10 Ways to Avoid Mama Burnout-Part 1

When our 5 kids were little I ran away. Well not exactly; but I do remember standing by the front door at the end of a horrible, rainy day of being cooped up with sick toddlers, fighting siblings, a hormonal pre- teen and a hormonal and burned out me! With my coat on and purse in hand, I watched for his car to pull in the driveway. Greeting him at the door, I exclaimed,

“They are all screaming. They are all yours. I am running away. “

And I did. I went to the mall where I walked around in utter silence for about 3 hours and no one spoke to me or pulled on me or needed me!

I was overwhelmed, exhausted and tottering on the edge of “mama burnout.” Since then I’ve learned a few tricks that will help us when we feel like we’re about to burn out!

  1. Learn to see life in terms of seasons. Every season has challenges unique to that season and every season has blessings unique to the season. We need to be honest about the challenges but then choose to focus on the blessings. A challenge of the little years is monotony. Routine caring of little ones gets boring and is never finished! You wake up the next day to the same things. However, little kids say the funniest things. When our daughter Libby at age 4 saw the ocean for the first time she exclaimed, “Mama, it’s too full you need to let some of it out.” Write down the funny things your kids say. It’s a blessing of this season. Teenagers don’t say funny things. This season will pass and you want to capture the cute things. There will be different blessings in the teen years.
  2. Do something crazy. One of my big events in bad weather was to go to a mall and ride the escalators. Now you can go to a mall and play at an indoor playground. Declare a crazy dress-up day. Dress up in the wildest costumes you can make from clothes in the house. Put make up on everyone. Paint toes and fingers crazy colors and eat green eggs. Or blue pancakes. Craziness relieves monotony and makes a day fun instead of merely an endurance race.
  3. Restore perspective. Part of burn out comes because our world gets too insular. It’s about us and our kids and our needs. It helps to do something totally unrelated to us. Go to a museum. Rent head phones and really study the paintings. Or go to an interesting lecture or demonstration. Don’t discuss your kids. You’ll need to get a baby sitter for your children but you will come home a refreshed Mom with a restored perspective. Life isn’t all about us.
  4. Find an older mentor. I will be forever grateful to Edith, my next-door neighbor. An elderly widow she saved me in my years of parenting little ones. Many times I ran across my front yard, sometimes barefoot in pj’s and knocked on her door. When she opened it, I’d burst into tears. “Edith, I am the worst mother and wife in the world.” Sweet Edith would take me in her arms, sit me on her couch and say, “You are not the worst Mom or wife. It’s just this season in your life. It will pass. You will be alright.” Edith gave me perspective because she was older. She had been there. She understood.
  5. Have girl friends in the same season. Too often we look to our husband to understand, to empathize, to meet our needs for affirmation and appreciation. Sometimes we can look to others to meet needs that they were not created to meet. We should be going to God first and some girlfriends second. A husband just won’t “get” what it was like to wipe poop off the bathroom walls, pick up cereal under the table, separate wrestling boys, and then do it all over again. We need a friend in the same season we can call and say, “You won’t believe what my 3 year old just did!” She will! And she’ll comfort you and laugh with you. Oh how we need to laugh with other women. Pray for God to give you some women who make you laugh and seek to reach out to some other young Moms who may be on the verge of burnout too! Invite some to your home for a time together. Tell your grossest stories. Pray for each other.

CHECK THE SITE NEXT WEDNESDAY FOR PART 2 OF 10 WAYS TO AVOID MAMA BURNOUT

 

I’d love to hear your own favorite tips so send in a comment!

 
 

Raising Good Conversationalists

Do you sometimes feel embarrassed in front of your friends because your child won’t talk and simply grumbles a “yes” or “no” to an adult’s questions? Do you have trouble getting him to talk? Do you yourself feel awkward engaging someone in a conversation?

Some skills in the family will be more “caught than taught,” but becoming a good conversationalist is not one of them. In fact, very few things are simply caught. It takes both modeling and teaching to raise our kids into the adults God has called them to become.

Today’s kids are less socially mature than in earlier generations. Technology has contributed to this. It’s easier to engage a screen than to look someone in the eye and have a live conversation. However a lack of teaching has also contributed to this. Many parents simply don’t realize that conversing is an art form that requires training.

Training our kids to be good conversationalists is an example of living out the second great commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” One way of loving your neighbor (or any other person) is caring enough to draw them out in conversation- to demonstrate that you are really interested in their life, in their opinions, and in learning from them. We want to raise “other centered kids” not “self centered kids.”

