Too Much to Gain to Lose

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A few months ago I had the brainchild of getting into couponing. Now, I know nothing about it, but have always wanted to learn, and since my daughter is a recent Ultra-Couponer, I hoped I could latch onto her and get some good ideas. So I decided to start with shopping deals at CVS.

My first week, I bought $11 worth of stuff, and got $10 worth of Extra Care Bucks back! Not bad, eh? But I had to wait until next week to use those bucks, and the next week there were no real deals. The same with the following weeks.

One day I looked at my ECB receipt and discovered that this day was the very last day to use it! No problem – even though it was a Sunday, I would go after church. So on the way home from church I stopped by the CVS only to discover that it had already closed the the day! Oh no! My ECBs were expired! All that money was wasted!

I let a wonderful opporunity slip through my hands.

It reminds me of a verse: “Therefore, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have learned, lest at any time we should let them slip.”

God has been speaking to me through this verse. Sometimes it is a gentle rolling, a murmer in the background, and other times it is a shocking almost visible trumpet call.

Why? Because I struggle. I struggle with allowing precious things to slip through my hands. I struggle with maintaining a lazer focus on the true and right things, and often get distracted with the meaningless dribble of life. I struggle because my attention span is so very very short.

But God in His mercy continues to call, to pull. He gently murmers in the background, and loudly proclaims His truth right in my face. And these are the things He has been speaking to me about giving the More Earnest Heed to:

1) My God – Coming to grips with the reality of God’s constant presence is something I need to pay more earnest attention to. His presence brings a clarity to my daily routine, and draws me toward a right relationship with Him.

2) My marriage – I may have been married a long time, but there’s no time for vacation or coasting. I must always pay earnest attention to my spouse, otherwise, the parade of daily distractions will pull us apart.

3) My children – For me, I struggle with screen time. It helps to remember that every moment spent in front of the screen is one less moment I spend with my family. It’s something I must always be on guard against.

There’s too much to gain to lose.

Is there anything The Lord has been speaking to you about lately? Do you find yourself struggling with the meaningless dribble of life and not doing what you know you’re supposed to?

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On a personal note, you may have noticed I’ve been a bit quiet here lately. It’s because I’m allowing the Holy Spirit to guide my daily activities and schedule. There have been plenty of evenings I thought to myself, “Well, I’m not getting on the computer tonight. I wonder what I’ll do?” and before I knew it, one or the other of the young people pulled me aside and I spent the evening talking, or taking a walk, or something fun. It’s been a good thing to keep my computer turned off.

We’ve continued on our travels, and now we’re up in the northern states. It’s blissfully cool here, so I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the great running weather. My 5k times were good for August! Now we’re back south, and it’s more of a challenge.

We’ve been doing a lot of singing as a family, which I love. We got our new CD, “I Have Been Blessed,” and have also been learning new songs. If The Lord allows, I’m hoping to make a recording when we come back from this trip, so we will hopefully have another CD ready to put out before the year is up.

We got to visit with the grandkids last week, too! What a blessing it was to be there while Emily had her birthday!! I can’t believe she’s turning 6 years old already!!

Time flies! …and I’m constantly reminded as I look at my grandkids, “I have too much to gain to lose.” I don’t want to let any opportunity to glorify God slip through my hands!

Almost Ready!

If you’ve been following me for these past few weeks, you know we’re getting ready to head out on a two-month trip – a mini-furlough of sorts, designed to help us raise the support we’ve been losing over the past 2 years. Now we’re almost ready!

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It’s been an extremely busy week, as we’ve been getting ready for our two-month trip! There are all the things that need done in the yard, to hopefully get the bushes, etc. ready for a 2 month break (does it help to trim them down within an inch of their life?? They won’t grow back soon….) Anything that needs done to the house had to be done this week, like cleaning out cabinets, etc. And then there’s school to plan.

Since we’re starting school the last week of August, we need to take all the school books for my three studious students with us. THAT’s going to be a challenge! I’ve got everything ordered (and one book I had sent to one of the places we’ll be soon, because it won’t come before we leave,) and I copied all the tests they will need while we’re gone, since we won’t have a printer or copier – and I don’t want to run to Staples every day to copy a test for a kid!

One challenge, but also a blessing, is going to be our Heritage Studies. I decided that, instead of bookwork, we will take these next 2 months and learn everything we can about the states we pass through. The plan is to stop at every Welcome Center and gather information and make a scrap book of the trip. I am also going to have each student write a few paragraphs about what we’re learning, and include those in the scrap book as well. It sounds like a lot of fun!

