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Posts Tagged ‘children’

img_1315For the last three plus years I have surrounded myself with kids. I’ve always enjoyed children, especially my own, but sometimes a few could really get on my nerves. Honest confession: I like kids who behave. But as I’ve grown older, I think I have more grace than when my own children were younger.

Quite a few years ago, when I helped out in a kids’ ministry to 4th-6th graders, I’d get exasperated with the kiddos who enjoyed causing turmoil. I think they felt it was their calling in life. “Let’s get Kris to lose her temper.”  And each Wednesday night, I left irritated. Now I know the Bible says to love everyone, but these little ones got on my very last nerve every week. So much for showing the love to Jesus to the world, right?

img_2090Then came a seven year hiatus, when I basically had no ministry responsibilities. I spent a lot of alone time with Jesus. Through a series of events, I felt a mindset shift in many areas. I made intentional choices to get healthy, ready my Bible, lose weight, reconnect with friends and family, take up running, explore new adventures. Somewhere in the course of that time, I fell in love with kids again…even those that used to irritate me. Of course, I don’t have involvement with those same kids from way back, but I still encounter children whose sole purpose in life is to disrupt whatever environment they are in. They’re really good at it too. But God has given me a supernatural love for them. No way could this be on my own. And on top of that, I love all the other ones too. The ones who are wild and crazy, the one whose smile lights a room, and the ones who are shy and reserved.

img_1567Every child needs to know they are valued and loved, no matter their behavior. The world they live in is turbulent and scary so I want to be a safe place for each one. A place they can go for encouragement, a hug, a prayer, maybe even a little face-to-face “what ARE you doing?” if necessary. I want them to see Jesus in all that I say and do. Occasionally I get in someone’s face to confront behavior that is unacceptable (cheating, lying, bullying are non-negotiables), but mostly I want them to really know they are loved…by me and most importantly, by God. I still make mistakes…many times. But I’m relying on the grace and mercy of God. He loves those kids more than I do!

I am blessed to be a part of the kids’ ministry at our church. We have preschool through high school as part of our Wednesday night program. This week is our last JAM (Jesus and Me) of the school year and though I’m tired, I’m sad too. Once the program is finished, I may not see some of these kids again until September, or maybe not at all.  We have such a small window of time and opportunity…make it a count. These kids are worth it!

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Daylight Saving time is tough on several groups of people:

  • Children, specifically those between birth and 13…tired, hungry and grumpy at awkward times. This is true every day for teenagers so I’m not including them.
  • Moms and Dads, because of the children mentioned above.
  • Old people, for much the same reasons as children. This age group has come to depend on a routine and losing/gaining an hour throws that out the window. The term “grumpy old man” refers to a guy the Monday after Daylight Saving Time.
  • Church attendees, and more specifically church workers, those who have to be at church at least an hour earlier than everyone else. DST always occurs in the early morning hours of Sunday which results in at least one person walking into service an hour late. And the kids’ church workers stumbling around trying to corral those children I mentioned in the first bullet point.

So my couch is calling. I’m in at least two of the above categories. Had a wonderful morning at church, worshiping, celebrating, praying, listening, eating, laughing but now I’m “verbed” out. I think the only ones left for me are napping and snuggling.

Happy Daylight Saving Day! May your naps be long and your children be merry.

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Yesterday I gave a kids’ sermon to the children at our small town church. I usually try to come up with some sort of object lesson to help the teaching stick with them. Almost always I get good feedback from the adults in the congregation because, taking a page from “what would Jesus do”, I’ve found telling stories is the best way to communicate truth about God, no matter what age I’m teaching.

toothpasteIn yesterday’s sermon, I used a tube of toothpaste. I had one of the older children squeeze out as much toothpaste as they could onto a paper plate. Then I asked him to put it all back. Of course he told me he couldn’t. None of the other children volunteered to try either, except the one smarty who told me she could with some sort of vacuum. Kudos to the problem solver. She’ll probably be an engineer some day.

The purpose of the lesson was to illustrate that speaking out without thinking is much like squeezing out that toothpaste.  Once those words are spoken, it’s almost impossible to get them back. I encouraged the kids (and the listening adults) to choose their words carefully, and if they speak hurtful or angry words, to quickly apologize. Most of us don’t realize the power we have with our words. I even told the kids their words can sometimes hurt their moms’ feelings. Yes, moms have feelings. There were a few significant looks exchanged between daughters and moms at that gem of truth.

