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Archive for February, 2012

“One of the most damaging effects of parental permissiveness is making things too easy for a child…When a parent babies a child too much, the parent actually renders that child useless, or at least cripples him or her in one way or another.”  (Dr. Kevin Lehman from The Birth Order Book).  

Generally, I do not consider myself a permissive parent by nature.  In fact, if you were to ask my kids, they would tell you I am usually pretty strict, and tend to lean toward authoritative versus democratic, something I am working on changing.  I tend to be a lover of natural consequences.  If you lost your homework, you need to explain that to your teacher at school.  If you left your new toy out where your baby brother could get it, then it is your fault that he broke it or lost the pieces. If you forgot to let the dog outside when he had to go…well then, I guess you are going to learn how to work the steam cleaner. 

Life can get messy at times…actually, really messy.  The kind of messy that makes you want to say, “What in the world” when you are staring at Vaseline smeared on the walls, door, carpet, and crib of your baby’s room because your toddler found the jar and wanted to ‘paint.’  The kind of messy that can only be described as miraculous when you are staring at tree limbs littering your yard after a freak storm swept through, sparing your house but nothing else. 

In order to have the perseverance as an adult to power through the messes of life, we need to have practice cleaning up smaller messes in childhood.  If, as a parent, you are constantly rescuing your child from the messes relevant in their life, how will they deal with the messes that will inevitably show up in adulthood?  You learn how to clean up Vaseline (and learn to put the jar up higher next time) by learning to keep your toys away from your baby brother.  You learn how to carve out a whole day if necessary to clean up your yard after remembering your experience of steam cleaning your living room carpet when you were ten. 

If we, as parents, take the easy way out and rescue our children every time life gets a little dirty, we are really hurting them in the long run.  It is only by building that muscle, beginning in childhood, that children will eventually blossom into responsible, independent adults, a goal all parents really want.  Hopefully, that is something we can all think about the next time somebody drops a toothbrush in the toilet…whose turn will it be to roll up their sleeves and fish it out?

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Matthew 19:26:  “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  (NIV)

On Sunday, I shared my personal favorite verse.  Today, I am sharing my family’s special verse.  If you spend any amount of time in my house, you will soon see this verse hanging on our walls, dangling from my husband’s keychain, wrapped around the coffee mugs we drink from, as well as hanging every year from our Christmas tree…I think you get the idea.  I absolutely love this verse and all that it means. 

In the past, I have talked about how the God I serve is a very personal God.  He loves us all, individually and completely.  What is best for me is not necessarily best for you and vice versa.  I also know that He is a God who can, and wants, to do mighty things in the lives of those who love Him, including giving us many blessings to enjoy.  (He wants to do this for everyone, but again, He is a gentleman and will not push His way into your life.  He continues to wait patiently.) 

In Hebrews 11:6, it says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (NIV)

Faith is an important element to receiving the blessings that God wants to give us.  He wants a relationship with us.  He desires closeness, love, obedience and most of all, faith that we believe what He has promised is true.  The promises that He has given are written in the Bible for all to read and, in faith, receive.  Some of these promises include health, riches, joy, love, peace…the list is long. 

Combining this verse with Psalms 37:4-5, which talks about the desires of our hearts,  God is pleased when we come to Him in faith, trusting that His choices for our lives are better than any choices we could ever make on our own.  When we approach God asking for His will to be done in our life instead of giving Him a checklist of things we want, I honestly believe that God rewards that attitude and truly desires to bless us far more than we could even think to ask for.  

So…having come to that conclusion, when I pray, instead of just praying and asking God for A, B, C, and D, I have learned instead to share with God the pressing needs that are on my heart.  I have learned not to put God in a box or give him parameters from which to answer my requests.  Instead, I gladly ask God for His will in my life, letting go of any preconceived ideas of how I want my circumstance or my struggles resolved.  With faith, I ask Him to show off for me please, to “wow” me, and to let me know in a big way that He is in control, always being thankful to accept what He wants to offer.  I find that most of the time He answers me with a bigger blessing than I could have ever imagined or thought to ask for in the first place.  For me, the biggest prize is not how big the blessing is, but instead how personal He makes the reward to fit my particular situation.  That is truly an answer worth waiting for! 

