact, it may take them into their 20s to figure it out, but your resolute child could be one who has great perseverance. Once they’ve made up their mind, they go after that thing with gusto.

Think about Jesus. When he was 12 he was left behind in Jerusalem because he was sitting in the temple teaching the men there. Teaching! At 12 years old. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).

He knew what He needed to do, and He did it. Now, granted, He was the perfect Son of God, but what lessons can be learned from His life about being resolute?

Huge differences with our kids, I know that. But I think it’s not just a sin nature that is at play. Guiding a child to submitting their will to that of their parents is an arduous process. Parents have no easy task figuring out how to mold their child without crushing them.

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I don’t envy them the task.

But a compliant child also needs to be molded. They need to know that they have a mind of their own and that God has a plan for them. Every whim of someone else doesn’t need to be followed. It’s not a bad thing to question directives in the right manner and at the right time.

Does that make sense? We don’t want our compliant children to become doormats that others use to get what they want. And I think as parents we need to be careful to make sure our kids have a voice. Can compliance become apathy? Can these children become people pleasers?

I’m not a psychologist, so these are just rambling thoughts. But I do wonder.

I’d love to hear what you think.

There’s A Place For Us

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for five minutes on a one-word prompt, without heavy editing, and see what we come up with. Today’s prompt is “place.”

In the last month or so, we have been in the process of wondering where our second son is going to live next year for college. We are in the same city as his university, but he has lived on campus his first two years. The university has a housing lottery, however, and this time, his name was not chosen to have on-campus housing in the Fall.

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So, we waited until the second drawing and then when his name still wasn’t picked, we knew we would have to seek another place. He could always come home, but his financial aid covers housing, and the daily drive + parking madness would not be ideal for him. And lo and behold, even University affiliated off-campus housing would be cheaper than the dorm he’s in now.

So on Wednesday he and I set out to tour apartment complexes. Wow, are these places ever nicer than the one I lived in when I was in college.

We settled on one that is affiliated with the university and we signed the lease yesterday. It’s nice to know that he’ll have a place to live near campus in the Fall. Who he will live with is still up in the air.

All this got me thinking about how much comfort we find in having a place to call our own. We know at the end of a long day, or after a vacation, we can come home. Ideally, that place is safe, restful, comfortable, peaceful.

I’m not ignorant enough to believe that everyone’s home is this way. I know there is strife, noise, clutter. And I also know that there are so very many who have no place they can call home at all.

I’m so grateful that, eventually, I will be able to call heaven my home.

No more tears. No more sadness. No more sickness.

Indeed, as the children’s song goes, “Heaven is a wonderful place.”

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A Rare Moment In Time and Space

This post is part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. I write for 10 minutes with no heavy editing on a 1-word prompt. Today’s word is “gaze.”

Sunday night was a super blood wolf moon, which, to my untrained self, meant January’s full moon (wolf), that was going to appear bigger and brighter because the moon was at its closest point to Earth during the month (super) and there would be a total eclipse making it look red (blood).

I think I got that right.

I didn’t even attempt pictures this year. This is from March 2011

Anyway, my astronomy-loving son was home from college for the long weekend, and we were looking forward to watching it together, late though it would be on the East Coast. We also had my 1-year-old grandson with us, but he should be soundly sleeping at that hour.

Or so I thought.

Turns out, just when things were getting interesting with the eclipse, baby Zayne woke up crying. When this has happened in the past at this point in his sleep cycle, calming him and then putting him down to go back to sleep didn’t work. But I figured he should be picked up by his parents soon and would be on his way home before the totality of the eclipse occurred.

Again, or so I thought.

As I held Zayne and he slept in my arms, the clock kept up its unrelenting march across time, and I saw my opportunity to watch this rare phenomenon in person slip away.

And then I gazed at Zayne.

His breathing steady, his little breath ever so slightly whistling through his tiny nose. And I marveled. And I thanked God that I had this opportunity to be with Zayne. Eclipses and wolf moons and super moons would all come around again, but there would be only one Zayne. Only one January 20th, 2019, when I could hold him and rock him and let him sleep.

I ended up being able to see the moon just past totality as my eldest son came and picked up Zayne a little after midnight. So I stood in the front yard while my younger son pointed out some stars that he had been able to identify and we shivered as we gazed at that marvelous night sky with that bright, blood red moon.

And I rejoiced.

