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Archive for December, 2011

Mark 8:22: “They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.”   

About a month ago our littlest one developed croup.  He has not been sick since before his first birthday, so he does not really remember what it feels like to feel bad.  So, from Friday night through Tuesday, the only comfort he wanted, especially at night, was to lay in my arms.  The only way he was able to rest peacefully was with his head securely tucked underneath mine, wrapping his little arm up around my chin onto my cheek.  Then he would fall soundly asleep until morning, coughing intermittently. 

One could say it was the angle his body was in that allowed him to sleep so well during the night but I choose to believe it was the power of physical touch that brought him the comfort he craved, allowing his body to relax enough to start the healing process. 

All my children have been that way.  They have reached for my hand from the back seat when they were upset during a car ride, crawled up on my lap after having a bad day, or even just walked into my open arms for a loving embrace “just because.”  Those have been ways that I have been able to communicate to them, without words, how much they truly matter. 

It does not matter their age, either.  I need to remember that my preteen still needs physical touch as much as my elementary school aged and toddler do, whether or not it is asked for. 

As important as physical touch is in a family, it is just as important to those that are hurting.  How many times have you been with a friend who is suffering a loss or tragedy in their lives and find yourself at a loss for words?  Sometimes reaching over and touching their hand, enveloping them in a hug, or just sitting with them helps to ease the pain more than anything you can say.  Sometimes your presence is enough to comfort, to offer hope, to let someone know you care.

So today, as I am reminded by how significant a role touch plays on our lives, let us all remember that when someone is hurting, sometimes words are inadequate, but touch is still very powerful.  That gentle pressure of your hand may make all the difference in the world to ease someone else’s pain.

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Taste Test, Anyone?

Psalm 119:103: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

Some people love salty snacks; others crave “to die for” sweets.  Some hate sweets altogether and prefer only organic, natural fruits and vegetables.  Every one of us was created with unique taste buds and preferences for certain foods and combinations of foods.  Some people love to eat while others find it an annoyance that they have to put up with in order to stay alive. 

Who does not enjoy watching a child try a new food for the very first time?  The faces they make, the pleasure they get when they find their “favorite food,” and the tricks of the trade they learn (usually from older siblings) to get out of eating certain foods are all quite entertaining.  Our last child is our best eater, willing to try most anything.  However, he went through a phase around one year of age where he would just look at a particular food and gag.  It was quite a sight, but thankfully did not last very long.  Then he went through another phase where he would eat veggies mixed together and mashed but not if served whole, separately. 

I love that God created our bodies with the ability to experience pleasure in our food.  That can be a curse and a blessing, but today I am choosing to focus on it being a blessing.  Life would be so boring if everything was tasteless.  God could have decided we, as humans, were not worth the trouble to create taste buds.  If there was no variety, think of the effortlessness of shopping. 

However, God loves us much more than that.  Like He did with nature, God created a unique blends of flavors and textures to enrich and enhance our eating experience.  The crunch of an apple; the firm-on-the-outside, juicy middle of a grape or cherry tomato; the rich bold flavor of steak cooked medium well on the grill combined with the flavor of onions; or the rich cream swirling in a cup of freshly brewed coffee.   

Today, while you eat, take time to really savor each bite, remembering that God created this food for your pleasure.  Not to take the place of God in your life but for you to thoroughly enjoy.  If you are adventurous, maybe you will try something new.  If you like the familiar, maybe you will dig out a family favorite recipe that you have not made for years.  Whatever the occasion, do not forget to thank the One who created the various blends of what is going into your mouth instead of focusing only on the pleasure of the food itself.

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Philippians 4:18: “…They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.”

What is enjoyable for one person to smell may be a turnoff for someone else.  I personally enjoy the smell of brewing coffee, salt mixed with sand at the beach, anything over 100 calories with chocolate in it baking in the oven, or soup simmering on a cold, winter day.  Some people enjoy a certain scent of perfume while others are incredibly allergic and one whiff can cause a fit of sneezing or itchy, watery eyes. 

God made all of us very unique in what smells we like and dislike.  However, one thing we all have in common and that is the power of smell.  Like the sense of hearing, certain smells trigger certain feelings.  Did you know that a newborn baby recognizes his mother by her scent and the sound of her voice from birth?  Nobody can calm a newborn baby the way his own mother can.  She is that familiar to him, having housed his growing body for nine months. 

Today, instead of just noticing new smells, why not try and remember old familiar, well-loved smells, taking time to think back to the memories that they create? 

For me, certain flavors of coffee take me back to a particular period of my life.  The smell of lavender mixed with lemon reminds me this past summer with my family.  Freshly laundered clothes instantly make me relaxed and calm. 