With spring vacation and Easter coming many of us will be with extended family and friends. This presents us with an excellent opportunity for teaching the art of conversation. Here are a few tips:

  1. Shyness is not a valid excuse.
    Some of us are extroverts. It’s more natural for us to reach out, to be friendly, to engage with another. Others of us are introverts. We’d rather be left alone and not converse. We are shy to the core. However shyness should not become an excuse for rudeness. We must not let a reticent child off the hook simply because he’s shy. We will have to work harder with this child and it may take longer but it is crucial in raising him to become an adult who reaches out to others and is also comfortable in any social situation. An extroverted child will present us with other challenges. He will need to learn that he doesn’t have to be the center of attention and how to encourage someone else. Each child can learn skills that will help them learn how to talk to others.
  2. Think schedules and relationships.
    It is helpful to think in terms of 2 categories: schedules and relationships. No matter what the age, everyone has a schedule and everyone has relationships. Write down questions that fall into one of these categories. Ask a child, “What is your favorite part of your day at school?”(schedule question). Ask an adult, “Tell me about a project you are working on, or “What does a typical week look like for you?” (schedule question). Ask a child, “Who do you like to hang out with at school, on weekends?” (relationship question). Ask an adult, “Looking back in your life who has influenced you in a positive way and how?” (relationship question)
  3. Learn to use the “clue-in.”
    My son John had invited his friend Joe to come over. I did not know Joe but I wanted to be able to engage with him.
    So I asked John, “Son, I don’t know Joe and I’d like to get to know him but I need you to clue me in as to what he’s like. What is he into? Sports, music, technology?”
    “Mom,” John replied, “He’s into art and in fact he’s really good at it but his parents don’t understand him because they are into sports so it would be really cool if you could talk to him about art and maybe ask him to bring over some of his paintings to show you some time.”
    I appreciated my son’s clueing me in and I had a wonderful time getting to know Joe.
    If you are going to be with others or are having others over for the holidays tell your child about a guest and give them some specific questions they might be able to ask the guest. Sometimes it’s helpful to do this together and to write the questions down particularly if your children are young. We live in the DC area where folks are adept at creating “talking points.” We need to do this with our kids. Often if we are going to an event my husband clues me in about someone I might meet and how I can engage him or her in conversation. I do the same for him. It helps make conversation less awkward and can be the beginning of a deep friendship. Most importantly, it makes the other person feel valued.  
  4. Create a list of good questions.
    Sit down with your kids and come up with a list of good questions. You can use the categories of schedules and relationships as a framework but also make a written list of simple “Anyone-Anytime” questions. Here are a few to get you started: Who is one of your heroes in life? Why? What is one of your favorite books? If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you like to go? What do you enjoy doing when you have some free time? If you could meet anyone in the world who would it be? Why? What has been invented during your lifetime? What is one of your favorite hobbies? What was life like for you when you were my age? (This is a good one to ask a grandparent). Have your children think of questions they would ask other kids (both older and younger) as well as other adults.
  5. Prepare for a specific event.
    Now it’s time to try this out. Discuss an upcoming event. It might be a meal with other families or grandparents. Discuss the folks who will be there. Clue one another in as to something you know about several of the people attending. Select at least one question for each member of the family to use with someone they chose.
    Their assignment: Ask a question of their person sometime during the event. After the event sit together and share what you found out. It works best if you make this a discovery game with younger kids. With older kids or adults simply make time to debrief and share the things you discovered about others. You may hit resistance with your kids, but do it anyway. The more they do it the easier it will become.
  6. Do it over and over again.
    The first time you do this, even if you are simply doing it for yourself, will be the hardest. But anything that is new is awkward at first. Simply keep at it. Keep working on this with your children. Practice asking each other questions at family meals. Don’t give in to weariness. It takes years for this to become natural for some of us. Often we will not feel like caring for others. But we do it anyway because God has called us to reach out to others. We don’t live life by doing what we feel like but by doing what is right.

I remember struggling for years to teach Allison, our first child, how to engage a guest at the dinner table. Most often she sat in stony silence the whole meal. I’ll never forget the day we had her choir director over for a meal and Allison asked her some questions about music. We watched, amazed as our daughter engaged her teacher. She laughed; she actually talked! Afterwards my husband and I looked at each other and said, “Whose child was that?” What happened? After years of repeated training, role playing, nagging, and feeling like failures as parents, we were finally seeing results. God is faithful even when we don’t feel like we are making progress. He is at work in the lives of our children even when we can’t see it. One day we will, meanwhile we keep at it and pray for small signs of progress to encourage us to keep on keeping on! Our God has unlimited patience.

 
 

Are you lonely?

Recently British Prime Minister Theresa May appointed a Minister for Loneliness. This might sound crazy but research in the U.K revealed that in their country more than 9 million people report feeling lonely. It’s not just England. In a Harvard Business Review article, former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy reported, “although we live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization, rates of loneliness have double since the 1980s. Today over 40% of adults in America report feeling lonely.” (Links below)

No matter what season of life we are in we all share a common need for a few good friends.

Are you lonely?