While I’ve been looking for containers to carry food, school materials, and other necessary items, my husband has been busy building a utility trailer. We looked for one on Craigslist and online, but couldn’t find one in the budget, so he bought a trailer frame kit, built that, and went to Lowe’s and got a bunch of wood to make the box. These past few days has found him out in the garage sawing, measuring, and sweating! Our FB page has some pics of the progress we’ve made.

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The van is as ready as it’s going to be, except that today it should get a good cleaning. We had the oil changed, the wheels aligned, and the tires rotated and balanced. One thing that concerns us is a loose CV joint, which we hope to get fixed at our trusted mechanic in PA…and we hope it doesn’t go out before that! If you could pray for us about that, I would appreciate it.

I also got several CD’s and books ready to take with us on the road: Lionproof, Keeping Your Children from the Claws of the Devil, and The Umbrella Story, as well as two CD’s – I’ll Say Yes, and a brand-new one, I Have Been Blessed! I’m especially excited about the new CD, because it was recorded while the guys were still with us, and it’s one of the very best we ever did!

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I’m writing this on Friday, but when this posts, Monday, I’ll be just putting the finishing touches on the packing, and loading the trailer and cleaning the house. Before you know it, we be on our way!

As we go, I’ll keep you posted on events, meetings, and setbacks. I’ll try to take pics of as much as I can, and keep you up to date on our progress.

Please pray for us as we go, for safety, and that we would be a blessing to the churches we go to!

Linking up with: Monday: Moms the Word, Tuesday: Titus Two Tuesdays, The TimeWarp Wife, Messy Marriage Wednesday: To Love Honor and Vacuum
 

5 Things Faith Does

Driving our bus down a 2-lane highway in lower Michigan, my husband struggled to keep the rig on the road. There had been a violent storm the night before, and the weather was still quite finicky. The wind was gusting quite a bit, turning our bus-turned motorhome into a land-roving sail.

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While he wrestled with the steering wheel, we continued our normal daily routines. It was not long after lunch, and both the dishwasher and washing machine were humming, while the kids sat in various favorite spots enjoying a book or writing on the computer. I sat on the couch beside several kids, while one of the girls walked from the back bedroom toward the front, absolutely unaware that the course of our lives would change dramatically in the next few seconds.

I heard my husband shout, “Look out!” and the next instant felt the bus shudder. Time seemed to crawl as I looked up and saw that the windshield was shattering. For what seemed like an eternity, I could see leafy arms reaching toward my cowering daughter, as several branches came through the hole that was once the windshield. The noise created by splintering glass, kids shouting and my husband yelling filled the air. Within seconds, My Beloved pulled the bus to a stop, although he could hardly see the road.

Even before the bus was stopped, however, several of the children began crying and screaming, blood oozing from various places. It was an instant I will never forget.

In just a second of time, a tree had fallen right in the path of our bus, not even hitting the ground, but striking our windshield. At that moment, my life was totally out of my control.

Jochebed, Moses’ mother, had a similar life-changing situation. In Exodus 2, we see that the king, Pharoah, had already made his slaves’ lives very difficult, but now, in an effort to keep their numbers down, he ordered that all baby boys be thrown into the river to drown. Jochebed’s life, which had never really been easy, had suddenly been turned upside-down.

Have you ever felt that way? Maybe you’ve never had an accident, or maybe you’ve never experienced a life-changing moment, but I’m sure somewhere along the line, you’ve experienced times when you’ve felt that your life was totally out of your hands. Perhaps it was a financial situation, or sickness of a spouse or child, or perhaps something broke, and you had a difficult situation to deal with. We’ve all had times when the life we were living at the time took a sudden turn, and we were now completely in God’s Hands.

Even though she was in a awful situation, Jochebed chose to live by faith. She put her life into God’s Hands…and her faith altered the entired course of history.

What happens when we choose to live by faith?

When we choose to live by faith, we choose to place our lives in God’s control. Jochebed understood that there is no better place to be than in the center of God’s Will; no stronger Hands to be held by the the Hands that made the Universe.

We choose action over passivity. Like Jochebed, whose faith moved her to make a little boat for her baby boy, I could not just sit around after the accident. Within seconds, I popped one child in the shower to rinse off his glass, while someone else began brushing off another child. Still a third started sweeping up all the glass.

