Thursday, 18. February 2010 by Renee Ellison
Care enough about another mom to send her this web page of encouragement. Many moms are lonely, even if you don’t suspect it. Their jobs are hard and the erosion of their emotional strength is constant. Motherhood is a deep work and a long haul. If she does it well, “her children will rise up and call her blessed” (Proverbs 31:28).
Parenting tip: Raise up a shield of expertise in your child
According to psychologist Larry Crabb, every human being has two basic emotional needs: one is to be loved; the other is to matter. We’ll tackle the loved part at another time, in another parenting tip. But, for now let’s tackle the “to matter” aspect.
Ever notice how a shy child forgets himself and blossoms behind a puppet? Children need some skill or ability or talent out in front of themselves that helps define who they are until they can come out from behind the prop and “just be”. When we reach adulthood, learning to be comfortable with our own frail humanity, even if we can do no activity at all, in old age, is the prize insight of maturity. But children aren’t there yet; as they are emerging, they need concrete personal confidence-boosters to help them believe that they truly MATTER.
“Look mom, I can ride my bicycle without tipping over.” “Look mom, I can slam dunk the basketball 9 times out of 10”…serves as a comforting shield behind which the child may comfortably hide as he grows at far deeper levels. What the child really says is, “Look mom, I am validated by what I DO! I matter! I’m a good artist, or a good walker of the dog. I’m a pianist. I’m a speech giver. I’m a gymnast.” Give a child no shield to hide behind as he grows, and the social spotlight can burn badly, making him feel worthless. A child who is constantly on the raw end of negative experiences such as jeering or ridicule for being a nobody can become suicidal later on, if that persecution continues long enough without internal fortification to the contrary.
Viewing your child only as an appendage to yourself is short-sighted. He must be given the tools to grow an independent capable strength of his own, in as many areas as possible. All through his childhood, you must be “for him”, not he “for you.”
As we mature, we all eventually discover that we are not just a football coach or a carpenter or the city clerk or a singer, or a good husband or mother. We are something that we can’t quite comprehend, something beyond what are jobs are, somehow, someway made in the image of God. To understand that we were made solely FOR GOD (Isaiah 43:7) takes us a lifetime.
At first, it helps us to be the bicycle rider, to survive emotionally and psychologically. God Himself designed it this way. In fact, if truth be told, He, our Heavenly Father, steadies the back of the bike seat just a tad bit longer as we’re getting underway.
C. S. Lewis wrote, “Lovers relate face to face, friends…side by side.” Wise parents cultivate this “side by side” business as their children are growing up, while God slowly and deftly brings them face to face with himself! It begins to dawn on the emerging adult that there was another hand on his bicycle seat.
“To matter” is so important to a healthy childhood, we, as parents, need to look for ways to fan SOME flame in our child…many little flames, in fact, even if it begins with applause only over being the family’s best napkin-folder or the best one to make the baby laugh. But, eventually we should aim to deliberately, systematically, and progressively develop accomplished, studied, and trained academics, domestic skills, talents, and financial/entrepreneurial skills in our growing child, in accordance with his own bent.
Watch him carefully for clues about what the hands-on skills and talents might be, because they begin to show themselves early on, even in toddlers, if you are alert to them. Which END of a project does he run to—the technical, the procedural, the oversight, the advertising? Is he engineer material? a counselor-type? musical? athletic? botanical? artistic? inventor-type? writer-type, always picking the precise word rather than the general one? scientific? dramatic? cooker? sewer? carpenter? organizational? Identify his tendencies and proclivities. Take careful note of his speedy agilities with certain tasks.
When you find one, encourage it. Loudly praise it. Nurture it and provide for its development. Then, if you see it manifested more and more, get him apprenticed in it! Build up the shield and you’ll build up the person behind the shield, simultaneously. This is as vital to your child as food, clothing and shelter. It will, in fact, help him survive even without the other three!
Home Management Tips: Brave bold bulldozing
Principle: Spend a lot of time now conquering each and every department of your home to spend less time later.
Take dominion and refine each area. Act like you are in college and the task of conquering your home is your final semester’s project that will determine your course grade. Approach your home like a Ph.D. candidate. Become a Pretty-Hefty-Duty mom who is tells those Piled-Higher-and-Deeper domains to conform or else!
Here are some of a home’s departments to rein in and reign over!
• Deep cleaning schedule set up that includes refrigerator, stove, attic, etc. as well as beginning a companion HABIT of working on one a day! Main living areas: visually appealing and homey; enough comfortable chairs for guests; pleasant decorations on the walls; an inviting front door (order our Home Staging book for much more on this topic).
• Kitchen cupboards and counters arranged, sorted to maximize efficiency.
• Backup supplies of food and paper products.
• Hospitality preparations well thought out ahead of time and easily accessible, for implementation at a moment’s notice).