Do you have a few friends with whom you can share deeply, laugh at silly things, and cry if you want to? Friends with whom all pretense is shed, and there is complete acceptance and freedom simply to be yourself? How do we find friends like these?

Most women, if they are really honest, would say that they feel alone, even those women who seem to have tons of friends and whose calendars are full. Their relationships are often shallow.

God designed us for friendship with Him and with one another. Jesus Himself had 12 good friends and of these 12 he had 3 even closer friends, Peter, James and John. We are not meant to walk through life alone. We need each other. Women need women and men need men.

It helps to consider three levels of friendship: Acquaintances, Friends, and Soul Sisters.

Picture a funnel. At the large opening is our largest group of relationships: acquaintances. An acquaintance might be the gal in your neighborhood that you greet, a colleague in the office next to yours, and a mom whose child is in the same class as yours. We all have acquaintances.

The next level of the funnel represents a smaller group, which I simply call friends. A friend might be your next-door neighbor, someone you have lunch with at work, the mother of your child’s best friend, an old college roommate. We will most naturally be drawn to friends in our same season of life. However it’s helpful to have friends in different seasons. My friend Judy is 10 years older than I am. When we were raising our kids I’d often ask her advice. She’d been there and she understood what I was going through. When I was overwhelmed with 5 children (ages 7 and under) we lived next door to Edith. She was older than my own mother. Many times I ran to her house in tears, “I feel like such a bad mother and a bad wife.” Edith would pull me into her arms and say, “Susan you are not a bad mother or wife. It’s just this season in your life. It’s hard.” Edith gave me perspective and she comforted me.

The bottom portion of the funnel is the smallest. It represents “soul sisters.” A soul sister should be someone with a heart for God. She is a friend with whom you can share confidences and feel safe. She believes in you and will be there for you. She has the freedom to speak the truth to you. Make sure a soul sister encourages you to turn to Christ and pushes you towards your husband. It’s easy to hang out with women who are hypercritical of their husbands but this is not healthy. I remember complaining to a soul sister about my husband. She listened and empathized but then she looked me in the eye and said, “Susan what are you doing to move closer to him?” That’s a true friend—one who pushes me to Christ and to my man.

One of my main prayers for my 5 daughters is that God will give them soul sisters. It’s the first thing I pray if they move to a new town.

Girlfriends can also benefit our marriages. Too often we look to our husbands to meet needs that would be better met by going to God first and to girlfriends second. Our man was not created to meet all of our needs!

Girlfriends rejuvenate us. We can be utterly exhausted but then have an overnight with some close girl friends and return home revived.

Many empty nesters often feel lonely. Mothers of young children are desperate for friends. They make ‘“play dates.” Even if they barely finish a sentence, they have the companionship of a mom who understands. In the teen years it’s easy to put our friendships on “hold” while we spend time with our kids. Then we hit the empty nest and we are out of practice in this area of developing friends. I experienced this and so did my friend Barbara Rainey. We even wrote a book about this season to offer encouragement to others. (Click here for Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest.) This is a season for new beginnings. Sign up for an exercise class. Attend a Bible Study. Put yourself in situations to develop new relationships.

Whatever season of life we are in, we have to be willing to take the initiative in making friends.

Here are 8 tips to being a good friend:

  1. Pray, “God make me a good friend.”
  2. Reach out to new and different types of people.
  3. Guard my tongue.
  4. Be an encourager.
  5. Be forgiving.
  6. Don’t wait for someone to call you-initiate a get together with her.
  7. Be interested in them. Ask good questions: “What is your weekly schedule like?” What’s your favorite book of the past year?” “Who is someone who has had an impact on your life?”
  8. Develop a servant’s heart. How can I serve her?

No human friendship will ever completely satisfy. We need human friends, but most of all we need a friendship with Jesus. Make Him your first priority. He is the only one who will never leave you.

“Never will I leave you; Never will I forsake you.”(Hebrews 13:5b)

References: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/01/17/578645954/u-k-now-has-a-minister-for-loneliness; nytimes.com/2018/19; Forbes 1-21-2018

 
 

How to be a great mother-in-law

A great Mother-in-law??

Ok, most days I’d settle for just being a good one or even just not messing up a relationship too badly. I’ve been a mother-in-law for 23 years now. We have 5 kids-3 daughters and 2 sons. All of them are married so I have both sons and daughters-in-law. And the things I’ve learned over the years have come mostly from the mistakes I’ve made.

When our daughter Allison was a newly wed she was about to drive over night alone on a trip. “We don’t want you to do that. It’s too dangerous,” we said. After further discussion she came to us and said, “This is not really your decision. You have to let me and Will (her husband) decide what to do.” As hard as it was, she was right.

Since I’ve been in the school of “in-lawing” for quite some time now, I thought I’d share with you 5 things I have learned from my own life, as well as from friends, which I hope will help you as you attend this “school” with me.

