Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tuesday's Top Ten [Weird Things You May Not Know About Me]

I really, really had to think about this. It was hard to come up with 10 things. I mean, I know I'm weird, but I think I'm guilty of over-thinking it...

1. I hate my widows peak. I grew up begging my mom to let me shave it off, I am ever so grateful for her laying down the law on that one. I hate it so much that I subconsciously try to conceal it - supposedly. My sister Mandy said that she put my hair in a ponytail the day of Eleanna's delivery to get it out of my face, and then I "fixed" it so it was concealed. I do not remember this, but she laughs about it to this day.

2. I have crooked pinkies. This isn't something I hate necessarily, until the pinkies overlap my ring fingers and then I have a real annoying problem.

3. I have played the clarinet since 5th grade, which is 20 years of clarinet playing. That includes 3 years of pep and concert band playing in college, which was nearly 9 years ago already. I don't get it out nearly as much as I should, but I do dust it off occasionally. And when I do, Marley howls. What's weird about this you ask (besides the Marley thing)? Well, when I was learning how to play my crooked pinkies suddenly became useful. Also, admitting that you play the clarinet subsequently lands ya as the butt of all jokes, therefore, I learned how to play the saxophone (including the baritone sax, which was as big as me), tried my hand at the piano, trumpet, but always went back to the clarinet.

4. I love to dress up. I'm not just talking about looking nice in a dress, high heels and make up (although I like to do that too) I'm talking about costumes. Costume party? I'm in and I go all out.

5. My favorite meal to eat out is breakfast. Coffee. Chocolate chips and whip cream on crepes or gooey, hot cinnamon rolls. Seriously, there isn't another meal that "allows" dessert for the main course. Did I mention the coffee?

6. My dream car is a Volkswagen bug. They are the cutest little things. I owned one for a few years. When I had a baby I realized it isn't a family friendly vehicle, so I sold it (sad face).

7. I'm a Valentine baby. My birthday is November 14. Think about it.

8. I love, love, love black licorice. Most people think that's weird.

9. I hysterically giggle at corny jokes, puns, and movies. Like The Three Amigos or What did the buffalo say to his son as he left for college? Bi-Son! (hehehehe). I could go on forever but I think I made my point.

10. I am allergic to cough medicine. As a result, I grew up taking jager shots whenever I was plagued with a cough. That explains a lot, doesn't it?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Parents: Do Not Be Afraid of the Struggles Your Children WILL Face

Think back to the moments of your life when you grew the most. I am certain those moments included difficulty. Here's a few reasons why I know this:
  • The most well known man in history struggled. The One whom Christian's adore because He struggled for us. No one can deny the fact that Jesus struggled. He was beaten beyond the recognition of a human being, He hung on a cross for 6 hours (which is an excruciating death), He endured a crown of thorns, He was betrayed, He became sin - who knew no sin, He faced the wrath of God for that sin, and He struggled more than any human in history. The Bible states quite clearly (in numerous places) that we will struggle like Him; not on the same level, but we will struggle.
  • Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, struggled significantly. Jesus said he would, "... I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." (Acts 9:16) Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned, etc. etc. It was in his writing that he teaches his audience how to face those struggles.
  • Some of the best authors in history, like F. Scott Fitzgerald, gave wisdom such as, "Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy." or C.S. Lewis, "Hardships often prepare ordinary people people for an extraordinary destiny."
  • Some of the most effective marketing techniques revolve around life's struggles. Nike, as one of many examples, knows this well with the following quote, "Success isn't given. It's earned. On the track, on the field, in the gym. With blood, sweat, and the occasional tear."
  • Song writers best sellers often revolve around life's ups and most especially our downs. They come up with words like, "Storms make trees take deeper roots." (Dolly Parton)
  • Conflict is a literary element teachers spend a significant amount of time teaching while reading literature. If a story lacks conflict, it isn't a good story. The best stories are the one's where the main character struggles, endures, perseveres, and learns. 
There is no denying the fact that everyone struggles. Your child is like every other individual on the face of the planet, including yourself.

Preparing kiddos for life is not easy, because life isn't easy. The ultimate question we should be asking ourselves as parent's is how can we prepare our children for the struggles of life? Isn't that our job as parents? To guide them through their own difficulties as they face them, or teach them using examples of hard lessons learned in our own life or in others? After all, they won't be with us forever, therefore, we are preparing them for their own home, their own job, their own life.

And the reality of life is that it's hard.

The reality is that someone is going to say or do something hurtful someday. The reality is that life is simply not fair. The reality is that they will be sick, they will cry, they will struggle. The reality is that an authority figure (boss, teacher, police officer, principal, mom, dad, etc.) is going to do something they don't like. The reality is quite simply that life has it's ups and it most definitely has it's downs. As parent's we do not have the power to take away sickness, a broken heart or bone, or fix every downer that comes their way. We do, however, have the ability to give wisdom. If we do not prepare our children for those downs we should honestly be asking if we're sufficiently preparing them for life.

