Something incredible happened this week

Something incredible happened this week. I was introduced to a new little girl.  This girl was sweet and had much potential.  But this girl was so misunderstood due to serious learning disabilities.  She couldn’t function in so many ways, so many settings.  Her mom thought her frustration and stubbornness was the overflow of a hard and rebellious heart.  Her lack of attention in school and certain subjects as laziness.  Her moodiness and selfishness to be exasperating character flaws.

However, this little girl was dying for love, understanding and security.  She needed someone who would patiently embrace her differences and lovingly guide her through the frightening, dark labyrinth she was trapped in.

Instead, this girl faced alone her struggles with learning and understanding the simplest things.  Math was a foreign language with no translation.  Hearing books read out loud was ‘wa-wa-wa’ in her ears.  She couldn’t focus on what she had just heard. She couldn’t make sense of what she WAS able to focus on.  Her world was frustrating, confusing.  She could see that others could ‘get it’ but she couldn’t.  Too young and immature to express her feelings, thoughts and frustrations, she coped by shutting down.  There were no smiles, no eye contact, flatness in her expression, no response or tiny voice.  It was not just an academic issue, it was a life issue.

Mom grew increasingly worried and exasperated.  Feeling increasingly inadequate she prayed for help.  Everyday battles and ugliness drew tears and anger.  Feelings went from ambiguity to almost a repulsion.  Certainly a strong dislike.  Barely tolerant of this daughter’s behavior.

Then one day, mom met a woman who God used to change everything.  She helped the mom to see that inside the hard, cold, angry exterior was beauty.  She knew how to chisel the bits of marble away until the angel she saw inside, emerged.

Suddenly, mom’s eyes were opened.  She understood.  She saw! She could see her little girl’s beauty!  It would take work, maybe years of careful, loving diligent and even painful, effort.  But God gave mom new eyes to see the precious treasure that was her daughter.

When mom went home, she realized that her feelings and reactions toward her little one changed.  There was a tender, patient and understanding heart when faced with the same resistant behavior.  She cheerfully diffused ugly faces by creatively enticing smiles and hugs.  Then when she said goodnight to this one tonight, a strange, unfamiliar squeeze in her chest took her off guard.  It was a feeling she hadn’t had in years towards her daughter.  It was love.  Tender, eye-soaking love.

I can’t wait to get to know this little girl better. The freshness and calm I feel when she comes bounding in the room with smiles just delights me.  Something exciting happened this week.  I met a sweet, young lady and suddenly I know how blessed I am when she calls me mom.

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The Myth of ‘Me-Time’

Moms, you won’t like this. But this resonated with me this morning.  You can read the entire blog post at Walking Therein.

Written by a mom of 8 named Jacque:

I am sorry, but “Me-Time” is a myth. We are mothers. We do not put ourselves first; we make sacrifices because that is how God has created us. Jesus is the best example we have of sacrifice, and we will certainly not be called to make the sacrifices he did, but, just as he did, we have to spend time with the LORD and prepare for the days ahead.

I fall down miserably in this many times a day, and I want to cry to – or scream! – but, if I take God’s view, I will see it is very different than my feelings.

BUT!!

I am stressed out!! WHAT CAN I DO!!!

First of all, do as I said above: RENEW your mind in the WORD! If you are feeling like you need “Me Time”, it’s probably because you need “Me-and-God-Time”. Do an in-depth study of what the WORD says about children and if you can’t figure it out, ask God how they are being blessings right now. “Show me them as blessings, LORD!” I will tell them they are blessings from God when they misbehave and tell them I expect them to be a blessing too.

Secondly: Stop listening to what others say about how you need a break and how tough it is and just building up your own pity-party. Yes, it is tough, and yes, you feel like you need a break, but that is unreasonable. You are the mom, you have the responsibility, put yourself second and your children first and ask God to remove those feelings, and if need be, those friends. Instead, if they see you struggling or ask how you are, just tell them you are studying God’s Word and ask them to pray you will find God’s plan for you and your children.

Third: Change your environment – and theirs!

*Go outside. Even with young children, we can go on a walk or go outside and play in the dirt.

*Play hide and seek in the house.

*Give them a rag and clean something. No, the job won’t be done well, but that isn’t the goal. The goal is to have fun and change your perspective at the moment.

*Go to your bed, grab a favourite book of theirs and snuggle and read. And Read and snuggle.

*Make some hot cocoa.

*Go out for ice cream.