  1. Our priorities change when our child gets married.

When our child marries the priority relationship is no longer my relationship with my child but their relationship with each other. The most important thing to me now is to cultivate their marriage. So when your newlywed daughter calls and says, “Mom I am going to buy a couch. What kind should I get? Your answer needs to be, “What does your husband think?” We have to step back from being the primary counselor to pushing them towards each other. God’s word describes marriage as to leave, to cleave, and to become one flesh. Many marriages run into trouble because either the husband or the wife does not “leave emotionally.”   We in-law parents can contribute to this problem by continuing to be too involved in our kids’ lives. It’s time to relinquish them to each other.

If possible encourage your newly-wed kids to live away from both sets of parents their first two years of marriage. Geographical distance will promote the emotional leaving and encourage the needed cleaving.

  1. Be patient in building the relationship.

We want our families to be close. We want to have a deep friendship with our new son or daughter-in- law. But sometimes we expect this to happen too quickly and we can suffocate the new family member. If our expectation for an instant, close-knit family is too high we will be disappointed. It’s important to remember that anything that is new is awkward. It is often hard for a new daughter-in-law to instantly embrace her new family. Give the new member some time to adjust. The first 2 years are likely to be a time of slowly grafting them into the family.

  1. Focus on common interests.

We have to work patiently at building a relationship with a new in-law. Find out their interests and study the things that interest them. If they are “into” natural foods, study nutrition. If they are in business try to learn about their field of business. Do things with them that they like. If they like fishing, go fishing. If they are readers, read what they read. Be interested in their life. Get to know their friends. However, remember there is a delicate balance between overwhelming them and ignoring them.

  1. Ask your own child how you can love his or her spouse well.

Usually we want to love our in-law child but often we don’t know how to go about it. Their love language may be completely different from ours. (The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman is a good resource). Ask your own child, “How can I love your spouse well this year? What can I do that would communicate love to him or her? Is there anything that I am doing that is offensive to them?”

Do not speak negatively about your child’s spouse to your child. This puts your child in an awkward position and if he has to choose whom to support he must choose his wife. Remember their marriage is the priority relationship. This does not mean that you can’t discuss things but it must be done very carefully.

It’s helpful if we don’t distinguish between our child and our in-law child. I have five children but since they are all married I now have ten. Mentally and emotionally and in every other way I try to think of them equally and treat them in the same way. It’s always a process.

  1. Be quick to ask forgiveness and to grant grace.

We are going to blow it as in-laws a lot. It’s important to say, “I shouldn’t have said what I did (or done what I did) and I need to ask you to forgive me. Will you forgive me?” I’ve had to do this many times to all of my kids and my husband but I’ve never felt like doing it. Often I’d rather say, “But you should have or you shouldn’t have…” We go asking for forgiveness not because we feel like it but because we are commanded to. Feelings take time to heal and trust can take time to be restored but this process cannot begin apart from going to one another and asking for forgiveness. We must assume the best, remember our kids are young, and strive to grant extra grace. And we have to recognize that God is much more patient with us than we are with ourselves. We never obtain a final degree in the school of parenting. We will always be learning!

 
 

Guest Blogger: What To Do When You Want to Quit Marriage

John & Susan with Barbara & Dennis Rainey

I’m so happy to have my friend Barbara Rainey guest blog for me today!

Though most every spouse marries with stars in their eyes and expectations that scrape the Milky Way galaxy, there isn’t a spouse on earth, on any continent, in any country, who hasn’t experienced harsh unexpected disappointments. Like piles of heavy wet snow on power lines and branches, accumulated hurts and disillusionment threaten to snap personal resolve as easily as limbs surrender to the overwhelming weight of winter’s crystals.

Have you too entertained the thought of quitting at some level?

My husband’s and my overarching marriage narrative is a wonderful one because it is a tale of redemption. But in those hard places, before the redemption came, before it was spring again, we both experienced the pain of disappointment and loss. I wondered if we’d ever see beauty once more, or if we’d have to settle for a long winter.

I wanted to quit my marriage, not end it entirely as in get a divorce, but I have wanted to stop trying so hard in the cold heavy parts of our relationship. I have felt, This is too hard, we aren’t getting anywhere. I have been tempted, and it is a real temptation from the enemy of our souls, to

  • quit sex
  • quit working so hard to understand and be understood
  • quit serving and giving myself
  • quit biting my tongue and watching my words
  • quit trying and settle into détente.

Quitting any area of marriage is slamming a door shut on intimacy. Like a thermometer, intimacy is the rising or falling temperature of your marital oneness and depth. Intimacy is not just sex. It’s communication, sacrificial love, self-control, courage…and sex.

Why did we all expect marriage to be so happily ever after?