• Linens, sorted, with adequate supplies.
• Everyone’s closets, conquered.
• Homeschooling materials shelved and labeled for each child; non-current materials in labeled boxes.
• Cars: clean and well maintained, including a car maintenance record for each vehicle and a tickler system for oil changes, etc.
• Accounting receipts etc. organized in file folders – a place for everything and everything in its place; up-to-date logbook of monthly finances. (See our booklets on family papers, and financial topics for more on this one.)
Bottom line: get organized. You simply don’t have time to go on being unorganized. Being organized SAVES you time. You can grab things quicker and reduce dislocation stress as everyone yells at each other, trying to find even the most basic of things (pencil, papers, shoes, scarves, mittens, keys).
Fix up, finalize and publicize the correct place for everything. Begin with labeled cardboard records storage boxes, if you need to; they’re far cheaper than buying furniture! The ones with removable, uniform lids are a dream to handle.
Use meal times as a short leash. Right before everyone sits at the table, you can say, “Let’s look around the room: is everything back in its place?” For everyone’s sake, train each child to put away each thing he finishes before he is allowed to pull out the next thing.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. The organization of your home won’t be conquered in a day, either. But we can hope it will be so after six months of steady focus. Year after year of chaos begins to define a childhood. Give your child the habit of order for his own future life, by the pleasant memory of it in his childhood home.
Kitchen tip: Spiff up your spices
Artists have a palette full of beautiful colors to work from. For a cook, spices fulfill a similar purpose. Spices make your bland rice into exotic Indian cuisine. Indian and Chinese food tastes so good because they had to do SOMETHING to make rice appealing to eat, yet AGAIN. Marco Polo went to China to gather rich spices; Columbus risked his life in search of them, too. Just because we have an abundance of them, don’t forget what a gift from God they are. Their sheer variety is mind-boggling. So, gather and organize your spices extremely well, once and for all.
For starters: throw out that flimsy whirligig-thing-a-ma-jig that you currently keep your spices on. Every time you give it a twirl, half your spices fall off. 2/3rds of your spices are hidden behind your front challengers and never even get used. And who KNOWS where each spice IS, in the first place, because they aren’t alphabetized. Round and round we go, irritatingly wasting time, until we hang it up and don’t use any spices, ‘cause we couldn’t find the right one, quick enough.
Go to Home Depot or any lumber yard and purchase several 1” x 1” wooden sticks; they come in 4’ lengths; redwood is nice. Have the gentleman in the lumber department cut them in foot long sections, or wider if your kitchen shelves are wider. Then come home and start stacking them in your shelves to make high risers like those used by choirs! Stack them from back to front, facing you. Stack five high in the back row, and three high in the next row forward, then use the shelf itself for your front row. Then place your spices in alphabetical order upon these nice neat risers, perfectly sized to fit your spices. Just opening your cupboard will be an inspiration. You’ll be able to grab each and every spice quickly and you’ll LOOK like a good cook, even if you aren’t one yet!
Sewing Tip: Sew through your closet
Life isn’t just a sea of endless free time, so we have to function from priorities. Before you add MORE sewing projects, of crafts and quilts, into your life, conquer what you HAVE first. Sew through all of your closets. Fix or pitch everything in them that needs help. Over the course of the next consecutive days, wear the clothes from one end of your closet to the other. Today, repair and fix the outfits you and your children will wear tomorrow. Stay one day ahead. Don’t quit until you are done.
Unless you want to become a crazy woman, it makes no sense to ADD ON additional sewing projects until everyone’s basic clothing needs are THOROUGHLY conquered. Save the crafts for retirement, if ever. Tend to your family first. Make your children look VISUALLY like they are cared for, not like they just fell off the last dump truck that passed through town. You never get a second chance to raise a family. Focus.
More on sewing machine savvy: If and when that hour arrives when you go through the portal of Craig’s List or E-Bay in search of a new used machine, be sure you come forth with four things: 1. a user’s manual (a machine without the manual is practically worthless; you may not be able to find an old manual to match your machine, afterwards); 2. a power cord, a pedal, and a zipper foot; (ask specifically about EACH of these) 3. proof that the machine was serviced recently; and 4. details in writing about how it will be shipped. Insist that they thoroughly pack it, perhaps even with bubble plastic secured with packaging tape around all the little nooks and crannies of the machine itself, as well as its outside. If it comes with the handle broken or the thread spindle broken, you’ll want your money back and can’t get that unless you have a written guarantee.
Marriage Tip: Quelling quarrels
G. K. Chesterton, a brilliant witty British journalist (born 1874) who was known for distilling keen universals about human nature, once wrote: “Marriage is one long lifetime conversation punctuated by quarrels!”