We choose the Word of God over our emotions. Jochebed had the promise that God’s people would someday be delivered from bondage and go to the Promised Land. Her emotions probably told her that her efforts were worthless, but God’s Word never changes. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee…

We choose miracles over the mundane. While every other Israelite mother was throwing their baby boys in the river, Jochobed chose a very unusual route. Her results were miraculous – her boy not only lived, but she was PAID to take care of him!

We choose to live a life of significance, rather than to fade into the obscure. All of the peole in the Hall of Faith, Hebrews 11 (including Jochebed) were people of significance – not because they were powerful people, but because they were people who exercised faith.

God took care of us that day along the side of the road. Amazingly, only the Rocket Boy had to go to the ER to have glass removed! Two months later, the bus was all fixed up and ready to go, and we were able to continue our journey. God is good!

Personally, I want to live a life of significance, to make the world a better place because I’ve been in it. It can only happen as I live a life, like Jochebed, of faith.

Linking up with: Monday: Moms the Word, Tuesday: Titus Two Tuesdays, The TimeWarp Wife, Messy Marriage Wednesday: To Love Honor and Vacuum

The Truth About Building Relationships

Building relationships is like opening Dad’s workroom. Messy? Oh, yeah. But as a kid, all I could see were possibilities!

building relationships

building relationships

When I was a kid, there was a room in the basement which always drew my attention. One day I was wandering around without anything to do (I could NEVER imagine that now!) and I happened to open the door to my Dad’s workroom.

Opening the door just a crack revealed a glorious mess, and the brown smell of wood shavings mixed with the musty smell of damp cinderblock walls. I glanced around the room and my eyes beheld many wondrous things: tools of all shapes and sizes – hammers, saws, chisels, files, and many electric tools as well, stacks of planks, 2x4s, and smaller blocks of wood, and on the ceiling were baby food jars holding various screws, nails, and bolts of every type. The two worktables were strewn with various projects in different stages of done-ness – a fan that had been taken apart because the switch didn’t work, a vacuum cleaner that needed its belt replaced, and several broken toys waited for my Dad’s attention.

I slowly entered the room and flicked on the light, making the whole mess appear even more awesome. Soon, I was pulling a plank out of the woodstack, and I cleared myself a spot on the worktable and began to make my very own creation.

Building relationships is a little like opening up Dad’s old workroom. Everything looks scattered, broken, and messy – complete with sawdust and wood shavings! But, oh, the potential that is there in that workroom! As a young person, I could easily envision the many wonderful things I could build. Birdhouses, go-carts, tables, and shelves were among my ideas, and some of them even made it to fruition. But none would have been built at all without me opening up the door, seeing the awesome room, and getting to work.

Building Relationships takes time. I never built a go-cart overnight, although I tried really hard. Well, I take it back – I DID build a go-cart in just a few hours once, but it only got about 100 feet down the road before it collapsed. (Lesson #453: what goes together quickly comes apart even quicklier!) But building relationships takes time. Whether you want to reach out to a co-worker, or have a better marriage, or build a bridge to your children, it takes time. A truly good go-cart never gets built in a day, and neither will a good marriage or relationship.

Building Relationships take work. Of course, when I was building go-carts, my work was so mixed with play that it was hard to tell the difference. Perhaps that’s the key. Perhaps there should be so much play mixed in with our relationship building, that it hardly seems like work at all. We attack the project with so much gusto and enjoy the process that it is thoroughly enjoyable.

Building Relationships is a process. It takes time to build a go-cart that will take you flying down the hill to the envy of your friends, and it takes work to do it. But the whole process can be enjoyable, not just the end result. Which brings me to my next point:
Relationship building is actually the goal. If we take the time and work on our relationships, playing and enjoying the relationships as we build them, we will find that the process is the goal. We may never reach the goal – having the coolest go-cart in the neighborhood, because your friends down the street may be building one at the same time. And in my case, my friends always had better raw materials to work with, because our large family never allowed for really nice stuff. But in reality, it didn’t matter if I had the best go-cart or not – I had a lot of fun (and learned a lot) in the process. Enjoy the process of building relationships, because the process really is the goal.

