My Books

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Keeping Christmas Simple

I'm struck today by how complicated Christmas has gotten. A friend who is caring for her husband who has Alzheimer's feels bad because she hasn't had time to put up a tree or decorations. She just isn't in the mood to do it. Others are frenzied with activity, yet they feel they still must do Christmas baking and complete their shopping from elaborate gift lists. What happened to silent night, holy night? From where I stand, all is certainly not calm or bright.

But it isn't a myth. Christ came into the world to bring peace, quietly, simply, in a manger. His parents didn't even have the means to care properly for him the first few days of his life. They lived in a barn with the animals. It was base, at best. No frills. No fenzied activities. No expensive gifts. No list of things to do. Just a mother nursing her baby amidst the straw and a worried father no doubt wondering how he'd get his family out of this desperate situation. But God was there and they trusted Him.

They got it right, that first Christmas. The young holy family clung tightly to one another and the promises of God. And because of that, and in spite of seemingly horrible circumstances, they found peace and joy.

Oh, come let us adore him. And that's exactly what they did, as do all new parents as they look into the face of their newborn. The wonder. The excitement of a new chapter beginning. A new life, new hope.

It's the same for us when we follow the example of Mary and Joseph. When we hold close the ones we love and reflect on God's promises for us, we find peace, even miracles, in the Christmas chaos. When we keep our focus on the Christ child, born to us just as surely as he was to Mary and Joseph, we experience the same wonder they did. Life wells up within us and we feel the hope this baby brought to earth.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

So relax. Breathe in the scent of that newborn baby. Feel the scratch of the hay. Hear the angels sing. See the star and follow it with all your might to the holy child's cradle. Silent night, holy night! O come, let us adore him!

This year, let's keep it simple.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The First Christmas - A Book Review

The First Christmas by Janice D. Green
Illustrated by Violet Vandor

32 pages

Publisher: Honeycomb Adventures Press, LLC, 2012

If you're looking for a book to share the biblical Christmas story with your kids this season, this is a great one! It's for slightly older children due to the amount of text on each page, maybe ages six to ten.

The things I liked most about The First Christmas were:

  1. Biblical accuracy. I like that it tells the story as the Bible does, but does so in easy-to-understand terms a child can understand. 
  2. Simple text. Even though there is considerable text on each page, it is written simply. Yet it doesn't dumb it down to baby talk, either, which shows respect for the child.
  3. Thought provoking interaction. At the end of each page, Green asks questions to draw the child into the story and help him relate to the characters. For instance, when telling the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth expecting their baby, John, Green asks the reader: If someone told you a very old lady was going to have a baby, would you believe it? How do you think Zechariah told his wife about the angel's message without talking?
  4. Coloring page illustrations. The pictures are simply drawn, which I believe will appeal to children.
  5. Family activity at the end. I love that this book ends with the fun family activity of making a Bible quilt, Christmas tree skirt, tablecloth, or wall hanging out of the illustrations. Green gives instructions on how to do this and offers alternative ways to complete it. What a terrific family keepsake! 
You can also use The First Christmas as a family advent devotional. Green explains how in her blog post on Christian Children's Authors. You can find similar activities and resources at Janice Green's website:

I highly recommend this book as a resource for teaching your children the true meaning of Christmas in a fun, interactive way. 

(I received a free, digital copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions expressed are my own.)


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

7 Benefits of Having Your Kids Sit In Church With You

I'm forever a proponent of having children, even very young children, sit in church with you if they want to--and maybe even if they don't!

I understand how hard it is. I know you don't get as much out of the sermon when you're refereeing your kids in the pew. But that hour is important to their spiritual development. Don't get me wrong. If your church offers children's church or some program for the kids during grown-up church, I don't have any problem with kids going. I think that can be beneficial, too. But so many churches don't offer that and I think that's OK. Kids aren't missing out by not having such programs.