Ponder this question in reply: why do you think Jesus spent so much time with tax-gatherers and sinners as the Pharisees so sharply accused? Quite simply because He knew that they knew their inadequacies and failures. Jesus saw hope for new life, new light in those men and women and children who understood they were broken needy sinners.

Jesus taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Simply stated, we can’t receive the gifts of the kingdom unless we know we cannot attain them or buy them or earn them on our own.

We struggle and want to quit in our marriages because we underestimate the sinful natures of our spouse and ourselves. Marriage is hard because it’s the union of two sinners.

In my Bible study this year, our class is going through Romans which has reminded me afresh “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and “there is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). My wanting to quit has so often been because I expect too much of my spouse and myself and underestimate our depravity.

I still remember some of those crisis points in our marriage. I felt frightened a few times, fearing we’d never find common ground again. I felt lonely, knowing we weren’t operating out of oneness and because I didn’t have anyone I could talk to. I felt unappreciated that my efforts to love, serve and help weren’t met with the gratitude I had expected. To quit trying appeared like the relief of a desert mirage.

At the core, I wanted to quit because I wasn’t getting what I wanted. Life wasn’t working the way I thought it should. I wasn’t able to make it all work. Paul said basically the same thing when he wrote, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18).

Though I felt emotions that scared me, God wasn’t bothered by my wanting to surrender and quit trying. In fact, He kinda liked me in that barren winter place…discovering that my expectations weren’t working…finding I wasn’t sufficient in myself to make everything work in my marriage. He knew I was disappointed with Him, too, and that too didn’t bother Him a bit.

True marriage is the union of three, not two.

In those alone moments when I had nothing else to try, no book with ten tips waiting on my nightstand, I prayed one of many desperate prayers over the years. I told God, I have no idea what to do next, no idea what to say or try. Will You show me? Will you guide me?

Never was there an immediate reply. I always wished for one, but learned to rest in His mysterious ways…to trust He could somehow break the ice…make a way…open our eyes to His beauty.

And that is what He wanted. “Come to Me,” Jesus said.

I was inadequate…my own attempts a failure…I needed Jesus and only Jesus.

So what do you do when you feel hope is lost and you want to quit?

Come to Jesus.

  • His strength will help you resist the darkness that threatens; the darkness of unbelief & resignation…the darkness of lost hope. IF you will ask and IF you really want to follow Him.
  • His light will shine on your heart to illumine false thinking, small and large steps of new understanding. IF you are willing to see your sin, If you are willing to change. (Is there that much sin in me? Oh yes there is.)

When you come to Jesus, the third Person in your marriage, remember:

  • He is always praying for you to choose His way. “He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
  • He is your husband when yours fails, “For your Maker is your husband” (Isaiah 54:5).
  • He is your dearest Friend when you have no one, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14).
  • He is your Comforter when you feel all alone; “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4).
  • He waits to guide you by His Spirit; “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

Your challenge and mine is to believe all this is true and walk by faith when our feelings tell us the opposite. It’s what Jesus did all His life, but especially on the cross. And because He did, He can help us follow His steps.

God’s greatest joy is to rescue, resurrect and restore. It’s His specialty. He LOVES to take broken hearts, fractured relationships, shattered hope, and restore it to better than it was before.

I pray you will make your marriage health your highest goal, seeking to grow your relationship with your husband and your Savior this year.

May you too be counted among those who didn’t quit and because you didn’t discovered the wonder of the resurrection!

-Barbara Rainey

After graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Cru in 1971. With her husband, Dennis, whom she married in 1972, the Rainey’s co-founded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Dennis and Barbara live in Little Rock, Arkansas. They have six children and an impressive number of grandchildren.

Barbara is a frequent speaker and resource for FamilyLife Today®, the award winning nationally syndicated daily radio broadcast.  She is the author or coauthor of more than 35 books, including the Moments Together for Couples, and Moments With You marriage devotionals, the Growing Together series of books for families, A Symphony in the Dark and her most recent Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife.

Having faithfully served alongside Dennis for more than 43 years, both in ministry and at home, Barbara launched a new endeavor called Ever Thine Home®.  This new line of home décor and teaching tools for families makes it easy for women to express faith at home in a way that is both biblical and beautiful.  Her heart for Ever Thine Home is based on the familiar Old Testament instruction:

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:9, ESV)

You can read more about Barbara’s work at EverThineHome.com 

 
 

OK, I’m Really Mad

Now I’m really MAD.

I read something recently that really made me hot under the collar!

The headline of an article by Alex Stone in the New York Times last week was, “Is Your Child Lying to You? That’s Good.”

In this article Stone goes on to cite research that says,

“Lying is not only normal; it’s also a sign of intelligence.”

While this might be true it does not make it right. Most kids will lie. They want to avoid trouble. They want to get their own way. So do we. It’s a part of our natural sin nature.