Building Relationships is a continuing process. Once I had my beloved go-cart “finished,” there were always little tweaks that needed done – oiling the wheels, re-tying the ropes when they come off (remember those ropes you would tie onto a 2×4 that would steer? Lesson #454: Always make sure your knots are tied TIGHT before you ride down the steep hill!) and perhaps even painting the name “Cruiser” on the side! That just means that the fun just keeps on going! In relationship building, there are always little things we can do to improve, both ourselves and out relationships. The fun just goes on and on.

I had seen the potential, when I opened the door to Dad’s workroom. I had hammered, sawed, and bled in that workroom for my creation. After days and days of work, I finally closed the door to Dad’s workroom, lugging my newest g-cart up the basement steps carefully. I was thrilled. Oh yeah, I was smiling. And when I rode down the hill on my very own go-cart, the wind never felt so good.

Question: Can you think of something you build when you were young? How did you feel after you built it?

Linking up with: Monday: Moms the Word, Tuesday: Titus Two Tuesdays, The TimeWarp Wife, Messy Marriage Wednesday: To Love Honor and Vacuum

De-Lurking Day & GIVEAWAY!

It’s De-Lurking time…hat time of year when those of you who lurk around will finally reveal yourselves and let us all know you’re there. As a birthday gift to me, I ask that you comment below, letting me know you exist! One of those of you who comment will receive a free copy of my new book, Lionproof: Keeping Your Children from the Claws of the Devil!

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Well, folks, it’s been a special time for me these past few days. Last week was my birthday!! But it wasn’t just any birthday, mind you – it was my 50th birthday!! (Did I really say that?? Online??)

I guess I must say that, though I easily breezed into my 40’s, I’m not really very fond of turning 50. I know it’s just a  number, but it’s a BIG number! But I can tell you that I feel much healthier and better at 50 than I did at 40. For some of you that have read my fitness story, you know that after I had my youngest child, my body was in terrible shape, and I was a real couch potato. Finally, a few years after he was born, I decided to start getting myself back into some sort of shape so I’d be useful to my family and the Lord.

So I slowly began first to walk, and then to run. I tell folks now that I’m a endorphin junkie! I praise the Lord for the ability to run.

I’ve also added weight training, something which I do about 4 days a week. I can tell you that it sure has helped this old girl stay sane and injury-free, for which I’m very thankful.

The eve of my birthday, I did something I’ve never done before. I laid in my bed and very ceremoniously “turned the page” in my mind from my 40’s to my 50’s. I’m entering a new chapter in my life, and I wanted to thank the Lord for His goodness to me in my 40’s, and dedicate my next decade to the Lord. It was a special time, with just me and God.

I’m also entering my 8th year of blogging! I think it has helped me grow as a person, and enabled me to express some things that otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to do. Hopefully somewhere along the line it has been a blessing to you, as well.

This year, for my birthday, I’m asking everyone who reads this blog, even occasionally, to comment and let me know a few things. Tell me who you are, how old you are (approximate) and a topic that you really enjoy reading about. If you want, I would love to know what country you live in, as well.

And this year, I’m going to do something I’ve ALWAYS wanted to do: I’m going to do a GIVEAWAY for my birthday!! One of the commenters will receive a free copy of my newest book, Lionproof: Keeping Your Children from the Claws of the Devil!!

I’m so looking forward to reading your comments, and getting to know who you are!

Linking up with: Monday: Moms the Word, and A Mama’s Story Tuesday: Titus Two Tuesdays, The TimeWarp Wife, Messy Marriage Wednesday: To Love Honor and Vacuum

What Kind of Tater are You? (devotional for women)

Today’s post is a light-hearted devotional for women for a favorite spring pasttime, gardening. As we plant our gardens, let’s be thinking about the Tater family. I wonder…what kind of Tater are you? What kind am I? Something to think about.

sprin devotional for women

sprin devotional for women

One of the things I’ve missed for those 17 years of being on the road was having a garden. I had a garden while we lived in PA in the early years of our marriage, but once we went on the road in 1993 I was confined to a tiny houseplant…or was it a busplant? Anyway, I was thrilled this year to be able to break some new ground and put in some strawberry and broccoli plants.

Now, in the past, I’ve grownthings like carrots, beans, peas, and even potatoes. I thought it was amazing that a potato is actually also a potato seed! You can take a potato and put it in the ground, and it will sprout up and turn into a potato plant, and from that potato, you can get 6 or more potatoes! When I lived in Texas and it was time to harvest the pototoes, though, I discovered that potatoes were perfect places for fire ants to build their ant mounds! Boy was I surprised when I pulled on my first potato plant and found, not just potatoes, but fire ants!