So what are the benefits of having kids in church with you?
1.     They learn to sit quietly. This takes time and patience. It's important that you bring along some quiet activities to help them with this. 
2.     They feel connected to the church body. We are the body of Christ. Kids are never too young to feel that connection.
3.     They feel the Spirit. I know it seems they're only squirming and counting the seconds until it's over. But there's a special feeling in a church service that can't be found anywhere else. Kids unconsciously pick up on this and know it's a holy place and experience, even if it doesn't seem like they get it. 
4.     It builds faith memories. One Sunday after we sang the old hymn, Break Thou the Bread of Life, my pastor stood before us and admitted he had felt like a little boy again as he sang that song. He remembered it had often been sung as a communion song in his childhood church. He was mentally transported back to his boyhood and could see the faithful saints from his church passing the elements, even though he didn't fully understand what it all meant at the time. My point? Had he not sat in church week after week, he wouldn't have such sweet faith memories as an adult. These little things are what build faith. 
5.     It shows children service opportunities. Children can see that there are people who hand out bulletins, pass the offering plate, sing on the worship team, play instruments, preach sermons, and participate in worship in various ways. One of those things may be something that interests them and they'll be able to see themselves in that role one day. 
6.     They learn to use their Bibles and sing praises. As the pastor uses scripture texts, they can try to find them with your help. Children should be encouraged to sing along with the songs. Have them sit and stand with the rest of the congregation. Teach them to participate in, not just tolerate, the service.You never know when something they hear will click and the Spirit will move them into a deeper place of faith. Or a verse or song they've heard may come to their minds in a difficult life situation and can be a source of strength for them. 
7.     They see you worship. You're your child's most influential role model. You're showing them how important it is to go to church. It's absolutely vital they see you worship so they can follow your example as they grow into adults.

So don't despair when you have your kids in church with you. All those wiggles and noises that sound magnified in your ears because it comes from your kids is part of their spiritual growth. They're taking in way more than it seems. God is working miracles behind the scenes in their hearts.

What other benefits have you seen by having your children in church with you? Do you think there are more benefits from having them in children's church? Sound off in the comments below.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Making Math Fun

Guest blogger, Allison Boley, is sharing today about how to make math fun for your kids. A physics PhD student at Arizona State University, she has a new iPhone and iPad kids app called Fun Math at the Ballpark (K-6th grade). You can see samples of it on her Facebook page at even before its anticipated release date of July 18. I highly recommend downloading it and using it with your kids to make math more fun! Not to mention it will keep them busy at baseball games or any other place they may need to keep from being bored.

A near-drowning incident when she was a teenager spawned my grandmother's lifelong fear of the water. When she gave birth to my mom and my aunt, my grandmother—understanding how important it was for their safety to be able to swim—chose not to pass along her fear. By the time my sisters, my cousins, and I came along, we were taking swim lessons in her backyard pool every summer, and sometimes she even joined us in the shallow end.

Like my grandmother, you may have had a near-drowning incident, but it may not have been in the water. More likely, it was in math. You might be like my mother, who used her long hair to hide her (lack of) algebra answers from her teacher when he walked by her desk. If so, you’ll want to follow her example in another area and avoid passing along your fear of math to your kids. Here are some practical ideas.

1. Recognize the math around you.

Take a whole day to be alert to the presence of math that you already engage in. Notice how by the power of geometry your key fits into the lock on your front door and other keys don't. Take the time to look at the percentage sales tax on your receipts. Observe the patterns on your bathroom or kitchen floor. Appreciate the symmetry in your clothing (the left side is the mirror image of the right side).

Recognizing the pervasiveness of math in everyday life convinces us of its importance. In the same way that my grandmother recognized the importance of swimming to her children's physical survival, you're probably reading this blog post because you already recognize the importance of math to your children's academic and maybe even economic survival. CORDIS, the European Union’s public portal to research results, puts it well: “…almost every job area today is strongly affected, if not entirely reshaped, by scientific and technological advancements.” Math is the foundation of science and technology, and consequently, proficiency in math will increasingly become a vital job skill in your children's lifetimes. We literally cannot afford to pass along our own math phobias.

2. Find something you like about math.

Maybe you hated every aspect of math in high school, but you're not a teenager anymore. You have a different perspective than you did when you were 17. You've learned some patience and if you read Linda's blog, you've learned a lot of positivity. So find something about math that makes you smile.

