August 2011


Who doesn’t appreciate a good sense of humor?  Who doesn’t enjoy a good, hearty laugh.  Who doesn’t envy (at least just a little bit) the guy or gal who has that quick wit?  I know I do.

Humor is powerful.  Humor is a gift from God.  Humor can be amazingly effective it diffuse tense situations – especially as a mom.

I am (slowly) learning to effectively implement humor in ways that bring correction without escalating the situation.

Just a few minutes ago at lunch today my girls were sitting next to each other.  Annabella whines, “Abigail just wiped spit on me.”  I looked at Abigail and could tell she was guilty of something, but it isn’t like her to wipe spit – Annabella would be more likely the culprit of that crime.  Abigail confirmed that she did not wipe spit on her sister, it was sauce.  [ahh, much better.  sauce]

What to do?  It was all in good fun, kind of.  Abigail knows better.  No one is hurt.  No one is crying.  Abigail was unkind, Annabella is prone to get upset easily and could quickly turn to crying.  The offense does need to be addressed, but how?

“That’s so she can eat you later when your sleeping.”

Smiles all around.  Annabella – the offended – laughs.  Abigail’s guilty/scared face fades away as she sees that Mama isn’t going to berate her, and she smiles.  Even the 2-year-old thought it was quite funny.

With everyone laughing, I’m able to remind Abigail that she wasn’t kind (which she already knows).  She is able to hear and receive the correction without her pride getting in the way.  A melt-down is averted (always a good thing), and I get to pretend I’m so witty for a few moments.

Problem solved.

 

 

How many times have one of my children asked me a question that could have been answered with a yes just as easily as a no? How many times do I simply say ‘no’ because it’s easier, because I’m too tired to actually listen, because a baby is screaming and I cannot listen?

Far too many times.

My oldest has a tremendous ability to find the worst possible time to ask me such questions – as soon as my eyes open in the morning. As soon as will pull into the driveway as I am mentally running through all the people and things that need to be brought into the house. Right before the daily post lunch quiet time when I have already mentally checked out, etc.

I don’t do well when I’m hungry, and I don’t do well when I’m tired. The result is a simple question such as, “Mom, can we watch Dora” and a response that is a grumpy NO. I sin in anger and the questioner usually sins in response to my sin with her own anger and disrespect, thus creating a sinful downward spiral of civility.

So I’ve instituted what I call the “10 minute rule” with my kids — mainly with child #1. When I am asked a question at a time when I will not give it a fair answer, I say, “I need 10 minutes. In 10 minutes I will ask you, ‘okay, what did you need to ask me?’ fair enough?”

This has been so very helpful. It lets he know that I understand she has a request and that I will get to that request, but also lets her know that I need a few minutes to gather myself. If she asks in that moment, she will automatically get a ‘no’ response, so it is in her best interests to wait.

There has been considerably less friction over the past few weeks as I have begun to use this 10-minute rule.

If this is something you struggle with at times, I challenge you to create your own 5-minute rule, or 10-minute rule…or whatever length of time you generally need to regroup.

For the first time in over 5 years I will have more than a few hours to myself…well, mostly to myself. Our youngest (4 months) will be with me, but even still, I’m excited.  A good friend from my Penn days is getting married this weekend, and I will be flying down to NC (along with 4-month-old Austin) to be there for the event.  I am super-duper excited for her wedding, and for my time away.

Initially it was going to be a lovely romantic getaway for hubby and me, but he was not able to get off of work, so I’ll have to settle for a weekend away with the other man in my life.

As the days draw near my excitement grows.  I love my kids.  I love being home with them, watching them do their silly things, teaching them, playing with them, etc.  But I am very much looking forward to some time away, and thanks for a wonderful and brave friend who loves my children, and will be taking them for the weekend, I will have that time away.

3 days.  3 full days.  Enough time to catch my breath from the demands of being a mama, and probably enough time to be missing them like crazy, eager to get home.

At first there was a hint of guilt at the thought of leaving them behind…but I’m over that. I am hopeful that my mini-retreat will bring back a renewed and refreshed mama.

 

Going into this parenting thing, I was very determined to NOT raise a self-centered child.  I was not going to allow my children to believe or act as if the world revolved around them, or as if Mom, Dad or siblings existed to serve them.  Thus far, I think I have done a fairly consistent job in this area.  In being so diligent, however, I think I may have fallen into a ditch on the other side.

The world does not revolve around them, as they are not mini-gods.  However neither does the world revolve around me.  In ensuring that my children do not become self-centered, I may have created an environment that is me-centered.

‘No, I will not fill up your water for dinner when you are completely capable of doing so yourself and I have finally sat down for the first time in 3 hours.’

BUT:

‘Abigail, can you get me the wipes for your brother?’