I’m not sure what you call a potato seed, but let’s talk for a minute about different kinds of potatoes in the home.

1. Dic-tater – She’s the one who tries to run everything her own way, and refuses to let her husband lead.
Now, the Bible says we are to “guide the house” (see 1 Timothy 5:14.) That word “guide” literally means to run the household, or to manage family affairs. In other words, once her husband has set a direction for the home, it’s her job to make sure that direction is followed on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, however, it’s easy for Mrs. Dic-tater to think she’s in charge of everyone, hubby included, and if things are not done her way, she gets fuming mad!

Let’s not ever forget the Bible mandate, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church:and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” (Ephesians 5:22-24)

2. Ro-tater – She’s never consistent with anything. One day she’s happy, and then for no reason, another day she’s down in the dumps. Now, being a woman (read that word “hormone junkie”) and being hypoglycemic (read that as “extremely sugar sensative!) I know that physical things have a lot to do with how we feel. But there comes a time when we need to come to grips with our feelings and not let how we feel dictate our day, orour families.

Mrs. Ro-tater is never consistent with her children. She disciplines in irritation one day, and the next laughs at the very same offense! Little Johnny has no idea what’s right and what’s wrong, and becomes very insecure. Children need to have limits, and Mrs. Ro-tater doesn’t seem to realize this. She’s too busy riding her waves of hormones and sugar to pay much attention to training her children.

I’m so thankful that Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, today, and forever,” (see Hebrews 13:8) and, “For I am the Lord, I change not.” (Malachi 3:6a) The Lord deals with us in consistency, and we would be more Christ-like, and less like Mrs. Ro-tater, when we are consistent as well!

3. Sweet-tater – She’s through and through a sweetie. She’s different than the rest; she’s formed from a totally different mold. She’s not a dic-tator, or a ro-tater, or an agi-tater or a speck-tater, but she is kind, loving, peaceful, gentle, good, full of faith, meekness, and self-control. In fact, she is different because she is filled with the sweet Spirit of God! (Galatians 5:22-23)

She’s thinks more of others than of herself (see Philippians 2:3,) and strives to teach her children consistently. While she rides the same hormone waves everybody else does, she doesn’t let it alter her behavior, and if the waves get really rough, she does what she can to let folks know that she needs a little time to take care of those waves, rather than just blowing up.

I don’t know about you, but I think I’m going to try to plant sweet taters this year, too, beside my strawberry patch and broccoli. And while I plant them, I’m going to ask The Lord to help me be full of the Holy Spirit, so I can be more Christlike like Mrs. Sweet-tater!

Question: How many other members of the Tater family can you think of? Can you think of any more things you could add to this devotional for women?

Linking up with: Monday: Moms the Word, and A Mama’s Story Tuesday: Titus Two Tuesdays, The TimeWarp Wife, Messy Marriage Wednesday: To Love Honor and Vacuum

Small Talk 101: No-No’s

Last week I wrote about some of the benefits of Small Talk, and this week I want to focus on some of the Small Talk mistakes. Believe me, I’ve made a pile of them!

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Ronnie was a nice boy that lived up the street from me, and who eventually worked his way into my sister’s heart. Somehow he survived the “orientation” we gave every boyfriend or girlfriend of the family to be big sis’s boyfriend for almost a year – one of the longest relationships on record at our home.

Although Ronnie was finally accepted into our group, he had some serious social flaws, and unfortunately we laugh about his odd ways to this day.

He would walk up to people, and after a few seconds of awkward silence, he would stammer a greeting of some sort, and then, to get conversation going, ask some obscure question like, “Was this stereo in the car, or did you put it in?” (Never mind that there was no such thing as aftermarket stereos in that day) or “So how much does your car weigh?” He tried so hard to be friendly that people actually walked away rolling their eyes.

Poor Ronnie. He was eventually dumped by my sister and replaced by some other victem of our “orientation.”

As for me, I didn’t start out life being shy. In fact, as the youngest of 5 children, I was the family’s “entertainment,” perpetually goofing off, saying silly things, and basically enjoying life. But something happened in my early adult life, and I discovered that I was a social dunderhead, and I figured it was safer to sit down and shut up. So for the past 25 years or so, I’ve been a fairly shy person.