If you can't find something on your own, try building a story around your children's math problems. Instead of 3 + 2, it's 3 dragons you must defeat and 2 castles to win, or 3 play cars and 2 toy people. If your child's homework already has a word problem, make it bigger by asking why. If Susan has a piece of string that she wants to cut into 3 equal pieces, why does she want to do that? Is she making ribbons for her hair? If so, why? Is she trying to fit in with the popular crowd? Use the opportunity to teach life lessons in addition to math.

3. Value the challenge of math.

Even if there's nothing inherent in math that you can enjoy, you can partake of that marvelous feeling of conquering something that challenged you. Danica McKellar, author of books like Math Doesn't Suck, encourages girls in particular to intentionally challenge themselves, and to view the difficulty of math as part of a larger picture of building character. You can model the character traits of patience and perseverance for your children in your own interaction with math and teach them the importance of not giving up.

And be sure to celebrate! When your child overcomes a difficult problem, tell them what a great job they did. When they finish a particularly odious homework assignment, reward them with play time or television or whatever is appropriate in your household. (Don't reward them with junk food... but that's a different blog.) The end of a grueling semester or school year is a great time for a trip to the toy store. Build that good feeling of conquering challenges so that they approach new obstacles with courage instead of fear.
Even if you had an actual-drowning experience in math, don't worry. By changing your own attitudes towards math, you can pass along your newfound confidence to your children and prepare them for math and for life.

Were (or are) you afraid of math? In the comments below, share specific ways you're choosing not to pass your fear of math along to your children.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Teaching Your Child to Have a Quiet Time

(Today's post is by guest blogger, Delores Liesner, from Racine, WI. I saw a Facebook post she wrote about teaching her kids to have a daily quiet time with Jesus and thought it might be something you would enjoy as well.)

Even into adulthood, it was a challenge for me, a rather hyper personality, to sit still, even for a few minutes. I felt like a baby, taking little steps to get to know God’s voice and His character. Quiet times spent in prayer and reading my Bible calmed me, though, and I often spoke of them to our toddler saying things like, “Mommy is happy because she talked to Jesus this morning in her quiet time.” This way she understood that my behavior and attitude was being guided and changed by a quiet time with God. 

I wished I’d been taught this when I was a child, so I determined that our children would know the peace of spending time with God. It was actually quite simple.

A kitchen timer, a playpen, and a child-size picture Bible book enabled teaching our toddler the self-discipline of having a quiet time.  I’d set the timer, first for one minute, announcing that we were going to have a quiet time and talk to Jesus. I showed her my quiet-time book (my Bible) and sat quietly in her view, reading until the timer went off. The time was increased by a minute for five days, then it remained at five minutes for a week. 

Next, I told my daughter that Mommy was going to have her quiet time in her room. I turned on the timer and moved out of her line of vision.  As the daily quiet time increased to seven minutes, and finally the fourth week, to ten minutes, I alternated being in and out of the room for quiet times. When in the room, told her if she finished her quiet time first, she could continue to play quietly till Mommy was done. 

In addition to teaching respect for a quiet time, and imprinting the importance of personal time with Jesus, our daughter quickly learned to read and play quietly.

It took only a month, and I found our quiet times had more of an affect than I imagined. One day I was irritable and three-year-old Laurie looked up and asked, “Mommy, didn’t you have a quiet time today?” 

Do your children have a quiet time? How did you start it? What guidelines do you have in place for it?

Friday, June 20, 2014

"I Don't Like You!"

While in an airport restroom last week I overheard the following conversation between a sweet, patient mom (SPM) and someone who I assume was her crying, travel-weary toddler (TWT). The mom never once lost her cool or her kind voice with the little one.

