Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Teaching Appreciation

I sure wish parenting were easy (how many times have I said that?), or that there were a manual or Google search with all the answers. But it isn’t always easy, in fact very rarely so, and there’s no such place to find the magic solution. So much of it is luck and experience. And… it helps to have good kids.

And I do have good kids. Bright, responsible, fun-loving, happy, healthy, considerate… need I go on? But there is one area with room for improvement that bothers me, and it’s not just my kids, but a lot of today’s youth suffer from this one lack of refinement.


Don’t get me wrong. My kids really like gifts and privileges, and will occasionally almost squeal with delight as a recipient. But truthfully, many of today’s youth feel a sense of entitlement, and while they like their “stuff,” they don’t necessarily appreciate it. There “stuff” comes to them too easily.

Maybe it’s the times. After all, each generation works hard to improve their standard of living and increase their buying power. Consumerism is pushed through marketing and advertising, much geared towards our youth, arousing our kids “wants” of the latest game or gadget. And as parents, we often feel guilty if we don’t succumb and give our kids what their peers already own. We want our kids to have the latest style clothing, shoes, telephones, i-pods, etc. But that’s just foolish. And it isn’t doing anyone any favors.

So how do you teach appreciation?

Kids ask for things all the time, material items or not, but things that come too easily aren’t valued. I struggle with saying “no” and have written about that before, but saying no can actually be good for our kids, as it makes them appreciate those “yeses” much more.

But it’s more than even saying no. It’s about giving our kids accountability as they grow and develop, and to provide the goodies and gadgets as reward, for their work and for taking the initiative to help out. This gives our kids a clearer perspective of the proper worth of the item or action.

Proverbs 13:24 says “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Discipline is not only punishment for correction, but also includes activities that advance or improve skills; training. Saying no sometimes and giving our kids responsibilities is showing love, and it teaches appreciation.

It’s wonderful to give our kids gifts and pleasures, and even more so to see their faces light up in sincere appreciation and thanksgiving.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Mother's Love - The Best Gift of All

My mom passed away fairly recently. It was after a long battle with lung cancer, of which we knew about for 6 days. Somehow all the doctors and hospitals, and the multiple diagnostic tests that were run for months all missed the cancer each time. They attributed her rapidly declining health to COPD. Finally 6 days before she died, we found out what was really making her so sick and tired. Advanced lung cancer and superior vena cava syndrome.

Mom was a strong woman, so close to death yet she pushed herself and didn’t complain. She’d say she was “tired,” when others would have been on the floor crying. And she just finished up 6 weeks of pulmonary rehab, which didn’t help at all. Gee, wonder why? Yeah, guess I’m a little bitter about the whole thing and how the medical community let us down.

But this isn’t a post about that. Rather I wanted to talk about how very lucky I was to have been able to know her, to love her, and especially live near her in her last few years. And how I miss my mom. I miss being able to run important decisions by her. I miss being able to get her honest opinion about things. I miss hearing her cheer me on when she believed in what I was doing. My mom was so wise, and almost always nearly right (even though I didn’t see it that way every time). And probably the most honest and moral person I have ever known.

But I think best of all, no matter what, I knew that she loved me. It didn’t matter what I had done or said or the mistakes I made, she loved me unconditionally. And that feels good, to know someone loves you despite your downfalls and failings, even through your mistakes and screw-ups. Even if she didn’t approve of something I was doing, I still knew I was loved. That was a true blessing and gift, and one I hope to pass on also to my daughters. I want to pass on that same enduring love, so my daughters know that always and forever their “momma” loves them.

The bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:13, “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Thanks for always loving me, Mom!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Deliberate Contemplation

Yesterday I enjoyed a little outdoors. I pulled a few weeds from around some of the vegetable plants, and took pleasure in the fresh air, good dirt, and sunshine. I didn’t pull nearly all the weeds, but a few of the larger offenders anyway, and more for enjoyment versus actually making any progress. It was truly to take a break from my busy day.

The great outdoors, the quiet, the peace – I love it! Certainly not a luxury I experience often. Hectic schedules, multitasking to get everything done, and electronic intrusions (smartphones) are more the norm around here, and I suspect for most people anyway. Life is so busy and fast-paced. And it’s really a shame.

I wonder what all this busy-ness is doing to our kids. With all the technology, gadgets, and devices they are growing up with, will they even know how to relax? Fully scheduled calendars, vibrating smartphones, uploading photo’s to Facebook, and doing homework between texts is unfortunately our kids “normal.” Certainly all this new technology makes being connected much easier, but what’s it doing for our downtime? Do our kids even have any downtime?

It is good to slow down, and even stop now and then. To be quiet. Listen. Observe. And to feel connected.