Stone cites psychologist Kang Lee who tells parents,  “If they discover their child lying at age 2 or 3 they should celebrate. It means they have good executive functioning skills. Lying, in other words is good for your brain.”

He also notes research shows that if you pay kids to be honest there’s a greater chance they will tell the truth. To him, financial compensation seems to have a high value.

Inherent in these thoughts are two dangerous assumptions: Mental intelligence (advanced executive functioning) and material possessions (getting paid to tell the truth) have higher values than honesty.

These thoughts make me really mad.  Why?

First:

Integrity is a core value. It’s an American value. Read western history and you’ll discover that a man’s integrity was so valued all it took to seal an agreement was a handshake. A man’s word was his bond.

Personal integrity used to mean doing what is right- no matter who knows or who will find out. Today it’s, do whatever you want as long as you don’t get caught and no one finds out. If you get caught you may have numerous legal options to get you “off.”

Our personal integrity is at the core of who we are as human beings. It is one value no can take away from us.  Integrity involves trustworthiness, objectivity, fair-mindedness, sincerity, and thoroughness. A person of integrity is genuine-what you see is what you get-no pretense, no sham. To live with integrity is to live by the highest standard-a standard that calls for complete honesty, an honesty that encourages consistent values. Personal perfection is impossible, but it is possible to aim for genuineness, honesty, consistency, moral purity and ready admission of our failures. A person of integrity doesn’t seek to cover up or excuse his errors.

Second:

As parents we have an obligation to teach our kids to be honest. Lying is wrong, period.  But what about when we fail? Won’t that lead to hypocrisy?  How can we expect our children to live up to a standard that we fail in ourselves?

Hypocrisy is not caused by high standards, but by parents who wink at the standards for themselves while insisting on adherence by their children. Genuine integrity, on the other hand, maintains a high standard while acknowledging failure and seeking to grow.

Talk about the value of integrity as a family. Seek to grow in this trait together-parents and children. Do not pay your kids to tell the truth. Expect them to. Affirm truth telling even when it gets them in trouble.

Be wary of buying into advice from so called experts just because they have advanced degrees.  They may be fools hidden behind a lot of letters after their name.

Third:

Truth telling is not merely an American ideal or a good thing for a culture. It’s a Biblical imperative. In the scriptures truth is expected. Lying is condemned.

There is wisdom in the scriptures. Simply open the book of Proverbs for example and you’ll find it full of practical wisdom for parents and children.

God is the God of truth. Jesus is Truth Incarnate. God longs for us to be free of all hypocrisy and deceit. There are times when we or our children may be afraid to tell the truth, but God’s call to personal holiness should make us more afraid of lying.

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My husband John and I wrote a book. Character Matters: Raising Kids with Values that Last. This book talks about how we grow together as a family in 8 character traits beginning with integrity. It is available here.

 
 

When we worry about our kids: 4 things that help

 

I’ve never heard of a mother who doesn’t worry about her children. Some of us are obsessive worriers, others are a little less concerned but all of us worry to some degree. It is just a part of a mother’s job description!

When they are infants we worry if our baby is seriously ill or just has a cold. We agonize whether another doctor’s visit is worth the hassle or not.  

We worry if we are using the right method of discipline. Are we too lenient or too strict? And it is harder when our spouse has a different philosophy. We worry if we are pushing a child too much. We worry about safety issues. Should we let him go to a play date when we don’t really know the parents? We worry about diets.

As they get older we wonder if a child is telling the truth. Is he doing something really bad that we don’t know about? We worry about strangers. We worry about the friends they hang out with and in today’s world we worry about their sexual identity. We worry they’ll get hurt in certain sports. We fear their self-image will be harmed if they don’t get chosen for something special. We worry about our school choice and if they’ll get into the “right” college. We worry if they’ll ever get married and we worry about who they might marry.

And we worry that we have ruined our kids in some way.

You can add to this list!

There is a lot to worry about. But the fact is that worrying only makes us miserable, our home stressful, and our kids anxious.

Ok, we know we ought not to worry but instead simply trust in God.

But that’s not so easy is it?

We do try to trust Him with our child but then we begin to worry again which makes us feel guilty because we think we should be able to trust him and we aren’t. It’s an emotional roller coaster-ups and downs but never ending.

So what do we do with our worries?

4 things will help.

  1. Remember this is HIS child first. God knows this child better than you do. He formed him in his mother’s womb. (Psalm 139). Read this out loud as a prayer inserting your child’s name in every pronoun.
  2. Recognize that God chose our exact children in the exact birth order with the exact personalities not merely so we could raise them but also so that they might be His tools in our lives to grow us up into the women He created us to be. Ask God to reveal to you what He wants you to learn from your child. His lessons are motivated by His perfect love for each of us.
  3.  Focus on someone else. When and how can I actively care for someone else?  Do it this week. When we do something that takes us out of our own world our perspective is restored.
  4. Count on the prayers of Jesus for your child. As moms we often feel it’s all up to us. But it isn’t. Jesus Himself is sitting at the right hand of God interceding for us and for our child. (Hebrews 7:25). It is a comfort to mentally picture Jesus talking to our heavenly Father about our child!