SPM: Sit up on the potty.
TWT: I caaaannn't!
SPM: Yes, you can.
TWT: No, I caaann't.
SPM: Are you hungry?
TWT: Noooo. I need a driiinnnk.
SPM:  OK. We'll get you a drink as soon as we finish going potty.
TWT: Noooo. I caaann't!
SPM: It will just take a minute. I know you can.
Silence. Flush.
SPM: Good job. Let's wash your hands.
TWT (still crying): I can't wash my hands!
SPM: Come on. I'll help you. Rub your hands together.
TWT: I don't like you!
SPM: I know you don't.

Hearing this conversation made me smile. It was so classic. I remember like yesterday the sting of those last words, but I don't know a parent who hasn't heard them, and if they haven't they're in the minority. All parents are disliked by their children at some point and it doesn't take long for them to be able to voice it. I mean, really, this toddler was already experiencing those feelings!

The "I don't like you" line can be offered in many different forms. My youngest daughter used to tell me, "You're not my friend anymore!" On good days I usually replied, "That's OK. I'm not here to be your friend. I'm here to be your mother. But I hope we'll be friends again." But there were other days that it took everything in me to not spout back, "I don't want to be your friend either! I don't like you!" Emotions run high when parents are exasperated and tired. 

So what's the point? The point is, don't take these verbal assaults personally. It's part of the parenting territory. Those little people you're raising have emotions just as real as yours. They just don't have the finesse to deal with them properly yet. It's a parent's job to respect their children's feelings, while still teaching them to be respectful and kind. Sounds impossible, but it isn't. 

So how should you respond when your child says he doesn't like you or even hates you? Here are a few suggestions.
  1. Evaluate the overall situation. Is your child overly tired? Stressed? Stimulated? If so, cut him some slack and sympathize, as the parent in the airport bathroom did. Then try to meet the real need for sleep, calm, or less stimulation.
  2. Say, "I know you're angry, but in our family we still love each other, even if we're angry." This helps your child sort out his emotions and put proper names to them. Anger doesn't equal hate.
  3. If he can't calm down, or keeps screaming hateful things, remove him from the room and place him in time out. Play soothing music or something else that may help him calm down. After he's relaxed enough that you can converse with him, explain that you understand he was angry, but that it's never kind to tell someone you don't like them because it hurts their feelings. Brainstorm other ways they can express their anger or frustration without hurting people's feelings.
  4. Tell your child that you get angry, too, but that you never want to say things that make him feel sad. Apologize if you know you have said unkind things to your child and ask his forgiveness. And really, who hasn't? Set an example for your child showing him he can apologize when he makes mistakes, too. 
Bottom line, it isn't the end of the world if your child says he hates you. It's an angry moment. It will pass and you know it isn't true. Try not to overreact. Use it as a teaching moment. Keep loving your child unconditionally and your relationship will move beyond this stage before you know it. 

Has your child said he doesn't like you? What was your best response?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

10 Tips When Meeting a Shy Child

When my youngest daughter was young, she was shy. People who know her now would probably laugh at that because she's a talkative, confident young woman today. But as a child, she often lowered her gaze or even hid behind me when meeting someone for the first time. Sometimes she  refused to speak when spoken to or would whisper in my ear what she wanted to say. One day, her teacher pulled me aside after her first month of preschool and asked me if I thought she was happy there. I was shocked. My little angel happily chattered away every day telling me all the things she had done at school. Come to find out, she hadn't done any of them, but rather observed the other children doing them while she stood on the sidelines. I could tell she loved her class and I assured her teacher she was very happy there. Gradually, she observed less and participated more.