The story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42 says it best:

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

I confess, if Jesus were my guest, I would probably be more like Martha. Jesus is here, I would think, I must prepare a magnificent meal. And only the best would do. I would get busy searching my pantry and garden for the freshest foods available. I’d wash the fine china to serve the meal. Then I’d cook, using only the finest ingredients. And like Martha, I’d be very jealous of my sister, who wasn’t helping, but chose instead to spend time with Jesus.

But that’s just it. Mary chose to spend time with Jesus. And it’s our choice too what we do with our time. Perhaps we should learn from Mary, and let go of our anxiousness and troubles, our busy and hectic lifestyles, and listen for and draw closer to God. Throughout his life, even Jesus took time to be alone in prayer. Sending his disciples ahead of him or retreating to a mountain, He would often withdraw to pray. His life is an example of how we are to live ours.

Today’s lifestyle doesn’t lend well to teaching our kids how to slow down or relax. Rather it’s all about multitasking and achieving more in less time. So as parents, it’s up to us to live our lives as examples. This means spending less time worrying over what is left to be done, and more time in stillness and deliberate contemplation. Not an easy task in everyday life, but one well worth the effort.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Importance of Church for Kids

I’m glad that I’ve taken my kids to church on Sundays since they were babies. Now that they are pre-teen and teen, it’s expected that on Sunday mornings we will attend church, except for the rarity of being out of town, having to work, or someone in the family being sick. And I’m so glad that’s the case for a number of reasons.

Obviously, the biggest benefit is that we worship God together as a family. Which is what church is for, the worship of Almighty God. It’s not about me, it’s not about you, and it’s not about hearing a sermon so that you or I can feel better. It’s all about glorifying God, and it’s nice to do that in fellowship with my family.

But more than the obvious, I am so lucky that my kids don’t argue about going to church, whereas someone who hasn’t taken their kids to church might have a hard time dragging them there at this age. Their kids may fear the unknown, and worry about not knowing the bible, the church traditions, or even what to expect in the service. And they may dread the boredom. After all, these youth think, how could church be anything but boring?

But it IS anything but boring. My family loves church (kids included)! It’s where we go to fill ourselves with the word of God. To learn how to live our life amidst all the growing troubles in the world, in our communities, and in our lives. Where we can fellowship with other believers, who also experience trials and tribulations, and who love us and accept us no matter our short-comings. (So despite church not being about making us feel better, it’s invariably one of the many positive side-effects).

And a real blessing for my kids is being able to relate to other kids who are also learning Christian values through Sunday school, and for my oldest, through a weekend youth retreat each year called Conclaves. These weekend camps are organized and led by youth, specifically for middle and senior high school kids. They learn and grow in their love of God and one another through small group discussions, and they enjoy leisure time, adventure opportunities, and even a concert.

My kids are comfortable attending church and even weekend outings with area youth. It will be up to them what they do with their spirituality when they are older and on their own. As adults, they will decide whether or not to attend church (I rarely attended church once I was an adult until I had children of my own). But at least they have a foundation on which to thrive, to build and base their decisions. That’s about all I can give them.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

1st of the Month Book Review - The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What I liked best about The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins was that I was able to share the excitement with BOTH my daughters, pre-teen and teen. They both loved the book and it was fun to share our thoughts about the characters and everything that happened. We had lively discussions of the characters and events - it was as though they were real.

And while it was easy enough to put down when I first started the book, once Peeta and Katniss arrive in the Capitol of Panem to begin training for the games, I was hooked. I didn't want to put the book down until it was finished, I had to know what happened next and how it would all end. Fortunately, it is a quick and easy read and now I look forward to reading the sequels.

Set in the future in the ruins of North America, I thought it clever that the author televised the games in each of the 12 districts. It was interesting how they prepared the tributes to make an impression (including Haymitch's encouraging of the romance between Peeta and Katniss), and how important that would be to sponsors. The similarity to today's reality TV is striking.

What I liked least about The Hunger Games was that it is a young adult novel, but is a story about kids killing kids. Even the thought is repelling. Until I read it, I worried that the storyline would be too violent and disturbing for younger readers.

It IS violent, but it's survival and intuition and friendship too. And it's a really good read!

Now about the movie:
The Hunger Games movie is good also, but there are differences as is so often the case in movie versus book. (Spoiler alert...) For example, in the book when Katniss sings to Rue as she dies and then adorns her dead body with flowers, the people of District 11 thank Katniss by sending her a gift of bread, while the movie versus reflected only a rebellion. Also in the book, Katniss loses her hearing in one ear after the loud explosion she caused to destroy the stored food supplies of the career tributes. The movie didn't mention any hearing loss. The movie also didn't quite match the book in the relationship between Peeta and Katniss, and particularly how Katniss pretends to have feelings for Peeta in order to gain sponsors and receive needed gifts. That was really downplayed in the movie. And there are more. But one thing I thought superior in the movie was the burning capes worn by Katniss and Peeta in the opening ceremonies. It exceeded even my imagination! It was a well done movie adaptation!