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Psalms 37:4-5: “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:”

This is one of my favorite, personal Bible verses.  I used to think of this verse as a magic lamp of sorts.  If I obey God just enough, then He will grant me whatever I desire, as long as it is within reason. 

However, the more I really considered what this verse was saying, the more I fell in love with its real promise.  God does not promise to grant my every wish and desire, and honestly, I do not really want that.  Then I am nothing more than a selfish, spoiled child.  God’s plan for my life is much bigger than that.  God wants me to trust Him and His plan, not myself, in all situations.  He wants me to really believe that He knows what is best for my life and then live as though I believe that. 

When I realized that truth, I started praying differently for the true desires of my heart.  Instead of just asking God for favors and pleading with him to grant my requests, I started asking Him to either allow me what I was asking, if it was truly His will for my life, or to please change my desires to match what His will was for my life.  It was then that I realized either answer brought a peace that ran much deeper than what having my original request answered ever would.  And, knowing that God was the One ultimately in control of the circumstances of my life made whatever answer given that much sweeter.

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Luke 2:19: “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

I grew up in a household that made eating meals together a priority.  We tried to eat dinner together every night and most of the time breakfast was a time to come together as well before starting the day.  Therefore, that concept of eating together was not new to me.

However, when I started dating the man who is now my husband, his mom introduced me to the gift of weekly family dinners.  Even before I was legally part of their family, my mother-in-law included me in this weekly tradition.  She would schedule one day a week when she would invite all family members who lived close enough to gather around her table for great food and lots of laughter.  She was always flexible with the time, day of the week, and menu, showing us that what was most important was gathering together at least once a week to regroup, reconnect, and stay close.

She would always prepare a Thanksgiving feast – something different each week that was always incredibly delicious.  That was not what drew us to her table, though.  It was the fact of being accepted and included that kept everyone coming back.  Once my husband and I exchanged wedding vows, we began adding additional family members to the weekly celebration.  My mother-in-law would happily add more chairs to accommodate the newest additions.  Highchairs would not stay vacant for long.  Those that had filled them years before graduated to the kids’ table while new members took their place.  Cousins built relationships, adult brother-sister bonds tightened, respect for elders was taught, and old stories were re-lived, giving those of us not born into the family a glimpse of what life was like back then.

Sadly, life moves on and some family members have moved to other parts of the country or are no longer with us, making it impossible to have such big family dinners every week.  However, the five of us still have the privilege of sharing dinner at least once a week with my in-laws.  It has kept us close and kept us connected.  Our kids look forward to “dinner with Grandma and Papa.”  It has become a time to learn from the past, look to the future, and stop long enough to sit down and enjoy the present.

I want to thank my “mother by marriage” for giving me the gift of being part of her family from the beginning.  My challenge for everyone else is to take the time to find that gift for your family as well, whatever that may look like for you:  Weekly family dinners, once-a-month coffee shop get-togethers, or quarterly loud, chaotic family gatherings.  Let us not lose sight of taking the time to build memories today to pull out and remember tomorrow.

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When deciding to get married, some couples have the idea that it is going to be a 50/50 partnership.  If the husband works outside the home and the wife does not, then she is responsible for taking care of the household such as laundry, grocery shopping, and cleaning.  When the kids come along, the wife may take on more responsibilities with them, especially when they are young, but her husband will increase his responsibilities with the outside chores and car maintenance.  If both spouses work outside the home, then the chores at home are divided evenly depending upon their preferences and natural abilities.  As the responsibilities and chores increase in a marriage, they will continue to divide things evenly, creating essentially a balanced environment. 

However, in my experience, in order for a marriage to be a truly 50/50 partnership, all equality needs to be thrown out the window.  In order to build a marriage on the principles in God’s word, we must follow the teaching in I John 3:16-18:  “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers…Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 

If that was to be applied to marriage, here is a sampling of what it might look like:  Letting your wife, who has been sick all week, rest on the couch while you clean the house getting it ready for company…or possibly even cancelling the get-together so that she can rest, spending that time taking care of her needs until she feels like herself again.  Knowing that your husband has wanted to see the Lions play in person during their amazing season so budgeting wisely and surprising him with tickets when you really wanted to buy that new Kindle you saw on sale instead.  Realizing that your wife has had an extra tough week at work, so volunteering to either grab fast food a few times this week or offering to cook dinner instead, even if it means cold cereal or heated up soup in a can.  Taking one of your vacation days and cleaning out the garage for your husband, a job he has been complaining that needs to be done but never having enough time to do it, and surprising him when he gets home from work that day. 