Most children are shy, at least under certain circumstances. How should adults respond when meeting such a child? With good humor and respect. Here are a few guidelines I found helpful when meeting shy children.
  1. Speak directly to the child, asking an easy question. This allows him to have confidence in answering. Yes or no questions may be helpful at first so they can respond with a head nod or shake if they want. 
  2. Be understanding. When a child doesn't want to talk or even make eye contact with you, accept it. Say something to put them at ease, such as, "That's OK. I don't always feel like talking to people either." This puts you in the child's corner and earns his trust.
  3. Give the child space. Don't keep trying to get the child to talk. Back off. Move at his pace. When he's more comfortable with you, he'll likely be happy to talk to you. It may take several encounters before that happens. Be patient. When it does, you'll have a friend for life.
  4. Avoid labeling the child. Saying things like, "He's so shy!" or "You're a bashful one!" only makes the child more uncomfortable. Empathize (see #2), don't label.
  5. Respect the child.  This is the bottom line and ties into point #4 about not labeling. Shy people, regardless of their age, shouldn't have to justify their God-given personalities any more than more talkative people do. I mean, really, shy people never say to talkative people, "You're sure a noisy one" or "Do you ever quit talking?" even if they sometimes feel like it! Accept children (and adults!) for who they are.
  6. Don't bribe. If a child isn't ready to talk, don't offer him something (i.e. candy) to try to get him to like you. This flies in the face of all the safety rules children are taught. Respect that he isn't ready and direct your attention elsewhere.
  7. Smile. Let them know you're not mad that they won't talk to you. Be friendly.
  8. Accept whatever friendship the child offers. Maybe he'll give you furtive glances. Smile when he does, or play a game of peek-a-boo with him. He may bring you a toy. Look it over well and make conversation about it. Enter his world. Don't make him enter yours.
  9. Bring a gift if you know the child's interests. It can be a good conversation starter between the two of you. This isn't the same as bribing because the gift is given outright, with no strings attached, rather than on the condition that he talk to you. 
  10. Be gentle. Quiet children are often intimidated or frightened by people who come on too strong. So don't try to tickle, grab, or tease a child out of his shell. It will only make him back further into it.
Next time you meet a shy child, try out some of these tips and see if they don't help him warm up to you. Then remember, when a child offers you his friendship, it's a sweet gift that shouldn't be taken lightly.

What tips have you found helpful in dealing with shy children? If you're a parent of a shy child, what have people done (or not done) to help your child in uncomfortable situations?


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Hospitable Introvert

By nature, I am an introvert. I tend to avoid people and I recharge by having time alone. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy people when I'm with them. As a matter of fact, most people would be surprised to know that I'm an introvert. Like many, I married someone who is my opposite. Rollin's extroverted nature more than makes up for my introversion.

Because my husband is so social, I've learned to be more social. At first it was uncomfortable. But wonder of wonders, I've actually come to enjoy hosting people in my home. It's something Rollin and I love doing together, and well, we're GOOD at it! We've actually been told we have the "gift of hospitality." Shut up!