Yes, the glory of God can be seen when we gaze at the heavens, but He is right there when we gaze at the face of one made in His image.

Curious About Curiosity

This post is part of my 10-minute Tuesday collection. Today is Wednesday, I know, I know, but yesterday got away from me. So today’s prompt is the word “curiosity.” Written in 10 minutes, no big edits, just free flow writing. Here we go.

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Besides killing the cat, what else does curiosity do?

As a journalist for many years, I was expected to be curious about people. I was going to be writing their stories, after all. I found in that job that I wasn’t a very curious person. I like people, and I liked listening to their stories, but I wasn’t very good at asking questions.

Kids are instinctively curious. Spend some time around a 3-year-old, and you will figure that out pretty quickly. Why? Why do I have to go to bed? Why does the dog drink his water that way? Why does the cat lick herself? Why do I have to eat my peas?

And then it gets harder. Why do I have to learn algebra? I’m never going to need it in real life! haha I’ve heard that plenty of times.

Answering our kids questions to the best of our ability will help ensure that they maintain that curiosity throughout their lives. If they are shut down, they will stop asking questions. Can it get tiring? You bet. But a gentle answer about maybe how that question can be answered another time might help.

I’m a big tech fan. I love using my computer and my smart phone, my iPad and my Apple Watch. But I’m only slightly curious as to how they work, whereas I have a son who will take things apart to figure out how they work. I have another son who read copious amounts about nature and animals, and he is our go-to person when we have a question about a species or geography or things like that. I also have a daughter who is attuned to people and likes to know what makes them tick.

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Curiosity leads to creativity, it seems to me. Curious people say, “If we could put these things together in a certain way, I wonder what would happen.” Creating new recipes, or works of art, or works of literature, all these have an element of curiosity in them. I was recently part of a conversation about writing fiction, and one of the principles the authors agreed upon was that being a people watcher was important to building good characters in your writing. Being curious about what they’re like and what their stories are will help you create a believable world.

I have an 11-month-old grandson who is not yet talking, but we’re gearing up for the “why” stage. I hope that I am able to have all the patience I need to feed his curious nature so that his creativity can grow strong.

Oh, and the second part of that old saying I started with? Curiosity killed the cat? But satisfaction brought it back!

 

Parenting By Osmosis

This post is part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. Today the prompt is “osmosis.” Let’s see what I can do with that.

IMG_0191My 11-month-old grandson is getting about by himself these days, so we’re having to be more vigilant in the hours that we take care of him. One of the things he loves to do is check on our parakeets in their cage. And by “checking” I mean banging repeatedly on the side and squealing when they move about.

I know that loud noises like that are not good for the birds, so I am constantly having to tell him to be gentle. But I know that just saying “gentle” isn’t going to get the point across since he doesn’t know what the word means. So I take his hand and put it softly on the side of the cage while saying, “Gentle, Zayne, you need to be gentle with the birdies.”

As soon as I remove my hand, bang! bang! bang! He’s at it again. So I need to move him from near the cage to some other activity.

LLIW+lRCRBSRCaKubl4MWQThe same goes with the cats. One of his favorite things to do is put his head down on their soft fur and stick his thumb in his mouth, using them as living pillows. Again, we say, “be gentle, Zayne,” but we also know that the cats have the ability to run away if they’re not happy with how they’re being treated.

I know, though, that I can’t just sit on the couch and tell Zayne to be gentle. He’s not going to get the idea simply through osmosis. His learning is going to have to be hands on training. So I sit with him and guide him, knowing that at just 11 months old, he’s not going to completely grasp the concepts I’m trying to teach him. It will take time.

But we can go through a lot of parenting that way. If we say it often enough, our kids will just get it. Somehow, their brains will be able to assimilate the information simply by hearing it over and over.

“Improve your attitude!”

What’s an attitude?

“You need to show more respect!”

What’s respect?

“Be more careful!”

What’s being careful?

I asked my 19-year-old the other day when we were playing with Zayne if he remembered everything he didn’t know when he was Zayne’s age. Obviously, the question was not serious, and his answer of, “Um, I don’t think that’s how it works,” acknowledged that, but the point remains. Unless we are training our children, they’re not just going to suddenly understand what we mean.

We see that every day with Zayne, and we need to understand that others in our world—and we ourselves—don’t simply learn by osmosis, but by hands-on, down-on-the-floor with them training.

After all, haven’t we always heard that actions speak louder than words?