In my classroom and as a coach is where I saw the effects of those kids whose parents wanted life easy for them all the time (which is one reason I was inspired this post in the first place). They were whiny when something didn't go exactly how they thought it should. If one itty bitty little "bad" thing happened - oh, the drama. Their emotions were unpredictable. They expected something without having to work for it. BUT the kids were not as bad as mommy and daddy. Mommy and daddy hovered, desperately trying to get that kid who got at their kid, or fixing a bad grade, or making "right" a "wrong" or making sure their star athlete (sigh) was starting on the A team. These parents were exhausting. Each time they entered the building teachers, administrators, and secretaries did the inner eye roll.

Don't be that parent.

I, like most parents, want what's best for my children. I want them to experience joy, happiness, play, celebrations, make traditions, learn and grow up to be productive members of society. We do not wish heartache, sickness, or conflict. Unfortunately, we cannot promise joy and happiness every second of every day. In fact, we can't even promise success according to the world's standards! It just isn't realistic and it just is not biblical. Christian or not, everyone struggles, but from this point on, that's the perspective I'm taking. In this life, in this fallen world, the Bible tells us we will be hated because we love Jesus. Time and time again the Bible teaches us how to glorify God amidst the struggles of life. So that's where I'm going to go to answer the question I know everyone is asking...

How do we prepare them for life's struggles? 
There will be times they must deal with conflict, a situation where they've been wronged, loss, hardships, and because this list could be endless where do we even start? I've been asking myself that question so much lately because my 3 year old had to go through one of those heartbreaking life's struggles that I could not fix. Three.years.old. I knew that I needed to start preparing my mama-bear-heart for the struggles to come, because they will come. But. How?
  • Talk about Jesus. Tell His story. He was beaten. He was hung on a cross. He became sin. He endured God's wrath for that sin. He What did He do? What did He say? Be like Him. "For to [suffering] you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly." 1 Peter 2:21-23
  • Explain how God uses pain. He does not waste it. He is simply using life's struggles to draw us closer to Himself. There's so much to be gained with trials and tribulations! We will be sanctified. When He disciplines (Hebrews 12:7-11) we gain righteousness. When we lack, we grow patience. When we face a problem, we become wise. When we suffer, we endure. When we endure, we build character. When we struggle, we hope in the salvation offered through Jesus Christ alone (Romans 5:3-5) In all life's struggles, we gain Him. There is no greater treasure.
  • Focus their minds on Him. When we shift our minds from the problem to the Problem Solver, we gain a God-glorifying perspective. Teach them to worship. Teach them to pray. Teach them to praise God in the midst of hardship. Tell them stories of other's who have glorified God in the midst of tragedy (example: Horatio G. Spafford who wrote the song, It Is Well With My Soul, after losing all of his children in a shipwreck). Show them the characteristics of God by reading what God has said about Himself (example: Job 38-41). Give them reason to rejoice because we have an almighty, sovereign, holy, loving, powerful God! We can give all our problems to him, "What a friend in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! Oh what peace we often forfeit, Oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer!" - Joseph Scriven's hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus
When I think about the struggles my children will face my heart aches a tad, but I want them to face trials head on, with a steady mind - set on Christ, thankful in all circumstances, and unwavering.

These tasks seem monumental until you give credit to the Holy Spirit and how He uses the seeds planted. It is your job to plant the seeds and it is His to give the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). Don't minimize the effectiveness of His job by thinking these concepts are too formidable for a child's mind. They are big, yes, but we worship a big and powerful God. That reason alone should be cause enough for us not to fear the struggles our children will face!

More reading on this subject:

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Tuesday's Top Ten [Favorite Night-Night Books]

In our household we have a slew of favorites, but here are a few we enjoy before bedtime: (I promise you'll enjoy them too!)

 A Hunting We Will Go by Steven Kellogg contains sprightly verses taking children on a bedtime adventure! A brushing we will go, a hugging we will go, a reading we will go...

 The Nuts: Bedtime at the Nut House by Eric Litwin, illustrated by Scott Magoon, is by far a family favorite. It's hilarious with it's nutty puns, song, and happy ending.

 If Animals Kissed Like We Kiss Goodnight by Ann Whitford Paul, illustrated by David Walker, is an adorable kissing comparison. My favorite? The sloths, who sloooooooowly kiss goodnight. And while all the animals give their goodnight kisses the sloths come up again and again, still kissing goodnight.

 Count Yourself to Sleep by Sue Buchanan & Lynn Hodges is a wonderful book reminding us to count our blessings before bed, giving credit to Whom credit is due: God Himself.

 Roar of a Snore by Marsha Diane Arnold, illustrated by Pierre Pratt, keeps the reader wondering, who is snoring that great big snore? Of course, you'll snore along as the characters go searching.

 Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman, tells a story of a snoring, hibernating bear who's friends join him in his lair, eventually waking him - oops!

 Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd, a classic my little Bean has enjoyed reading over and over and over again.

 Song of Night by Katie Riley Nakamura, illustrated by Linnea Riley, follows a variety of animals in their bedtime routine, each adding to the song of night.

 Kisses by Nanda Roep, illustrated by Marijke ten Cate, includes a father/daughter duo as she accepts many different types of kisses - witches kiss, butterfly kiss, circus kiss, etc. - from her daddy.

 Robot Rompus by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Ross Collins, offers comedic chaos when irresponsible parents leave robots to tend their child to bed, leaving quite the disaster.