For me to reach out to people is not in my comfort zone. I can be goofy if I feel comfortable, but to make small talk to engage someone in a conversation is pretty difficult for me. Perhaps it’s my odd sense of humor that prevents me from connecting with normal people, but I have a hard time with small talk.

But as a Pastor’s wife I can’t spend my time hoping I never have to talk to anyone. I’ve realized that I need to work on engaging people in small talk, so eventually we can move onto deeper subjects.

It’s something I’ve been working on, and I’ve learned a few things along the way.

Here are some Small Talk No-Nos:

1. Politics – This is not a comfortable subject, so it’s best to avoid politics until you get to know the individual better. In fact, I try to let them steer the conversation, and eventually bring it up if they want to talk about it.

2. “Religion” – Notice the quotes! Generally speaking, people dislike the topic of religion, unless they feel comfortable with you. Starting with small talk before telling them what Jesus has done for me works very well.

3. Weight/Defects, etc – Children are famous for this! One of my kids, when they were very little, pointed out a large wart on a church member’s nose and exclaimed, “Ball!” This may be funny for little kids, but it’s not smart for big people.

4. Deep, probing questions – I love deep, heart-to-heart discussions, and so I will tend to get right into feelings or deep thoughts I have about subjects. I’ve been working on trying to engage people in normal topics for awhile first.

5. Questions about previous relationships, or relationship status – We may want to hear the latest scoop on Katrina’s courtship, but we could be in for a surprise if Katrina bursts into tears at the mention of her former fiance.

Ronnie was a great guy, but his awkward questions had a way of making people think, “What’s the matter with this guy?” That’s NOT what I want people to think of me!

Question: Can you think of any other things we need to avoid as we talk to people we meet?

Linking up with: Monday: Moms the Word, and A Mama’s Story Tuesday: Titus Two Tuesdays, The TimeWarp Wife, Messy Marriage Wednesday: To Love Honor and Vacuum

Why Small Talk is Important

We may dislike small talk, but conversations about the weather, the garden, or dirty diapers are tremendously valuable while we build relationships.

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“Adam? A-dam! Where are you?” God’s voice called through the lush green foliage. His Creation was huddled behind a bush, wishing he could simply disappear. Doesn’t God know where I am? Adam wondered.

God knew exactly where Adam was. His question was designed for a response, not for information.

Doesn’t it astound you that God wants a relationship with us? It does me. The thought that the Almighty God wants to commune with me is incredible.

Communication is the heartbeat of a relationship, and according to my young people, one of the best ways to grow communication is through small talk.

I asked my teens the other day whether they thought small talk was important, and their answers were amazing:

“Yes – it’s not the most important, but it’s also important. it gets you away from talking about the deep stuff all the time. It’s a time to talk about the small things in life. I think it’s really important as a family to get to know each other without having to get into the deep stuff.”
Another one said, “Just like with your friends, it’s easy to get edgy with the people you love, but if you talk a lot of small talk to get to know each other. When you talk to your friends, it’s not always “how are you doing in this relationship?” or some other deep question, but when you talk small talk with them, you get to know likes and dislikes and it helps to keep the relationship alive.

Here are some thoughts I have about why small talk is important:

1. Small talk is a free-flowing discussion of whatever comes to your mind. Everyone enjoys being able to speak freely, and not feel stupid. Small talk accomplishes that, in addition to the excitement of exploring new ground.

2. Small talk is a great way to learn new things. We can learn a lot about each other’s likes and dislikes, about space, plants, and dead cockroaches. Even live ones! Small talk with others, even our young people, is a great way to expand our knowledge!

3. Small talk helps your family develop self-confidence. When they’re able to hold their own in a conversation, they’re more likely to be comfortable in almost any situation, and that’s a good thing. People tend to like people who are confident enough to engage them in a conversation.

4. Small talk helps us to “be present.” Small talk makes us put our smart phones aside and engage another person, and in the family, that’s big. It tell the person that they’re valuable to you – valuable enough for you to take some of your attention and time to talk to them and reveal some things about yourself to them.

For me, small talk doesn’t come easily. I prefer deep conversations, so swapping birth stories and discussions of dirty diapers are not things I truly enjoy. But I’ve been thinking lately of how The Lord has helped build bridges with my older children, and I remember it started with small talk.