*SMILE. It is amazing how different you feel when you smile, even in the midst of a fit! You will start to see a different reaction in your children as well, as you smile at them and they smile back.

Fourth: If you are dealing with physical changes in your body that wreak havoc in your system, be sure to:

*Spend alone time in the WORD and soothe your spirit.

*Eat healthy! Eating organic will help rid your body of pesticides that will ruin your system and play on your hormones. Cut out the caffeine, junk food and even dairy if it sets you off. I can’t eat anything with nitrates in it or I get terrible migraines.

*Get fresh air.

*Take natural supplements if you need to. I got to where I knew if I was lacking in B-vitamins, because stress drains your system of B’s, and I could tell when I needed them.

In addition: Are you nursing a baby?

If you are, you need extra calories and nutrition. You will need more water. You will need time alone to sit with baby while the other children have QT. No, this won’t happen at each nursing time, but at least once a day.

Fifth: Do your children have a QT or take naps? Set rules, stick it out until they know they have to and do it. Make it a Quiet Time on their beds. Let them read a book or hold a favourite toy. The rule is quiet.

Finally – or Firstly, whichever fits for you: Talk to your husband about it. Let it all out. Tell him you are struggling. Tell him you need his advice. Ask him to pray for you and with you. Don’t expect it to be all the right answers, and you might even feel worse after talking to him – but, he needs to know and will likely come back after mulling it over with some good advice, and at the least, you have unburdened yourself to a trusted friend whose interest in your children is above all others!

A Word of Warning about having someone else watch your children while you “take a much-needed break”:

It is habit-forming. If that is the first answer you turn to, then God cannot work in you to overcome the feelings you have and renew your mind. He wants you to enjoy your children and have patience with them and love them as he loves you. He desires your heart to change. He gave these blessings to you for his glory. Taking an absence from that will not allow his will to be done in your life or your children’s. Period.

Beware of the quick-fixes and allowing your children to learn that is the answer. It is not. Being a mother is a hard job because it is a God-given one. It is shaping the hearts and minds of God’s people and building his kingdom for his glory. It is the most important thing you will ever do.

Clothing and Character?

Just have to share this post.  

Honestly, as my children get older and more aware of their counterparts, I will have to be careful about taking them to the mall. Last month, I met friends with their kids for lunch at the mall and then proceeded to take some of the kids  home with me to play.  During the short jaunt from the food court back to the parking lot, we were barraged with sexual images aimed at the youth: “Look left, kids!  Oops, look to the right!  Yikes!  Close your eyes!”  

 

Call me a prude but the indecency that screams out from these store displays (and half-naked models in the doorways distributing perfume samples) is yet another lure to compromise our children’s hearts and minds.  Sometimes, I focus on my holy tirade and shake my righteous fists while complaining about “what’s happening to our culture and children!?”  But, this article has given me much to think about.  It’s much easier to have a legalistic criterion (length, flesh-to-fabric ratio etc) than it is to biblically measure the moral impact of a piece of clothing.  Perhaps some might think I’m taking it to far.  That’s why I’m glad for this article.  Read it and leave some comments for discussion!

 

Clothing and the Character of the Child
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 31ST, 2008

     Guest Post by Dr. Timothy Paul Jones

Our daughter Hannah is rapidly closing in on thirteen years of age. She is tall for her age. Her dark curls and tawny skin mirror the features of the birthparents who brought her to a Romanian orphanage when she was eight months old. Hannah has been part of our family since she was seven years old. She is the apple of her Daddy’s eye, the princess of her Daddy’s heart, and—at this moment—she’s in need of some new clothes. In our household, this means a Daddy-Daughter Date Day, primarily because, in our family, Dad tends to have more patience than Mom when it comes to the quest for appropriate clothing.

And so here I am, meandering into a local mall, hoping that this year’s range of suitable selections is better than last year’s.

It isn’t.

The jeans that are long enough for Hannah’s ever-lengthening legs seem to have gained this extra length by trimming too many inches off the top. The sweatpants that fit her best have “PINK” emblazoned across the backside. And the messages that glitter on the chests of several otherwise-appropriate shirts lead to immediate vetoes from our household’s executive branch: “I Want What I Want Now,” one hoodie declares, while a nearby t-shirt boasts, “I Have an Attitude and I Know How to Use It.” “Sooner or Later I’ll Get What I Want,” another sweatshirt announces. Interestingly, the brand names on the tags are “Personal Identity” and “Self Esteem”—almost as if Erik Erikson and Sigmund Freud crept in during the manufacturing process and retagged the clothes to resolve adolescent girls’ supposed identity crises. To Hannah’s credit, she takes it all in good humor, knowing from past experience that, once a veto has been declared, her father will not budge.