Enjoy the scents of the past and maybe you will discover new memories with new scents in the process.

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Do You Hear What I Hear?

I Corinthians 2:9:  “However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him -”

I love all kinds of music.  My favorites include all Christmas carols, contemporary Christian music, Jim Brickman, jazz…well, you get the idea.  How many of us can hear a particular song and be transported back in time to when we first heard it? 

What about hearing “I love you” whispered by the one who loves you unconditionally, or the first time your little one says “Momma?”

I am so thankful for the sounds that God allows us to enjoy through nature too:  Water trickling over rocks, the roar of a waterfall or waves crashing on the beach, crickets to lull me to sleep through the summer night, a gentle soothing rain, and birds chirping in the springtime snowstorm letting me know that warmer weather is indeed coming despite the story the weather tells. 

Today, take time to really listen to the sounds around you.  Appreciate the words spoken to you by family and friends, making sure the words you respond with or greet each other with are soft and heartfelt.  Really listen to the sounds that God created in His beautiful world solely for our enjoyment.  I know that I do not want to ever take my hearing for granted either.

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What is that I See?

Psalm 19:1: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

A beautiful sunrise, a baby’s first smile, the sun shining through trees against a backdrop of newly fallen snow, the multi colors of autumn leaves, the different shades of green mixed together in the summertime trees, leaves, and grass, the way the sun reflects off a lake or the way waves ripple in the wind, the way the stars twinkle at night or the way the harvest moon lights up the sky…These are just a few of the different sights that I am so thankful I get to experience. 

My children and I have a ritual.  When we are waiting outside for the school bus very early in the morning, we love to look for the sunrise.  It is usually different every morning – a different shade of pink or yellow or a combination of colors mixed together, clouds on some days but not others, and so forth.  We always stop and thank God for his beautiful art work that feels like it is made just for us.  Even our littlest one, who still does not talk very much, knows how to say, “Thank you, God.”  We even have our neighbor adding to our adventure.  One morning he pointed out a beautful spider web that was spun during the night from our ornamental grass up to the electric wire.  I missed it entirely but when he showed it to us, I was amazed with how a spider could spin such a delicate, intricate web. 

For me, it is hard not to stop and look at nature without praising and thanking God for all the beautiful colors, different shades, and gorgeous designs that He has created just for our benefit.  Really, if He had chosen to make the world in black and white, would we have known any differently?  I think to myself, if Earth is this beautiful, how much better will Heaven be some day with its colors and different varieties?

So, today, I challenge you to look at the world a little differently.  Take time to notice the small things – the different varieties of flowers, the different shades of green in trees, or how the cardinals and blue jays look with a backdrop of trees or snow.  And please do not forget to thank God for caring enough about us to take the time to create beauty just for our enjoyment.

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Luke 2:17-18: “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday of the year.  I feel very blessed because most holidays are celebrated for one day, but Christmas extends from the day after Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day for most families, including too much food and too many presents but usually also lots of time spent with family, lots of laughter, and the making of shared memories.

As much as I enjoy all of the above, some of it too much, that is not what Christmas itself really means to me.  I would like to take today, a few days before Christmas, to really share with all of you a glimpse into my heart.

Christmas means to me what it does because of whom I choose to have a relationship with.  I do not consider myself to be a religious person.  I consider myself blessed to have a personal relationship with the God of the Universe.  He is the only God in history who continues to be alive and who truly cares about the intimate details of my life.  I have a peace knowing that whatever good things happen to me are because of blessings He gives to me.  I also have faith knowing that nothing will happen in my life that He does not already know about and that whenever heartache or sadness does occur, He has the ability to help me grow and mature and then to possibly bless others through that pain.  I can walk with confidence in life knowing that I have a relationship with the One who is in charge of the world – how’s that for being friends with someone who has a lot of power? 

A lot of people blame God for all the bad things that happen in life, but God is a God of love.  Where there is the opposite of love, that is who should correctly get the blame for the evil in this world.  God did not design the world to be full of evil, but He also gave free will which allowed sin to enter into the picture. 

The amazing and wonderful thing about the God I choose to have a personal relationship with is that He does not show favoritism.  As intimately as He cares about me and my love of wildflowers, hikes in the woods, and spending time with my family, He also cares about you and your interests, passions, and desires.  The incredible part is that He is waiting and willing and wanting to have that personal relationship with you also.  As I have said before, though, He is a true gentleman and will not push Himself on anyone.  He is waiting for that invitation from you to share in that personal relationship. 

So, as you get ready to celebrate Christmas this weekend, hopefully with lots of family traditions, laughter, fun, and probably too much food, I have one question for you…Are you celebrating a ritual or are you ready for a relationship? 