Left that little 5-minute lesson feeling pretty good. I’d passed on some truth, encouraged kids to be kind, laughed a little over squeezed out toothpaste and sat down. This morning I got a little frustrated over some circumstances beyond my control. How did I respond? Did I remember my own sermon? Did I get all spiritual and think, “O Lord – You have prepared me for this moment. I will respond in kindness and compassion, just as Your Word teaches. I will love and honor my fellow man.”? Nope. Not even close.

I lost it. I chose (yes – it was my choice) to pass on my frustration through angry words in a conversation with one of my favorite people on the planet. It took a long walk around my city (and a cold iPhone battery leaving me with no walking music) to allow the Holy Spirit to show me my failure. And I learned a lesson of my own.

I’m not a rock star. I’m not a superhero. I’m not a great Bible teacher. I’m a flawed human being who needs the grace of God to exist in relationship with others. My pride took a hit today…and I really hope I’ve learned this lesson so I don’t have to revisit it again tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day. But I know a few things about God and I know He wants me to pass this test so I can move on to something else. So – as I’m trying to cram toothpaste back into the tube, will you give grace to those who may lose it on you today? Most everyone has a story we don’t know. Face value is rarely accurate. And, if you can think fast enough in the face of frustrations, try to choose life-affirming words. Toothpaste is a real mess to clean up.

James 3:4-6 – “It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.”

P.S. – I apologized and thankfully, I was forgiven. I think the heart emoji helped.

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Do you have a household task that you are grateful for?

Those are the words on today’s 30-days of gratitude chart. I have a very easy answer.

No.

I hate to clean.

I’ve listened to my friends talk about the stress relief of cleaning their homes top to bottom, the relaxation they receive from dusting knick knacks, vacuuming miles of carpet, scrubbing toilets, or taking a toothbrush to their shower grout. Not me.

The only stress relief I receive from cleaning is when I don’t have to do it. Which never happens so yes…I have a lot of anxiety…mostly about household tasks.

I grew up with a mother who wasn’t too concerned about keeping an immaculate house. If she told us to clean the house, we asked, “who’s coming over?” because that was really the only timCleaning_and_Babies_poeme we worried about it. Now don’t get me wrong – we didn’t live in a hovel.  The house wasn’t an episode from Hoarders (until recently, and that’s a whole other blog). My mom’s mantra was “you’ll always have a house to clean, so spend time with your kids while you have them.” Great philosophy.  I guess I inherited that gene.
I still adhere to the philosophy I bought into when I had young children: “If you want to see my house, call ahead. If you want to see me, come on over.”

I clean as much as necessary. I vacuum, dust, sweep and mop floors, scrub the tub and toilet, and occasionally, declutter my closets. But I don’t enjoy it. Ever.

If I had one household task that I had to say I was grateful for – it would be washing dishes…by hand. We’ve never had an automatic dishwasher so I’ve washed a lot of plates and glasses in the last 30 years. I started using this time to think about stuff. Nothing like a sink full of dirty dishes to get the creative juices flowing. (insert laughter). But truthfully, since no one wanted to do the dishes, I was never bothered with “Mom, can I…? or “Mom, would you…? Made for a perfect quiet time.

I came to appreciate the blessing of running water when Cedar Rapids flooded in 2008, therefore I don’t complain that I HAVE to wash dishes. I GET to wash dishes. I have clean water to drink, wash dishes, make tea, boil potatoes, whatever. So I guess I am grateful for the household task of washing dishes…though it is near the bottom of my list of things I’d like to be doing on a sunny afternoon.

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I know I am a blessed woman. I’m so grateful for the many friends I’ve made throughout my life…the many places I’ve visited…the many opportunities I’ve had to travel, work, play, serve and enjoy life. I have thousands of pictures in my head of places I’ve been, people I’ve met, and memories I’ve made.

My view of my world includes:

  • That breathlessness in my chest when I walked up the steps to see the grassy field and ivy-covered walls of Wrigley Field for the first time. I stood in quiet wonder as people swarmed in and out, beer and cotton candy vendors selling their wares. Definitely a forever picture.
  • The magnificence of El Capitan and Half Dome,Half_Dome_distance the gurgling waters of streams rolling through the forests, the blackened trunks of burnt pine trees, and the awe-inspiring heights of sequoia trees – all this kept me snapping almost 400 iPhone photos on my week’s vacation visiting my first national parks.
  • Looking out my plane window to see the Grand Canyon spread out in all its glory below me. What a great view I had from 15,000 feet! Couldn’t get a stamp for my new national park passbook, but I should did get a pretty good picture!Phoenix_race
  • The view of the finish line as I ran the last hundred yards of my half-marathon relay with my brother in Phoenix, holding hands over our heads as the emotion of the moment overwhelmed me.