By this point, a good many readers have likely identified me as some sort of development-squelching fundamentalist prude. I’ve heard the protests before, as a pastor, children’s minister, and youth minister—more from parents, oddly enough, than from children: “Come on, it’s just the kids’ clothes. Why make such a big deal about it? Let them wear what everyone else is wearing! If we don’t let them dress that way, they won’t be able to fit in.”

I’ve even had one parent couch his protest in evangelistic terms: “If I don’t let my daughter wear the same clothes as everyone else, no one will listen to her when she tries to witness at school.” Somehow, I cannot imagine that the low-slung waistline on his daughter’s jeans led any male in her school to anything but the most prurient interest in God’s created order.

So why am I so unyielding on this issue?

Simply this: The clothes that our children wear do not merely cover the nakedness of their flesh; they shape and reflect the contours of our children’s souls. (emphasis mine) What I encourage my child to wear is a statement not merely of fashion but of theology and axiology—and this link between our theology and our wardrobes is not a recent phenomenon.

The foliage that Adam and Eve clutched against their groins in the shadow of the Tree of Knowledge made a profoundly theological declaration. Those mute leaves pronounced the primal couple’s intent to cover their sins with their own efforts and experiences. In this, those leafy aprons spoke in unison with the Gnostics of the second century, with Pelagius in the fourth, and with the theological liberalism of the modern era, all seeking some path to holiness other than divine propitiation. The second ensemble of clothing in the Garden of Eden was no less theological—the flesh and fleece of a freshly-slaughtered beast, a covering given by grace which declared beyond any doubt the divinely-ordained link between sin and death.

Later in the Torah, the Israelites received a command from God to stitch tzitzitin the corners of their robes, entwining a cerulean thread in each tassel. And what was the rationale for this divinely-ordained fashion statement? “That when you shall see them, you may remember all the commandments of the Lord, and not follow your own thoughts and eyes, going astray after others” (Num. 15:39). What the children of Israel wore on their bodies reflected and shaped the disposition of their souls.

This principle is no less true for my child this afternoon at Oxmoor Mall.

The sweatpants with “PINK” plastered across the posterior declare far more than a child’s preferred pastel hue; they present as public property a part of the body that ought to be preserved as private property. The three-inch gap between shirt and jeans devalues the child by turning her body into a tool to attract the opposite gender’s attention instead of a vessel of beauty for the glory of God.

The t-shirt with “I Love My Dad Cuz He Spoils Me” emblazoned across the chest links love with what I can get out of a relationship—and lays the foundation for the relational disposition that has landed millions of couples in divorce court over the past half-century. “My Smile Gets Me What I Want” scrawled up the leg of a pair of pajamas implies that it is acceptable to exploit physical beauty as a tool to manipulate others. When a sweatshirt declares “Remember Me: I’ll Be Famous,” this comes with a tacit implication that the superficiality of celebrity might be a valid and viable goal for life. The hoodie that reads “I May Be Small But I’m the Boss” presents rebellion against parental authority as something to elicit a lighthearted smirk instead of loving discipline.

Please understand my point here: I am not claiming that clothing, in itself, causes children to behave badly—that would be tantamount to declaring it was the presence of fruit in the garden that caused Adam and Eve to sin. And I’m not suggesting that children’s clothing must be unfashionable for them to be holy. What I am suggesting is that these fusions of cotton, polyester, and iron-on transfers are not values-neutral. They are declarations of what we believe, what we value, and what we expect our children to believe and to value.

So what can parents do?

(1) Set clear standards and say no. This isn’t easy. A few weeks ago, I said noto a ballet leotard because it didn’t meet our family’s standards for modesty. No other leotards were available at the dance supply store. As such, my veto resulted in a rather unpleasant chain of events that ended with some crying and behavioral consequences—and with a clear awareness that we will not compromise our family’s standards. Truthfully, I wanted to say yes. In the short term, it would have resulted in far less stress to give the go-ahead to that particular leotard. But, as Hannah’s father, I bear primary responsibility before God for my child’s spiritual formation. And so I said no—firmly, gently, in love—because the long-term building of Hannah’s character matters more to me than the momentary calm that compromise could have achieved.

