Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Memories that Last a Lifetime

The holidays are such a wonderful time for me celebrating with friends, family, food, and own children!  Children make the holidays even more special--more meaningful and alive.  I stumbled across a quote a few months ago about how memories make such an impact, and yet, often as parents life is filled with such hustle and bustle that we don't stop to reflect on the memories we are making for our little ones.  "There were the years when the children were young, fast-moving periods when life flew by without time for the roots of deep reflection, and yet...memories were created whether one pondered them or not." When I read this, I could not agree more if I had said it myself.  We can so easily get caught up in what we (as parents) think is important or necessary during the holidays--or everyday life--that we miss out on memories-in-the-making. 

We may never know what is standing out as a fond memory in our children's lives.  For me, as a child the one holiday memory that stands out so profoundly I can almost see, feel, hear, and smell it is arriving home from school during the Christmas season.  I remember coming in the front door and hearing the sounds of Christmas music playing throughout the house--one of my mom's favorite records, no doubt!  I could smell Pledge dusting spray because she had likely been moving from one room to the next preparing for the holiday.  And, the air was warm with the scents of ginger, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, molasses, and mom was baking!   This was Christmas to me!  I was oblivious to any worries or stresses my parents may have been facing:  How do we pay for all the gifts?  How do we prepare emotionally for visits with relatives?  How will we have the time to accomplish everything?  Children have this way of embracing the joys of the season with pure innocence.  Why burden ourselves so much when what may hold special meaning and stand out in our children's memories is almost completely out of our hands?  Every day is an opportunity for fond memories in the life of a child.  I want to share a poem that I read today, for the first time since I've been a parent.  It held such new understanding for me. 
One Wish of God
If God would grant me just one wish
To be enjoyed through life,
I would not ask for wealth or power
Or comforts, without strife.
I would but ask He touch my heart
And fill it--for this while--
With just the simple loves I knew
When I was just a child.

The kind of loves that made each day
A blessing to behold
And filled my heart with trust and faith
 In Him and human fold,
And this is all that I would ask--
To make my life sublime:
To live with just this kind of love
That, once, was yours and mine.

My aging years have proven, well,
The noblest gift on earth
Is not some gift we take from life
Of selfish, private worth.
It's what we carry in our hearts
To share and give away,
Such as the loves we knew--and grew--
Within our childhood days.

Michael Dubina

Memories are being made in our children's hearts and minds, whether we realize it or not.  Those memories live in our hearts; they last a lifetime; they take us right back to that childhood innocence, playfulness, and bliss.  I don't always remember this...I don't always do the best by my children.  But, my heart's desire and prayer is that I would make each moment count--that I would make each day an opportunity for a special memory to be made.  I may never know for sure when memories are being made, but truly they are. 

*Quote by Erica Bauermeister

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Season of Perpetual Hope

So many have heard that this is the season of perpetual hope!  I agree with this in so many ways, but I have also had occasion over the last few weeks to consider that countless people struggle during this time of the year.  I won't recount all of the ways one may struggle; I'm sure no one would disagree with this fact.  Well, one particular Bible scripture has often come to my mind recently:  "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." Proverbs 13:12  I've given much thought to this, even in regards to my own life...dreams, hopes, and desires that I long to see fulfilled.  I will attest that if my hope begins to fail me, my heart truly feels heavy and discouraged (not to mention the physical implications of this proverb).  However, when a desire or longing is fulfilled, hope is restored and renewed...hope in the good of people; hope in justice; hope in humanity.  My soul feels encouraged!  My steps feel more certain!  My heart feels lighter!  My smile is brighter! 

Everyone deserves to feel this way, especially during this season of perpetual hope!  The reality, however, is that this will not be so.  But I am determined to do whatever I can, during this season, to restore the hope of another!  We all can do something.  Each one has something to give.  Sometimes, the simple act of wearing a smile can brighten another's life and help to restore one's hope in humanity--especially when the smile one receives is unexpected. 