AND Remember: Your ability to ruin your child is not nearly as great as God’s power to redeem him.

“For nothing is impossible for God.”  (Luke 1:37)

 
 

Why Thank You Notes Matter

It’s that time of the year…

The late legendary advice columnist, Ann Landers, once said that the majority of the letters she received fell into two categories—agony from a writer whose spouse was having an affair or sadness from a grandparent who never received thank-you notes from grandchildren.

Alas, the art of writing thank-you notes does seem to have decreased in today’s culture. And yet this is an important discipline we need to practice and to teach our kids. Why?

It is a character trait.

Thank-you notes teach us to honor and appreciate others. They serve to keep us from taking others for granted. They help to protect our kids from an ever-encroaching sense of entitlement. Our culture cries out, ”please me, satisfy me, make me happy.  Thank-you notes are one tiny discipline to train us in appreciating others. And the art of appreciation will go a long way in marriage.

We live in the Washington DC area where folks here are incredibly busy and often self-focused. Yet, one thing I’ve noticed: They write thank-you notes–for interviews, for luncheons, for a favor done, for a gift received. From the most well-known to the least noticed, one often receives a note. It’s expected. And it’s a good thing. Our church has an intern program for post-college grads and every year when our interns arrive, my husband gives each one of them a gift of personalized cards and explains to them the importance of writing thank-you notes. Some have grown up writing them, others have never written a single one. But they need to learn-it’s a character trait.

Do we like to write thank you notes? Not usually. Do our kids? No. But it’s our job as parents to train them to write them anyway. Provide the stationery. Set a deadline by which all thank-you notes must be written or privileges (the car, TV, computer, etc.) will be withheld until they are finished. And then follow through. Yes, your kids will complain. That’s their job! But do it anyway. You are training them in thoughtfulness and respect–two crucial character traits they will need for life.

Little kids can color a picture and dictate words. Bigger kids can write brief notes. Yes, they could email or text. However a handwritten note will mean a lot more to the recipient. It shows thought and time. Plan a thank-you note party at your kitchen table, complete with refreshments and music. This gets everyone involved and makes this task more enjoyable.

So you haven’t finished your Christmas thank-you notes? I haven’t either. I need to get out all the left over goodies, put on some good music and have a party!

 
 

A Different Take on His Gift

This is my special Christmas blog. My hope for you is that this year God will give you a new insight into the amazing coming of Christ.  God wants to do a new thing in each of our lives. I encourage you to study the passages mentioned below in Hebrews. 

It’s easy to let Christmas become about families, about the gift of a child being born in a manager, about celebrating in a myriad of ways. But there is always more to this special event than meets the eye. Sometimes we need to ask God to open our eyes and show us fresh things about this incredible day- things we may not have considered before.

Several years ago He opened my eyes to see Christmas in a different light. It was our first Christmas as truly “empty nesters.” Our youngest, the twins, had both married the previous summer and for this particular Christmas, all 5 of our kids were going to be with their in-law families for the holidays. I grew up in a large family and married into one as well so I had never been alone for Christmas. For me, Christmas meant being surrounded by lots of people and lots of love. However this year, we would be alone for the first time. An acquaintance said to me, “Oh Susan you and John can have a romantic time, just the two of you together.” I don’t think she realized my husband is a Pastor of a very large church and Christmas is not a quiet, romantic time of “roasting chestnuts by an open fire” for ministry families. Instead, it’s a time when people’s lives fall apart, you are overbooked with preparations and emergencies and your husband is most likely grumpy because his sermon isn’t ready.

As Christmas Eve approached, I was sad. I knew John would be gone most of the day and arrive home about 2am exhausted and fall into bed. Friends asked me over but I felt I wanted to be alone with the Lord. After attending one of our Christmas Eve services, I wrapped myself in a blanket and with my cup of tea and Bible and I curled up all alone on the couch in front of a lovely tree twinkling with white lights.

Once again I turned to 2 of my favorite passages- Hebrews 2 and Hebrews 4. These passages are similar. They remind us that Jesus Christ has experienced everything that we have yet without sin. It is because of this that we can draw near with confidence to find help in our times of need. (Hebrews 2:17-18 & 4:15-16) For many years I have gone to these passages asking for insight into things I was experiencing. Tonight I whispered, “Ok Lord where did you experience the empty nest? How can you know what I’m feeling?”