So, for all you introverts out there, who sometimes have to host social events or house people overnight, there's hope. Here are a few hospitality tips I've learned along the introverted way.
  1. No one cares if your house is spotless. If your bathroom is cleaner than most gas station restrooms, you're good. No one is coming to inspect your housekeeping skills. They're coming to enjoy your company. And honestly, who wants neat freaks for friends? It only makes them feel like they have to clean to the nth degree when they have you over.
  2. Greet your guests warmly. I usually meet them at the door and give them a hug if I know them, or if not, then a two-handed handshake or one with a friendly pat on the back tells them you're genuinely glad they're in your home. The same applies to when you bid them farewell.
  3. Keep it simple. For the introvert, being with people expends energy, leaving you tired. Use paper plates, cups, etc. so you don't have to spend hours cleaning up when you're exhausted after having people over. 
  4. Have groups of people over rather than just one other couple. Conversations can get awkward or drag with a small group.  But with a larger group, you don't feel the pressure of having to carry the conversation. People can talk with each other instead of just with you.
  5. Serve food buffet style. It's nice and casual and puts people at ease. Better yet, make it a potluck where everyone brings something to share. It takes some of the pressure off you in a situation where you may already feel stressed. And don't feel like it has to be a full meal. Snack foods often work just fine. 
  6. If you're having overnight guests, do something to make them feel loved. A mint (or in some of my friends' cases, a box of Red Vines) on their pillow is a fun touch. Or fresh flowers on their night stand. Or how about a note saying how glad you are they've come to visit? Whatever they like, try to make it  happen for them. See this lovely picture of a bedroom? My house never looks this good, company or not. Yours doesn't need to either. 
  7. Make them feel at home. By that I mean, let them fix their own breakfast. I usually tell them that at our house it's pretty much every man for himself. If they get hungry, they're welcome to scrounge around in the pantry or fridge. Nothing makes me happier than when people come into my home and pull out a glass from the cabinet or dishwasher and pour themselves a glass of iced tea. It means I've done a good job of making them feel comfortable in the past. Let them know what's available for breakfast in case they get up before you. I like to keep bagels, dry cereal, bread for toast, juice, and coffee on hand. Or buy a box of donuts the night before to have ready for breakfast.
  8. Make their bathroom user friendly. Put a hair dryer and curling iron under the sink for their use. Have extra toothbrushes and toothpaste on hand in case your guest forgot theirs.
  9. Don't live on each other's schedules. This is especially true if your visitors are from another time zone. If one of you wants to sleep later in the morning or stay up later at night, do it. Accept and respect each other's need for sleep, or lack thereof. This also gives your introverted self some space and time to recharge if needed. 
  10. Be honest. If you're worn to a nub and everyone else wants to spend the afternoon at the zoo, say you'll sit this one out and get in a nap or soak up some solitude while they're gone. No guilt allowed.
  11. Give them an extra key to the house. That way they can come and go without you if they want. You don't have to spend your every waking moment together, which wears thin on introverts.
  12. Ask for their help. If you need an extra table set up, potatoes peeled, or the patio swept, let them help you. Most people love feeling needed and this makes them feel part of the family. 
The only way to take care of your guests well is to take care of yourself. That means making time to recharge and get plenty of rest, even while you have guests. If you do, your company will enjoy their visit even more, and will relax into the comfort of your home, too. Our house has jokingly become known as the Ritz Carlblom because we keep so many visitors overnight and host so many social events at our house. It's one way we can share our blessings with others. Hopefully, they leave here feeling refreshed and loved.

I pray these suggestions will help you enjoy entertaining your friends no matter your personality type. Just relax and enjoy your company and they'll relax and enjoy being in your home. 

What do you do to make people feel at home when they visit? Share your ideas in the comment section.


Monday, March 24, 2014

11 Tips for Sharing Your Home with Married Childen

It happens to a majority of parents. When the kids grow up, they get married and return to live with you for a time. It may be just for a few weeks, several months, or even years. My son and daughter-in-law recently moved out of our house after living with us for ten months. Honestly, we loved having them here, and they loved it, too. Of course, we all prefer having our own homes, but given the circumstances, we all got along great.

One day, one of my daughter-in-law's friends heard she was living with her in-laws and was ready and eager to sympathize. "Oh, no!" Bonnie said. "It's not like that. We really love each other and are having a lot of fun living under the same roof." Her friend was surprised, then asked for tips on how to make such an arrangement work. She and her husband were soon going to be in the same situation.

Bonnie and I talked about that very thing soon after. What made our situation work? We'd never really thought about it before. So here are a few things we came up with.