In times past, I will admit that I have counted myself out of being able to do much or make much of a difference.  Often, I have even discounted myself due to financial circumstances--though I always have had a roof over my head, food on my table, and clothes on my back.  I have turned the other way!  I will no longer discount what I am able to give or contribute.  I began this season purposing in my heart to ask God continually, "What would you have me do today?"  It's no surprise that most often what I felt compelled to do was something for someone else!  I have tears in my eyes recalling some of what God impressed on my heart to do, because I am so overwhelmingly grateful that He has allowed me the opportunity to take my eyes off of myself and my own circumstances

What I have begun to experience, in turn, is that my very own hope has been restored in more ways than one.  My heart has been encouraged by the generosity, thoughtfulness, and kindness of others during this season.  More importantly, I am learning that even when I wonder if what I have to give is enough, I realize that if I give becomes more than enough.  As a result, we have more than enough.  A wise man and pastor at our church, Jeffrey Smith, said recently "When it's in your hands, it is never enough; but when you put it in God's hands it becomes more than enough."  There is such truth and hope in this understanding.  If I trust in God when I choose to do for someone else--or give to someone else--God blesses and increases it.  He blesses the giver as well as the receiver.  Hope is restored. 

So my encouragement is that we would all take time to consider others before ourselves.  What do I have to give?  What can I do for someone else today?  How can I be a blessing?  This should be the season of perpetual hope...and it should never end!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Parenting Truths

Recently I had a very humbling interaction that caused me to reflect on some key parenting truths.  I received an email from a college friend of mine who is a newer parent.  She and her husband have been thinking and talking about discipline.  Her email to me was in regard to this topic and she basically asked me if I had any suggestions or "sage words of advice."  Bless her heart, first of all, for the generous implications of that question.  But, I will say that it caused me to do some thinking.  I do not consider myself to be an expert; anyone who has spent any time with my children can bear witness that I haven't mastered the area of discipline.  However, I think I have solidified a few key truths and I am sure of their infinite value.  Here is a portion of my response letter to this dear mom.
Good to hear from you! Thanks so much for the kind words. The fact that you'd even ask me such an important question is an encouraging compliment. Not so sure I'm the person to ask....
You guys are so wise to start thinking and talking about discipline for [your child]! It's never too early. At a young age they may not respond to much, but they are learning that your voice can bring a correction. I think there are so many parenting and disciplinary styles out there and I really don't think I could say one is right (or even more right) and one is wrong. We are all different, therefore, we parent differently! I love watching how people parent differently. We can learn so much from other parents, especially if something is really working for them--or something else is really not working for us. I would probably say that the most important keys are love, prayer, and consistency (at least from my experience)!
Love isn't tough when they are young (and so daggon cute) but as they grow and develop personality and independence (and show that rebellious nature that's in all of us) we have to SHOW LOVE actively and continually to them....because we may be doing a whole lot of discipline.  Prayer is so important because even if we don't see an immediate answer or change, it opens that line of communication with their (and our) Creator--He knows our kids best--and knows how we tic too!  Consistency is sooooooo key and it's soooooooo hard (esp. as they are in the tough toddler years). Not that I never deal w/ behavior issues with Jaden (mostly attitude actually) but by 7 he has learned to obey, make pretty good decisions, and cooperate with the family. For me the ages of 3, 4, and 5 are very, very tough. I'm struggling quite a bit with Luke (5). It feels like NONSTOP discipline some days. But, as discouraging as that may feel, I KNOW that I'm plowing through good soil. He will benefit in the long run from our consistency. But, we do mess up which leads to the final key that I failed to mention.....GRACE! God gives us plenty as parents, thankfully. It's really hard work, though I'd never give it up!! He wants us to extend grace toward our children too!
I have full confidence that you will do a remarkable job with [your child]! You have a good, solid foundation. Honestly, I could not do this without Ron and I know [your husband] is a wonderful partner to you!
I was reminded of some solid truths while responding to my friend's email.  These truths do not change, even though I will and my children will.  I believe what I wrote!  Parenting is a gift but it is also a very challenging job with very little vacation time.  I know that with love, prayer, consistency, and grace as the foundation, every attempt at discipline will be acceptable and profitable...eventually!  Without love, prayer, consistency, and grace, it is impossible (in my strong belief) to parent with any amount of success.  These are a good and solid starting point for every parent.  And, by the way, it's never too late to start again~there is grace!