Merry Christmas from me to you…Thank you for letting me share a little bit of my heart with you today.

 

 

 

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“True friendship, according to the Bible, involves loyalty, sacrifice, compromise, and yes, emotional attachment” (GotQuestions.org). 

“It’s been said that everlasting friends go periods of time without speaking and never question their friendship.  These friends pick up phones like they just spoke yesterday, regardless of how long it has been or how far away they live, and they don’t hold grudges.  They understand that life is busy and you will ALWAYS love them.”  (author unknown)

The above quote has been circulating around Facebook for a few weeks.  How many of us are truly blessed with that type of friend?  I can honestly say I have had a few in my lifetime and feel very privileged. 

It is the type of friend where we only talk maybe three to four times a year but are able to pick up right where we left off.  Another is the kind of friend who only has to say one word and you already know if they are happy, sad, depressed, lonely, or just plain terrific.  The type of friend that you can step away when they need their space without getting insulted, bring over a pan of brownies when they need a pick me up, or call last minute to see if they want to do something fun.  Friends who you can call at any time to watch your kids, your pets, or help with your garage sale.  The type of friend who remembers your birthday, your losses, or your special occasions.  The type of friend where you share unique slogans, funny sayings that only you understand, or words that send you both into a fit of laughter whenever one or the other mentions them.

There are also the special friendships that were incredibly tight years ago, but then you drifted apart for some reason.  Nothing happened to end the friendship – you just moved in different directions and went on paths that led you further apart instead of closer together.  Those friendships should be celebrated as well because without their influence, you probably would not be all you are today. 

Sometimes these friends are family members, others are co-workers, mothers of your children’s friends, teachers, Sunday School teachers, or just people you regularly come into contact with at the store.  Each and every one share one common denominator – they are a blessing in your life. 

Today instead of sharing anything deep or profound, I just want to give you a chance to think about friends from your past, current friendships, and even think ahead to how you can embrace new faces to gain new friends.  It is a time to be thankful for all you have learned, all you have gained, and all you have become in part due to the great friends in your life. 

I want to take the time to thank each and every one of my friends.  I am a better person because of their influence in my life.  I am blessed to call each and every one of them my friend.  And I want to pass the art of true friendship onto my children so they, in turn, can build lasting and true friendships as well. 

And most importantly, I want to make sure that I continue to be as great of a friend to my friends as they have been to me!

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Romans 12:4-5 “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

If your family is anything like mine, there is a reason for which wrapping paper is used for each person.  Everyone gets their own and it usually coincides with that person’s personality.  My mom gets poinsettias as she loves flowers, my dad gets Santa Claus paper as he loves to “help out the Big Guy,” and my nephew gets something to do with sports. 

Those similarities and differences spill over to each family member also.  Whenever my extended family gets together, we love to sit around talking about how my niece is just like me and my son shows traits of my sister, and how even my adopted nephew takes after his grandmother at times, despite no true biology (goes to show nurture is as important as nature).  Our daughter and her cousin talk, look, and share the same expressions, despite living 16 hours apart and seeing each other maybe three times a year.

Sometimes the differences can seem huge and tensions can flare.  Your family is used to rising at 5:00 a.m. and rolling into bed again around 8:00 p.m.  Your brother’s family rolls out of bed around noon and stays up past midnight.  The patriarchs of the family want to eat three square meals a day but you are lucky to be hungry once or twice only.  The babies need quiet and consistent naptimes.  Your aunt likes things organized and you are more carefree with how you keep your house. 

So, how, especially around the holidays, do you make it all work?  How do you keep tempers from flaring and harsh words from ruining not only family togetherness but possibly lifelong relationships? 

My personal opinion is that if you can keep the real reason for getting together in the forefront of your mind, it helps.  What is more important – a spotless house or a Dicecapades tournament (if you have never played this game, it is hilarious, especially with a large group of people)?  Getting a chance to stay up late and getting a glimpse into your sister’s heart again or getting the allotted eight hours of sleep you usually need?  Most little ones (there are always exceptions) can usually adapt to a different schedule temporarily also without too many meltdowns. 

When family togetherness occurs this year, I issue you a challenge.  Why not be the first one to make relationships the priority this year centered around an environment of fun?  You might be surprised.  If you take time to invest in your family, digging a little bit deeper into their personal lives, taking time to talk about more than just surface topics, you might be surprised that what you leave with this year is more than a store bought present.  Instead, you might leave with a better understanding of why your brother, sister, aunt, grandmother reacts or acts a certain way.  You might have a better understanding of why your brother has always hated spiders, you might learn what exactly childhood was like for your parents and your kids might gain a better appreciation for why Grandma and Grandpa spoil them (or withhold treats and presents). 