  1. Set clear expectations before you live together. How much rent will be charged, if any? Who will buy groceries? How will household chores be divided? Yard work? What about pets? If children, how much babysitting will Grandpa and Grandma do? Set clear boundaries before the living situation begins, especially for issues you feel could become problems.
  2. Remember that you're two separate families. Don't feel like you have to spend your evenings and meals together unless you really want the extra company.
  3. Make your own meals. No one should have to cook for the other unless you want to. There were times I made a big slow cooker meal and invited our kids to help us eat it. Or Bonnie, who is a much better cook than I am, would make something and ask if she could make enough for us, too. But most often, we cooked or ate out separately. That made the times we ate together more special.
  4. Clean up after yourselves. No one likes cleaning up after others. Actually, I should have left off the last two words in the previous sentence. But it's even worse when you're cleaning up someone else's mess. Resentment can build and you don't need that. Enough said.
  5. Respect one another. I realize this is a kindergarten classroom rule, but sometimes in families, we get lax. Don't put your TV volume up so high it bothers those watching in the next room. Don't hog the bathroom. Use common courtesy as you would with any other guest.
  6. Practice kindness. I tried to do my laundry while my grown kids were at work so the washer and dryer would be available to them when they were home. If I forgot my laundry in the dryer, they were kind enough to unload it into the basket for me without complaining. I sometimes put their wet laundry in the dryer for them. These small kindnesses (and many others!) went a long way toward living peacefully together. 
  7. Give each other warning when company's coming. We host a lot of social events at our house. Often they're family gatherings, but sometimes they're church events. I'd tell the kids when such an event was happening and they'd make sure their bathroom, which was the main one our guests would use, was clean before that day arrived. Or if they were having friends over, they'd let us know in advance, just out of courtesy. I loved the day I came home and found my daughter-in-law at the kitchen table with three of her girlfriends working on Christmas crafts. It was wonderful to have them there, but even better that I knew they were coming. The glitter I found on the floor despite their best efforts to sweep it up made me smile weeks later with every sparkle.
  8. Work together. There were times when one of us would be out longer than expected and needed help caring for our pets. We were glad to let each other's dogs out or feed them if needed to make the other's life easier and relieve a bit of stress. Or when I couldn't be home for the pest control man to come and spray, they'd be there to let him in. Help each other out however you can.
  9. Find common bonds. This was one of the unexpected joys of living with my daughter-in-law. We found lots of things we both loved to do and it strengthened our relationship. Because I'm the only coffee drinker in my family, I now had someone to enjoy a cup of coffee with in the morning. We also had a mutual love for the newspaper puzzles and worked together on them. Oh yeah, and we share a ridiculous love for my son!
  10. Offer grace. There will be times when things don't feel as smooth and stress-free as you'd like. People get tired and irritable. The stress of living together may make the walls feel like they're closing in. At those times, offer grace. Ask if you can do anything to help the other. Leave a surprise for them where they'll see it. Give an extra hug. Listen and empathize. Or simply stay out of each other's way, giving the extra space that's needed.
  11. Laugh. This might be the most important point of all. When things go right, laugh. When things go wrong, laugh. Laugh when you and your grown children are pressed close together and when you see each other across the room. Keep life light. Make family jokes. Don't take yourself or each other too seriously. You'll be amazed at how much joy a belly laugh can bring and how stress runs and hides at the sound of laughter.
I pray your experience of living with your grown children, and perhaps even grandchildren, is as pleasant and joy-filled as ours was. Sprinkle it liberally with love and open affection. You'll have memories to last a lifetime.


Friday, March 14, 2014

I Am Thankful

In January, my elderly father-in-law had several mini strokes and came to live with us. Though the move went smoothly, the transition has been difficult for my husband, daughter, and me. It's easy to fall into a mindset of complaining, resenting what is different, and wishing for the way things used to be. I still wage war to maintain a positive attitude many days. But today, I choose to be thankful.

I am thankful that I have a home to provide shelter not only for my family, but for others as well.

I am thankful I have good health and strength to assist others in their needs.

I am thankful to have the privilege to care for a faithful saint, no matter how long or short it may be.

I am thankful for opportunities for God to refine me into pure, sparkling gold through this time.

I am thankful for a husband who is attentive and concerned for me and my needs.

I am thankful for friends who have traveled this path already and who offer much needed support and prayers.

I am thankful that my father-in-law is easy to please and appreciates every act of kindness. His sweet spirit instructs me without saying a word.

I am thankful for Arizona sunshine streaming through my windows in these winter months.

I am thankful for grown children who make me laugh and don't judge me when I fail.

I am thankful for the little dog who nestles close and warm against my leg as I sit on the couch.

I am thankful for a car that gets me out of the house for a break or to attend to necessary errands.

I am thankful for a God who never leaves me or forsakes me.

I am thankful.

I am thankful.

I am thankful.

"Eucharisteo [giving thanks] always precedes the miracle." Ann VosKamp, One Thousand Gifts (Zondervan, 2011, p. 35)

Looking for miracles today and anticipating good gifts from the Giver.

Are you walking through a difficult time? What's one thing for which you can be thankful today?