The only way that marriage will truly be equal is not when chores and responsibilities are divided equally between partners, but instead by both individuals giving more than 100%.  When each person is willing to step up and go the extra mile is when God’s love is truly shown in our lives.  Then marriage is truly the partnership that God intended. 

Marriage is not the only relationship that will be benefit from giving more than 100%.  Think about the difference that will be made when giving more than 100% is shown in friendship, at the workplace, with your children, extended family, or with God.  Every relationship will only blossom more when this principle is practiced on a regular basis.

What is one specific thing you can start to implement, giving more than 100%, to show someone in your life how important he or she is to you?

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The best way to cause conflict and create resentment between two people is to try and keep score.  That is seen often within families between siblings and also, in some cases, between a husband and wife.

The scenarios for marriage sometime play out this way:  “I took Jane to basketball practice last week so it’s your turn to take her this week.”  “I’m not mowing the lawn.  That is your responsibility.  I have too many chores to do inside the house to worry about taking over your outside chores also.”  “Why isn’t the oil changed in my car?  I’ve been telling you about it for months now.  Pretty soon the whole engine is going to seize up and then we will have to buy another car, something we can’t afford.”  “It’s not time for you to get a new phone.  Yours works fine.  Besides, it’s my turn.  The last thing we bought was your new iPod Touch.  I want the new Kindle.” 

John 15:13 tells us this: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  In order to maintain true happiness in marriage, both partners need to keep this principle in mind.  Even though the world tells us to think about ourselves first and others second, God instructs us to do just the opposite.  It is only when we put other’s needs before our own that we are truly happy. 

Is this always easy to put into practice?  Does the husband who has had a long week at work really want to get up early and take his daughter to basketball practice, again, instead of sleeping in and relaxing?  Does the wife, who is busy with cleaning and laundry, truly want to take care of mowing the lawn because it needs to be done and her husband is not available to complete the chore?  Does the husband want to remember to schedule time to either change the oil himself or arrange to get it done somewhere else?  And does the wife really want to sacrifice her wants and her pleasure in order to allow her husband something he has been looking forward to? 

The honest answer is not always.  But that, also, is part of the sacrificial aspect explained above.  When only one partner is sacrificing and the other is continually taking, the marriage still remains out of balance.  It is only when both husband and wife continue to show sacrificial love to each other, that true union exists and balance is achieved.  And what an amazing example to demonstrate to your children, who probably are continuing to fight amongst themselves over whose turn it is to take out the garbage this week. 

Keeping score does not just happen at home.  What about when driving down the road, at your job, or with your friends? 

What is one thing you can do in your marriage, or another relationship, to quit keeping score and demonstrate love instead?

 

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Everyone has heard the children’s rhyme, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” (author unknown). 

However, God instructs us to treat each other differently.  In Ephesians 4:29, he tells us not to “…let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Who better to put that lesson into practice on than our husbands, wives, and children?  Joking about your husband’s lack of handyman skills repeatedly when getting together with friends, telling that cute story that truly embarrasses your son just so you can get a laugh at family get- togethers, or reminding everyone about your wife’s little problem with tardiness can all wound the soul when repeatedly spoken, no matter what tone of voice is used. 

Instead of trying to get the last laugh at your loved ones expense, why not instead work on building up your spouse or your children to others?  It may not be the most popular thing to do, but I can guarantee that you will become the hero in their eyes.  Complementing the way your wife cooked a special dessert knowing she is overhearing your words, bragging about how your son persevered when learning a new piece for the school concert, or telling others how kind and sweet your daughter’s heart is when she is patient with her two-year-old brother all help to build stronger relationships and stronger family ties. 

What specific area are you going to work on in your life to help build up those around you that you love?  Even changing one thing can make a lasting impact on the overall atmosphere of your family or with a friendship.

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