Taking time to really see each individual family member for the unique person they are, past or present experiences included, might be the best gift you receive all season.  Who knows, you might find out the origin of that quirk of Uncle Bob’s and it could become the one that you respect him for the most.  You will never know unless you dig a little deeper.

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I Corinthians 12:12,18: “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.  So it is with Christ…But in fact God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.”

All of my children are unique.  One is quiet and reserved.  Another is energetic and playful.  The last is a combination of both – shy sometimes but with “eyes that tell a story.”  They all share the traits of kindness, being responsible, thoughtfulness, and just generally being terrific kids.  And I cannot forget their dad.  Strong, level headed, a great sense of humor, compassionate, hardworking, and all around amazing are just a few traits that characterize him. 

Would I want a family where everyone was exactly the same?  Where we all shared the exact same characteristics and personality traits?  No, I would not.  I have a tendency to get bored easily so to have everyone exactly alike would not be very fun. 

I like the diversity that comes with having a bigger family.  My children share traits with both their father and I, but they also have traits that are uniquely theirs.  That is such a blessing. 

I compare our family with the multicolor strands of Christmas lights that are sold at the store.  Each color is uniquely itself; some colors are a blend of two others (green is made up of blue and yellow), but each color combined with the others helps to create the final result.  If one bulb is missing or broken, the entire strand is compromised.  It is only when all the colors are working together, each in their own unique way, that the masterpiece is complete. 

That is the way it is with our family.  If one person is missing or tries to be someone they are not, our picture is broken.  I would not change the shy, reserved, carefree, funny, energetic, playful, quiet, relaxed blend that makes up our own unique family. 

So take time to celebrate and really embrace the wonderful qualities that make up your own family, making sure to tell each other how important he or she is, in his or her own special way, to your family as a whole. 

 

 

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Psalm 103:13-14:  “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”

Last time we talked about the important ways to help your child stretch in order to achieve the independence and maturity required in adulthood.  However, today I would like to focus on the other important, often overlooked aspect of that maturing process:  The emotional side.

As stated before, every child is different.  Some are tough and appear as though nothing fazes them (but we know differently, don’t we?), others have more of a tender heart, while still others need lots of practice in order to learn important concepts.  Not only is it essential to know what type of child you have (or types of children if you have more than one) but it is critical to know what works to motivate them, helping them to achieve their very best. 

It is important that while teaching your children independence and mastery of skills that you do not forget the emotional aspect of love and acceptance, cushioned in between a great sense of humor.  This may come easy for some, but I have to admit I sometimes struggle in this area. 

Before I became a parent, I worked at a residential home for troubled children ages 5 through 11 and then ran a daycare in my home after that.  Because of those experiences, I have a somewhat “assembly line” mentality at times.  That does not mean that I do not treat each child as an individual, but time constraints in those jobs did not always allow for long, personal, one-on-one attention.  I was so used to being efficient while getting everyone fed, changed, and making sure everyone was safe, that I sometimes forgot to stop and actually either teach, encourage, allow for pushing the restart button, or stop to find the humor in the situation.

When we only had two children, it was easier for me to remember those important rules and so I did it more effortlessly.  However, since adding our third child, I find that sometimes the “assembly line” me comes out and rears its’ ugly head, especially when I am feeling overwhelmed with life.  Usually I am convicted of this phenomena when one of my kids inevitably cries, “You just don’t listen to me.”  That is when I have to stop, slow down, and really reevaluate my reactions, determining whether or not I am focused more on the end result or instead focusing on the truly important part of the process – my child’s heart during this particular stretching process. 

Sometimes I think that helping your child to stretch is as much about you as a parent as it is about him or her as a child.  You are being stretched as well.  It is hard to balance figuring out what responsibilities your child should be required to maintain, when you should step in and lend a hand, or if you should go ahead and let them learn from their mistake.

I find personally that I am more attuned to my children’s emotional needs when I have first given it over to God than if I try and wing it, figuring it out on my own.  To those of you who are married, showing a united front to your children with your husband is essential also in helping to keep the focus on the skill that needs to be mastered instead of refocusing on other distractions like which one of you is easier to manipulate. 

So, overall, while stretching into adulthood can be hard, it should not be impossible or regimented.  Keeping a sense of humor, staying focused on your children’s legitimate emotional and physical needs while ignoring the manipulation, and most importantly, cushioning it all with encouragement and love should help make the outcome positive.  And, seriously, just as a baby does not stay in diapers his whole life, eventually whatever task you are working on with your child will be accomplished if neither of you give up.

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