Something that I’ve found recently that helped me with conversation with my family has been  FAMILY TALK“> a set of cards with questions I can choose to ask at any time, of any person. I found it at Hobby Lobby, but you can also get them from Amazon by clicking  FAMILY TALK“>. It has a clip, which I clipped onto my purse strap, so I’ll always have it with me. While we’re out as a family, I can pull out a few questions to get some conversation going. It’s been great!

imageMost of the questions are small-talk questions, but some of them are deeper. None of them, however, are threatening in any way, and it makes it fun for my young people to share their thoughts.

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If you’re like me,  FAMILY TALK“> can be a big help to you; after all, the best way to grow in communication is through small talk!

 

 
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Linking up with: Monday: Moms the Word, and A Mama’s Story Tuesday: Titus Two Tuesdays, The TimeWarp Wife, Messy Marriage Wednesday: To Love Honor and Vacuum

5 Lessons I’ve Learned from Farmer Boy

A few days ago, we lost a beloved pet, my daughter’s gerbil who outlived practically every other living thing in this home. It was an emotional time for folks, and it was important for me to be tender and understanding of high emotions during these times.

The night after the little guy died, I was reading out loud to the Rocket Boy, and these words from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy seemed to just leap off the page…maybe it will speak to you as well.

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“Every Saturday morning he (Almanzo) spent in the barnyard, teaching Star and Bright… He knew you could never teach an animal anything if you struck it, or even shouted at it angrily. He must always be gentle, and quiet, and patient, even when they made mistakes. Star and Bright must like him and trust him and know he would never hurt them, for if they were once afraid of him they would never be good willing, hard-working oxen.”

Maybe you’re like me, and have wondered sometimes what I was missing in my relationship to my children. As a parent, there are so many roles to fill – teacher, cook, laundress, etc. But how can we gain our children’s heart and trust?

While Farmer Boy is no replacement for the child training principles found in the Scriptures (the Bible does teach the need for occasional loving correction,) there is a lot we can learn from a 10 year old boy trying to break his calves:

  • Be gentle – Gentleness is that elusive quality of speaking softly, with no rash moves or words. Having been a “self-made individual,” I can tell you that growing up I was known as very forthright and frank, and gentleness was nowhere in my vocabulary or actions. Without the Holy Spirit of God, the ideal is truly impossible, but “with God, all things are possible.”
  • Be patient – The Devil tells us, “don’t pray for patience, all you’ll end up with is troubles.” But never forget that we have troubles anyway – we might as well have patience to deal with them.
  • Be knowable – i.e, transparent. Allow our children to actually get to know us, the real us. Let’s not hide under a façade of Supermom, but let the kids see us when we spill milk, or shed a tear over our own losses, or accidently cut ourselves with a kitchen knife. Share with them your love of beautiful things, and don’t be afraid to share with them your fears and how you deal with them – it’s very likely that they will draw strength from yours.
  • Be likeable – Play games with them, tell them jokes, or be goofy with them.

Put on silly hats and having screaming contests into your pillows. Make each day a playful adventure, even if you see nothing but mounds of laundry and piles of dirty dishes.

  • Always work for their good, not your own comfort.

Every week I go to the store and get a small box of 85% chocolate, otherwise known as “bitter chocolate.” There are 5 pieces of chocolate in the box, and there are 2 other girls who are doing Trim Healthy Mama with me. How do I divide the chocolate? I give each of them 2, and I have 1. Could I use more chocolate? Sure! But I want them to know that I am willing to inconvenience myself so they can have more.

I’m not perfect by any stretch, but by God’s grace, I want to grow in these areas.

This struck home especially because of our recent loss of a beloved animal in our house – a gerbil who outlived any gerbil’s life expectancy and who was held, pampered, loved, cared for and gave in return many hours of entertainment as we watched him scamper about his cage, run in his wheel, and chew on his toilet paper tubes.

Did the girls cry? Oh yes. Some more than others, but definitely they mourned the loss of their friend. But although I didn’t personally shed a tear, I didn’t coldly tell the girls, “Oh, come on now! He’s just a gerbil! Get over it!” it would have been unkind of me to say such things. And the girls would have understandably been upset, not just about their pet’s death, but also my callousness.

Personally, it seems to me that gentleness and kindness go a long way with our children.

Perhaps you’ve been the recipient of harsh words and rough treatment. How did it make you feel? Now that you’re a parent yourself, how do you rise above the way you were raised?