Also:

  • My first glimpse of my nervous bridegroom waiting for me at the end of the church aisle.
  • Crying as I hold my first-born son in my arms after a very traumatic labor and delivery, his brown eyes staring up at me.
  • My throat closed with emotion as I hold my second-born son, after his non-emergency C-section turned into a few anxious moments….once again, looking into sleepy deep brown eyes.
  • Looking out over my classmates during our high school graduation in that little gym in Durand many years ago, excited to think that my life was about to change forever but having no idea how much.
  • The indescribable views from the top of the Arch in St. Louis, the pinnacle of the Washington Monument, the basket of a hot air balloon, the viewing platform at the summit of Pikes Peak and tramway ride up to the crest line of the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico.Sean_strech
  • Some of my favorite moments are just normal, everyday sights…like looking out my kitchen window while I did the dishes, watching my kids play in our backyard. Or the misty view of David’s back as he heads off on one of his many trips to places around the world. Or recognizing Sean’s signature stretch before he steps into the batter’s box.Grandpa_boys_lawnmower Or looking through our bookcase for a naptime story. Or watching my dad take his grandkids for rides on the John Deere lawnmower.

But my favorite view and the one for which I’m most grateful is my view forward…into the continuing journey I have ahead of me. It isn’t always clear but I know it will be full of fun and adventure. I don’t regret any of my past experiences but I desire to be intentional in looking ahead…always onward!

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Sean and David 1

Parenting is hard.

In fact, the actual act of giving birth is the easiest part. Once those big brown (or green or blue) eyes look into your soul and those little fingers get a grip around your heart, you are toast. And the pressure to be everything they need is overwhelming. It’s really the hardest and longest battle of any parent’s life ~ the battle to let them go.

It starts around age two. Some call it the “terrible 2s” – not sure why – just because my beautiful compliant baby has now learned the word “no” and refuses to wear clothes in public?

We work so hard to help our kids learn right from wrong. We teach them colors and numbers and letters…we listen and love…doing fractions homework and science fair projects…agonizing together through middle school, watching them struggle, succeed, struggle, succeed, over and over and over.

This parenting gig is gut-wrenching.

High school – late nights listening for the garage door to open or the text to ping. Meeting new friends… people of both genders passing through your living room. You pray the lessons on purity and kindness and integrity are being lived out away from your watchful eyes. Attending the “last” of anything brings out the waterworks – last band concert, last baseball game, last youth group, last family vacation, last Christmas together in one house.

That empty nest feels like a staycation…for about a week. Then the house is too quiet, the bedroom too picked up, the laundry basket and kitchen sink too empty.

It is not easy…releasing the chick to fly on his own. And now I know – releasing would be easier if you absolutely knew they would never encounter any obstacles.

So I sit and pray…listen and love…give advice only when asked but trusting always in the wisdom that only the Holy Spirit can give…to me and to him.

He must face life now, somehow without the seat belt we buckled him in 20+ years ago. The pressure on him is intense…pressure that I know can crush. If I didn’t trust in the only One who loves him more than I do, I would be lost. He faces struggles unknown – financial, emotional, mental – as all of us do in this life journey. The adventure which was once exhilarating is now lonely and dark and fraught with danger and shadows. Fear of failure threatens him – broken dreams and battered promises line his path. He must now rely on his own faith journey, without me or his dad as a buffer.

Parenting never gets easier. A pattern never develops. There is no book that has all the answers (even the Bible couldn’t help me with the “why won’t he wear clothes?” question).

I’ve gone from parent to teacher to coach to cheerleader with stints as referee here and there. Just when you think you’ve got it, you either have another kid who is the polar opposite or the first one changes personality and temperament overnight.

My husband and I pray every morning that our kids make good choices, that doors will open and doors will close, that they would be salt and light wherever they go, that they would have favor and financial provision and wisdom. Always wisdom. May they have the courage they need to fight each battle with bravery and conviction. And that they would never give up on themselves or their dreams.

I’ll pray the same for you today…as you parent your children. We love these little bundles of joy and heartache ~ may you be armed with strength and courage, love and kindness, hope and long-suffering. May the Holy Spirit guard your mind from doubt and give you wisdom for the darkest nights and brightest days ahead.

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