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Nurturing Resistant Teens

I know what you're thinking. Aren't we supposed to raise compliant teens? Don't we want them to be obedient and easy to get along with rather than resistant? Well, yes. And no. Compliant and resistant (rebellious?) teens both need nurturing.

As a plant needs to push through the hard dirt in order to stand strong and healthy in the wind, so our teens need to push against us to be strong and independent in the world. Same goes for other species in creation like a bird pecking its way out of its shell or a butterfly fighting its way out of the cocoon. If you try to help by breaking the shell for them or peeling back the cocoon, the animal dies because it didn't gain the strength needed by working its way out on its own.

Teens are no different. They push us with their know-it-all attitudes, their eye rolling, and sometimes outright rebellion as they try to find strength to stand on their own. As parents, it's not easy being the hard dirt. It hurts when our shells are cracked by their cutting words and missed curfews. But it is a necessary part of their growth. They need our loving support firmly pressing the dirt around their weak little stalks, reinforcing the tender roots that are forming in places we can't even see. Still, I don't know a single parent who didn't feel helpless and uneasy, if not downright disheartened, as their teen emerged from their warm cocoon. Knowing that doesn't make it any more pleasant. Nor does it mean your teen shouldn't be corrected. But even as you discipline them, remember they are doing what is necessary and completely natural. It's part of the unspoken plan, the mystery of God and nature.

 When I was a teen I hated myself at times because of the way I treated my parents. But I couldn't seem to stop it either. In hindsight, I think it's almost like a force of nature, a silent call to independence, the pulling away that must happen for teens to move into adulthood. They may not understand or like their actions any more than you do. That's okay. But as a parent, it calls for tremendous amounts of grace.

Grace. Understanding. Forgiveness. Prayer. Generous doses of laughter. These are all essential ingredients parents need as they journey through the teen years. Never forget your child's struggle and how they count on you to be a constant stabilizing force in their life. Eventually, they'll be mature enough to appreciate all you've done for them. And that warm, loving person you raised will re-emerge, mature and capable.

What is the hardest thing for you about being the parent of a teen? How do you cope?


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Putting Christmas Away

I love celebrating Christmas. Any story with a baby always captures my attention, but a baby, conceived supernaturally, born to save the world? Just hearing the first few words from Luke, chapter two stirs my soul. "In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register" (NIV). I know what's coming--Who's coming! God's only Son, heavenly hosts, lowly shepherds, a young mother wrapping her newborn in swaddling clothes and laying Him in a manger, peace, goodwill toward men. I love the story. It is the beginning of my salvation.

That said, I don't love all the work that goes into Christmas, either to make the holiday happen or to put it away. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy the decorations and music, the red and the green. But I dislike putting up the tree and the lights and taking them down again just a few short weeks later. It's like a writer saying they don't like writing, but they love to "have written." The same is true for me at Christmas. I love the result, but not the work it takes to get there.

This year I was blessed to have my two oldest grandsons, ages twelve and ten, come help put up the outside lights with Grandpa and then return to take them and the Christmas tree down. It was a gift they didn't even know they'd given. I was elated not to have to deal with that tree. Sure, there were other parts of the house I had to un-decorate, but at least that big part was done. It made the rest seem so much more manageable. 

But guess what? The boxes of decorations, lights, and wreaths that we took down are still sitting in my entryway waiting to be stashed into the closet for another year. They've been there for four days now. I hate looking at them. But do I move them? No. Why? Because I hate putting Christmas away! I'm ready to be done with it and move on into the New Year, operating on a routine schedule, but those boxes are still sitting. And so am I. 

So, today I am making myself a promise. Those boxes of decorations will be out of my entryway by tomorrow. After all, putting away Christmas in no way means I'm putting away Jesus. He'll still be the radiant centerpiece of my life, burning brighter than any Christmas candle. But I'll feel more organized and ready to tackle the New Year with those boxes securely packed away. My heart will be able to sing, "Oh come let us adore Him" with fresh fervor when my house is less chaotic. 

Sing with me, "Joy to the world, the boxes are gone!"

Anyone else feel like this? Or are you one who would love to keep Christmas up all year long? Chime in in the comments.