(2) Recognize that what is emblazoned on your children’s clothing is likely to be expressed at some point in their behavior. If the child’s t-shirt says “Blame It On My Sister,” why are parents shocked when their son eventually tries to avoid responsibility for his actions, even if that means resorting to deception? If you purchase clothes for your son that declare his ideal day to consist of sleeping, eating, and playing video games, why be surprised when he’s living in your basement two decades from now, still expecting you to pay his bills while he sleeps, eats, and plays video games? “But what the shirts say—they’re just joking,” parents respond. “You’re not supposed to take them seriously!” And perhaps the clothing manufacturers do intend such statements to be taken with a grain of salt. But history suggests that, what one generation smirks at, the next generation accepts as an inescapable state of affairs.

(3) Admit that the need for peer popularity is over-rated. Another primary cop-out from parents: “But my child has to dress this way to fit in at school.” In the first place, such a statement implies that the authority of the peer group matters more than the wisdom of the parents or the Word of God. In the second place, this implies that you would want your offspring to “fit” into a group that evidently bases its valuation of a child on that child’s clothing. Yet, even if we bypass these faulty foundational principles, there’s still a problem with this line of thinking: The idea that this type of peer popularity is necessary for healthy development is a recent phenomenon, rooted more in the social function of the American school system than in any perennial truths about human nature. In fact, despite decades of family fragmentation, the way that a child is accepted in his or her family remains far more important for the child’s development than acceptance or rejection at school. I’m not suggesting here that you should work to make your child unpopular with peers—but such acceptance is far less crucial than we’ve been led to believe.

And so Hannah and I traipsed out of the department stores and headed upstairs to the Chinese buffet, carrying far fewer outfits than we first intended—but they are well-chosen, stylish yet modest and devoid of devaluing messages. Now, if someone can locate a light-blue leotard for my child that isn’t low-cut in the top or high-cut in the legs, we’ll be set for one more year.

Am I a Selfish Little Clod?

A wife writes to her imprisoned husband, Christopher Love, a 17th-century Puritan martyr with powerful and heavenly-minded words as he awaits execution for false charges while demonstrating unshakeable faith.  She beseeches him not to be overly concerned for herself or their numerous children.  Rather, she reminds him of the incomparable riches of glory that await him and urges him to look ahead. 

“Thy Maker will be my husband, and a Father to thy children.  O that the Lord would keep thee from having one troubled thought for thy relations. I desire freely to give thee up into thy Father’s hands, and not only look upon it as a crown of glory for thee to die for Christ, but as an honor to me that I should have a husband to leave for Christ… Thou leavest but a sinful, mortal wife to be everlastingly married to the Lord of glory… Thou leavest friends on earth to go to the enjoyment of saints and angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect in glory…If natural affections should begin to arise, I hope that spirit of grace that is within thee will quell then, knowing that all things here below are but dung and dross in comparison of those things that are above.” ~ Mary Love

The rest of the letter demonstrates an amazing trust in the good and wise God who decreed that this ‘little stroke’ should separate them earlier than they might have expected.  Reading passages like these make my heart cry out, “What has changed?  Where is faith like this now?  Lord, grant me even a small fraction of this kind of faith!”

I’m reminded of a quote I read earlier of those who live life with a heavenly mindset and those who fuss and fidget away every precious earthly moment:

“This is true joy in life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a  feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” ~ George Bernard Shaw (quoted in Crazy Love by Francis Chan)

Lord, please help me live in light of eternity.

The Goal of Motherhood

This morning’s reading from “Grace Gems” – a piercing reminder of what it means to “Train Up a Child”:
“The goal of the godly mother, is that her children in the flesh–may be God’s children in the spirit. A mother should be more careful of her children’s pious breeding–than she should be fearful of her children’s worldly bearing.

 

You let out your efforts to make them great–lift up your prayers to make them godly; that before you die from them–you may see Christ live in them.”

(William Secker, 1658)

Sarah Palin

I thought that would get your attention!

Not to cause a big debate here.  Just some food for thought… I warn you it’s a little piquante!

The Miraculous Sanctification of the Republican Party

Honestly, I am leaning towards the views presented in the above-mentioned blog.  I can’t claim to be educated enough to make a sound, balanced decision (I can’t vote because I’m Canadian but I have to say this whole Sarah Palin hype is getting my attention!).  Anyway, no blasting here please. 🙂