What is hilarious about marital quarrels is that they can erupt at ANY moment, over ANY issue. There are no “danger ahead” signs, ever. The battle is “joined” in a flash, and we are SURE our perceptions are right on (they probably ARE!...and so are your husband’s). We fly into a frenzy to get our point understood and acted upon immediately. It is important to assign blame at the earliest minute and trump our mate with the winning blow. There THAT issue is settled, and the universe has been put right. Never mind that we emerge war-torn and bedraggled and can’t function for the remainder of the day!
Here are six wifely coping strategies:One:
Let the other guy win! Now there is a novel idea! If you are sure you should go right and he wants to go left, let him. Curl up and read a good book while he wanders all over the place! Develop a private life despite the direction of all circumstances. If there is no moral wrong in it, there is some way that you can go along with it and not only survive, but have a good time doing so! If you express your point of view and it is clobbered by an opinion to the contrary, and not even listened to at the moment, demurely escape. Go work on your favorite project and soon it won’t matter very much at all…when you get lost in intrigue over your own pursuits! Bulldogs live short lives!Two:
Talk about it LATER. There IS a later. In the heat of an argument we think NOW is all there is. Let emotions cool, get involved in something pleasant, and then re-talk it from the OTHER person’s point of view first. If you’ll BEGIN there, it takes fuel out of the fire, because your spouse’s desperate need to be understood is satisfied FIRST. Also, “later” will afford many examples of cause and effect in your own life and in other people’s lives that will serve to show the point more delicately, over the long haul. This allows for deep growth and change in both of you without the embarrassment of losing an argument. The goal is not to win, but for both of you to grow.Three:
You don’t have to take everything to the mat…even if you are right about something (which is nearly all the time! and so is he, from his perspective). Let some things go…let lots of things go. It simply won’t matter this time next year, or after your city burns down, or the world ends. Practice getting up above your life: soar up there somewhere in the stratosphere in your thinking and look down upon your wee house, and your wee urgent passions and desires. Become a BIG PICTURE person. It is possible to hold a private quiet conviction about something that doesn’t match your husband’s at all, and never will, while you cooperate with him, doing the exact opposite of your personal inclination. This may come as a surprise to you: happily married persons can go to the grave with some aspects of some issues still unresolved!Four:
Compare your life to the lives of six billion other people. Not too bad. C. S. Lewis observed, “If you think life was supposed to be a palace, you’ll be sorely disappointed, but if you think life is a second class hotel, it won’t be too bad.” Billions of people out there have it far worse off than you do; most of them would GLADLY trade lives with you, problems and all.Five:
No one can control your mind or MAKE you be miserable. You ALLOW yourself to be miserable.Six:
If you can find ANY humor in it—devise a witty sentence or two about it—you can be within each other’s arms within seconds! “All I wanted was my own way!!!”
Devotions: Fleas on a hot griddle
When it comes to prayer, the majority of us are like fleas on a hot griddle. We all know how to shoot up furtive prayers. “Oh Lord help me with this; Oh Lord help me with that”. But I challenge you to stop “American multi-tasking” and ONLY pray for just five minutes. No, the plants don’t need to be watered at this very minute, even if they die. You will be stunned at your inability. Some people—maybe even some pastors—have never done this in their entire lives!
For once, in addition to praying WHILE you fix dinner and WHILE you do your jogging, instead, go to the attic or the basement, or pull over on a side road and turn off the ignition and sit there, for only ONE purpose, to pray. You’ll find that your body is pumping, and thumping and surging to dart off to go DO something. Hog-tie and sit on yourself.
Just adore. Take a break from thinking about yourself. Try thinking about just God, and MAKE yourself put together a few fledgling sentences to praise Him only for Himself, without hurrying to do it. Wasted time? I don’t think so. Recently, the God you worship just finished escorting and assigning and overseeing the immigration of 200,000+ Haitian souls into some sort of spiritual eternity, while at the same time kept the duckbilled platypus’s right AND left kidneys functioning. He took detailed notes of alarming things said in Iranian and Syrian military rooms as they devise current strategies to assault Israel, AND continued to stoke the fire of the sun. He made sure a little kid’s brain in Mozambique appropriately went click when seeing the first letter of his alphabet, changing some visual symbol into actual understanding (how do you do that?)…sprouted several zillion seeds under the earth in the dark, AND made an army of white blood cells swim upstream to heal a deep gouge a man just cut in his finger while cutting a board.
And just an hour ago, He kissed a lonely old geriatric believer in her hard bed in Poland with His sweet compassion, and in Saudi Arabia deftly coaxed a Muslim out of Islam, forever, by a personal appearance in a dream, at just the right time. Despite all this, for some strange reason YOUR stammering lips were to him, “to die for”. He saves and stacks your feeble prayers up under his altar (Rev. 8:3-4) and puts your tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8).