So if they are not the center of the home, and I’m not the center of the home, who is the center of the home?  The culture of our home should be centered around Christ.  But what exactly does that mean?

Well, one thing that means is self-sacrifice and service to others should be the theme in our interactions.

I do not want the children to think that mom = maid, but I do want them to see that mom is willing to serve them in appropriate ways, so that they learn to serve each other.

That can be a tough balance.

Mrs. Duggar has been helpful in this regard.  I am trying to teach the kiddies that we put Jesus first, Others second and Yourself last.  That Jesus desires us to have a servant’s heart, and to think of our brothers and sisters before we think about ourselves. To fill up their water bottle before we fill up our own.  To take joy in the opportunity to selflessly help others.

So how do I do this without giving them a mixed message that mom exists to meet their every wish and desire?

I’m still working on that answer, but I suppose it involves selfishly serving, leading by example, while trusting Christ to do His work in their hearts.

 

I tend to be a punctual person.  If something starts at 10am, I am there at 9:45.  I strongly and fervently dislike being late.  As a result, my philosophy is that if I’m always early, I’ll never be late.

Have I mentioned that I tend to be punctual.

I had a good friend in college who was the opposite.  He was always late.  You were supposed to meet at 12pm for lunch, he’d show up at 12:20pm, maybe.  It drove me NUTS.

Even today, with 4-kids in tow, I still strive to be early – and usually achieve that goal. Especially for church functions.

Come Sunday morning, I am determined to get to church on-time, at all costs. Recently, I have recognized that the ‘at all costs” is far too great.  My desire for punctuality can rise to the level of idolatry if I am not careful.

There have been days when my desire to get to church on time has led me to be impatient with my children.  In my impatience, I have at times been harsh and unkind.  I have exalted punctuality over civility, thus perverting true godly character.  In my over-zealous desire to be punctual, I have forfeited the greater joy of patiently, lovingly, leading my children.

So, next time we are cutting it close, next time it seems we may not quite make it on time, I am prayerful that I will respond with graciousness.  I am prayerful that I will be able to laugh at the last minute diaper explosion, or the lost shoe, or the temper tantrum.  I am prayerful that I will remember that God has ordained even those delays, and is giving me a chance to grow in grace and godly character.

One of my goals as a mother is to teach my children to obey:

1. right away, 2. all the way, and 3. with a happy heart.

It’s a lofty goal, and we often fall short, but it is the goal nonetheless.

I expect them to obey without asking, ‘but why?’  I expect them to obey quickly.  When the speed of their obedience is lacking, I sometimes ask, ‘how quickly would you do that task if you knew I was going to give you a candy bar.’  Not surprisingly, there is a difference.

They are children, I am mom…I owe them no explanation for anything they are told to do…BUT…I have come to realize that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t sometimes share with them my reasoning.

I have come to see that while they do need to learn to obey, with or without any justification, I don’t have to create more difficulty to the already difficult task of obedience.  Their sinful little hearts will rebel plenty to provide the opportunity for correction.  So for the times when it isn’t an issue of danger or immediacy, it may be a-okay to give an explanation along with my instruction.  And, when I offer that explanation along with the instruction, it disarms their natural tendency to question or complain.

So kiddies, finish up your breakfast so we can clean up the house before we head to the park.

A while back my Dad to church with me and the kids.  He suffers from dementia, and taking him for a half a day gave my mom and brother a bit of a break.  It was good for the grandkids to have some time with their Pop, and I got to hang out with Dad.  My brother thought it would be good for my dad to spend some time with us and hoped that he would find church ‘inspirational.’

That got me thinking…should church be inspirational?

I don’t think it’s an easy ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

As a believer, I attend church each week to worship my Lord, to fellowship with the family of God, to be fed by the Word.  I hope to be convicted and challenged, exhorted and encouraged.  In a way, I suppose I hope to be inspired, although that is not the word I would use.  But not in the worldly, ‘you can do it if you put your mind to it’ way.  I hope to be inspired to live a godly life and to trust in the promises of God.

My dad is an unbeliever.  Should church inspire him in some way?  I think not.  It seems to me that an unbeliever should have one of two responses when attending a Bible believing, Bible preaching church.  They should be convicted in a way that brings them to repentance, or it should convict them in a way that angers them.

See, the Word tells us that the cross is a stumbling block for unbelievers (1 Peter 2:8). It is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor 1:18).  Christ crucified is not some feel good, inspirational message.  It is an offensive message.  It tells us that we are wicked sinners in need of forgiveness.  To an unrepentant sinner, that ought to cause offense. To a sinner who recognizes his or her sin and comes to repentance, then the message of the cross is the most unbelievable, life changing message ever heard.  With either response, it doesn’t qualify as ‘inspirational.’

So if our church services inspire our unbelieving guests, we may need to rethink how we are ‘doing church.’