And then it hit me. While we were celebrating the birth of our Savior in a manger, God was grieving the loss of 24/7 companionship with His only son with whom He had created the universe. In emptying my nest, I was sending my children off to good things. He, on the other hand, was sending His son into a world where he would be rejected, persecuted, spit upon, mocked, and ultimately crucified. And He was choosing to do this. Oh my. For the first time, I thought about what Christmas Eve must have been like for our father God. How painful, how hard. His was a chosen pain wrapped in the greatest love ever given. Out of His pain was to come the sacrifice for our sins. Forgiveness. For our heavenly Father, the birth of His son in a cradle would culminate in death on the cross. His was a journey from the Cradle to the Cross. Since that night, I have never looked at Christmas Eve in quite the same way. Now I contemplate its cost.

Father, give to each of us eyes to see something new in this Holy season. Reveal yourself to us in fresh ways and may we love you more than we ever have before. Thank you for your precious Son.

 
 

Guest Blogger: Praying for your child’s marriage (and more!)

I’m thrilled to have my good friend, Jodie Berndt, guest blog for me today!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

“Marriage is glorious but hard.”

That’s how Timothy Keller opens his book, The Meaning of Marriage. I think it’s a great book, and I love to give it to newly engaged couples, but I always do so a bit apologetically, like I know they might rather have something from Pottery Barn. Nobody wants to confront the tricky areas of marriage right out of the gates.

But Keller is right—marriage is hard. And not just for newlyweds. Marriage can also be tough for parents of newlyweds, as we move from the front lines to the sidelines of our kids’ lives. I had to laugh the other day when a young bride told me that she wanted my new book, Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children. She didn’t have adult children (she didn’t yet have any children!); why did she want that particular book?

“I’m getting it for my mom,” she explained. “I love her so much—and she’s a wonderful mother—but she tends to be kind of…involved.”

I knew just what she meant! I have two married daughters, and letting them go—letting them leave our family and cleave to their husbands—hasn’t always been easy. There have been plenty of times when I’ve jumped in with advice, or offered unasked-for opinions, when a better tactic would have been to just pray.

One concern I had, early on, was how my girls—Hillary and Annesley—would mesh with their husbands’ families, and how Charlie and Geoff would fit into ours. Different traditions and backgrounds can sometimes create pressure points, and I wanted God to give the young couples patience and understanding with one another, as well as a sense of connectedness with their in-laws.

I found a wealth of helpful prayer prompts in Scripture.

For instance, I didn’t like to think of the biblical Ruth leaving her family, but I loved the way she honored her widowed mother-in-law, saying, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” I asked God to create that same sense of connection between Annesley and Hillary and their new mothers-in-law, one that would quickly let them all know that they had become each other’s “people.”

And I was impressed by the way Moses related to his father-in-law, Jethro. The two men clearly had a strong bond, and Jethro loved hearing about all the good things God had done in and through Moses. But when Jethro saw all the Israelites coming to Moses with their problems, he realized that his son-in-law was getting worn out. “The work is too heavy for you;” he said. “Listen now to me and I will give you some advice.”

Moses took Jethro’s counsel (which basically involved teaching the people God’s laws and appointing judges to settle their cases), and things ended well. I didn’t know if or when Geoff or Charlie would need to confide in my husband, but I figured the time would come, so I asked God to give them a Moses-and-Jethro relationship—one where the guys felt free to talk about their joys and their triumphs, but also to be honest about any struggles they might face, knowing that they could trust Robbie’s advice.

I don’t know how your family has been formed, or what your child’s particular leaving-and-cleaving challenges will be. I do know, however, that even the most well-suited couples, from the most similar backgrounds, will find themselves tested. It won’t always be easy. And as parents, we’ll want to help.

And we can. Through prayer. God knows what our kids need, and prayer is his invitation to us to join him in the work he is doing in their lives. You’ll find hundreds of biblically based prayers—prayers for your child’s marriage, and a host of other young adult needs—in the book. And if you’d like a keepsake-style Marriage Prayer, click here to download this card:

Marriage is glorious but hard. And so is parenting. But thanks be to God, he doesn’t ask us to go it alone. Our Heavenly Father knows what we need before we ask him (Matthew 6:8). Let’s come to him on behalf of our children. Let’s do our best parenting through prayer.

Jodie and Susan

Jodie Berndt is the author of nine books, including the bestselling Praying the Scriptures for Your Children, Praying the Scriptures for Your Teens, and the just-released Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children. A speaker and Bible teacher, Jodie encourages people to pursue joy, celebrate grace, and live on purpose. Find her weekly blogs, free printables, and other resources at JodieBerndt.com, or connect with Jodie on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Jodie and her husband, Robert, have four grown children and two sons-in-law. They live in Virginia Beach but can often be found up the road in Charlottesville, Virginia, cheering for their beloved U.Va. Cavaliers.

 
 

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