Linking up with: Monday: Moms the Word, and A Mama’s Story Tuesday: Titus Two Tuesdays, The TimeWarp Wife, Messy Marriage Wednesday: To Love Honor and Vacuum

10 No-Fail Ways to Raise a Brat

These 10 No-Fail Ways to Raise a Brat will either make you laugh or cry, or a little bit of both! This post in completely tongue-in-cheek, so don’t take it seriously!

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10 no-fail ways to raise a brat! Works every time!!

The other day my 10-year old son, The Rocket Boy, went to the grocery store with me. He loves pushing the cart, and pretends he’s a race-car squealing around corners and enjoying quick stops and starts. So far, we’ve not run over any grandmas, though I must confess we’ve come close, and I’ve had to take the wheel and give him a good talking to more than once.

Now there’s a brat in almost every store, but that day there was a first rate brat! I thought his antics were just incredible, and his mother played into his hands so well. It almost looked rehearsed…maybe they’ve done this act a time or two before.

It went like this:

We heard Payne (not his real name, but it fits quite well!) coming long before we saw him, and we heard his mother right behind. Her shrill cries of “Stop it!” and “Put that down!” could be heard all across the store. The real display of action came in the fruit and vegetable aisle. Payne had been grabbing everything in sight, but apparently his mother thought he had outgrown that thievish habit, so she pushed the cart gloomily down the aisle with Payne close behind, unobserved by her.

The showdown came when he grabbed two cucumbers. Now, tell me, what 3 year-old loves cucumbers? Well, Payne apparently wanted those cucumbers so badly, he had to have them! His mother turned saw him, and yelled, “Put those back!” at which point he hid them behind his back with a defiant expression. “I SAID, PUT THOSE BACK!” mother escalated. Payne didn’t budge. Mother knew it was time for battle, and she flew in and yanked those cucumbers right out of Payne’s hands, like a bully stealing a smaller bully’s loot. At this point, whatever she said was unintelligible, because Payne set up such a howl and wail that no one could hear himself think.

The Rocket Boy and I moved on into the frozen aisle, leaving the screaming fellow and his yelling mother back in F&V, but we kept tabs on his whereabouts by listening to his regular whines and shreiks and his mother’s shouts and yells. When we left, they were going at it at the checkout.

Isn’t it amazing how much energy two people will expend to prove who’s boss?

I got thinking about this encounter, and realizing that this is a serious brat in the making, folks!

OK. I think we can all learn how to raise a brat from Payne’s exhibition:

1. Always give him everything he wants.

2. Especially give him what he wants when you and he are in public. You don’t want to look bad by saying No, do you?

3. Yelling is great, and the more the better. It keeps the tension high and is sure to provoke screams and wails from your budding brat.

4. While you’re at it, smack him, but only when you’re good and mad. I’m not talking about a real action of discipline, which is needed sometimes – just a venting of anger. Now don’t you feel tough, that you can bully a little child around?

5. Make sure he gets plenty of sugar and even some red 40 – both are great for producing hyper kids and angry mothers – a perfect recipe for a brat!

6. And also don’t let him take a nap, even when he’s really exhausted. You know how you feel when you get tired – almost sick and very irritable. Well, it works the same with kids, so they’ll be sure to whine and cry for apparently no reason whatsoever, making you embarrassed and angry.

7. Worry more about what other people think than doing what is best for your child. That way, if your child really embarrasses you in public, you can get angrier than if you were at home. In fact, some of those same things are even cute at home, but you don’t want people to think you’re a bad mom, so go ahead and yell in public.

8. Make sure you change your expectations around, so he doesn’t know what you want. It’ll really make him into a brat if he thinks he can’t please you no matter what he does.

9. If your kid gets in trouble with the teacher, preacher, or Sunday School teacher, always defend him, even if he’s bitten Susie and bloodied the neighbor boy. Your poor child is just expressing himself – how could that be wrong? And once he sees that you don’t care about authority, watch out! Your authority will be his next mountain to climb!

10. Don’t pray for or with your children, or read the Bible to them. That might give them a moral compass, and you know true brats have none.

OK, how’s that for a list? Honestly, I’m just kidding! Please don’t try this at home and blame me, because you really will produce a horrible, terrible Monster!

You don’t want to raise a Payne!

Question: What are some other ways we as parents can raise a brat?

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Linking up with: Monday: Moms the Word, and A Mama’s Story Tuesday: Titus Two Tuesdays, The TimeWarp Wife, Messy Marriage Wednesday: To Love Honor and Vacuum