Showing posts with label Behavior. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Behavior. Show all posts

May 26, 2016

The True Meaning of Modesty

Growing up, I don't recall anyone using the word "modesty." Sure, there was the Sunday school teacher who took me aside and gently suggested that the lace-up bodice of my beloved thrift store Gunne Sax dress tended to come loose, revealing a wee bit of bosom. ("You're getting older now, and have to think about these things," she said.) But nobody explained why I should care if said bosom showed.

I grew up performing in theater - a profession where true modesty tends to be ignored. As a teen, I became a pro, but before then, I often performed in community productions where there was very little dressing room space. It wasn't unusual for me to have to strip down to undies in the wings - and though my mother had me wear teddies in such situations, I really never considered why.

Even as an adult, modesty didn't much enter my thoughts. I recall the crew of one musical I was performing in jokingly giving me an award for "best cleavage." Looking back at photos of that show, I can see how the folks in the lighting booth must have found it difficult to look at anything but my cleavage.

It really wasn't until I began having children that the topic of modesty even crossed my mind. So, unlike a lot of Christian bloggers talking about modesty, I have a bit of an unique background in this area; I've gone from someone who never thought about it at all, to someone who's gradually learned its importance.

As has been mentioned by many writers, the trouble with the modesty discussion is that it tends toward legalism. In fact, I see many Christian women who were raised with strict rules about modesty rejecting all teaching about modesty because modesty was used as a control device in their childhood households.

To be sure, we should never become like the subjected women of some other religions. As Christians, we are free. Nobody should use our looks, what we eat, what we drink, etc., to control us.

However, as Christians we are also called to wisdom. As Galatians 5: 12 - 14 says:
"You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
There's no doubt we are visual creatures and that what we see can cause us to sin. Although many women reject the idea that females are responsible for men's thoughts, as Proverbs 31 women, we must not think as the world does; we must not put ourselves above anyone else - including men who may sin because of our short skirt or low-cut blouse. Because if we love one another, we cannot be a stumbling block for each other. As Romans 14: 13-15 says:
"Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister...If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died."
Or, as the ESV version says (emphasis mine):

"It is good not anything that causes your brother to stumble."

So as I teach my children (both my boy and girl) about modesty, I focus on the basics. I started when they were toddlers, with conversations that began like this: "God wants you to keep your private parts private. They are called 'private' because they are for you, your doctor - and someday, when you're married - your husband to see."

But we don't just focus on our bodies - because the root of modesty isn't how we dress, but how we think and feel

The definition of modesty isn't "long skirts" or "not wearing low cut blouses." The actual definition of modesty is being free from vanity, pretentiousness, and a general attitude of "look at me!" The jist of the most famous Bible verses on modesty are nicely summed up in 1 Timothy 2:9: We should not wear (or do) things in order to draw attention to ourselves.

So modesty is all about the heart. (Isn't that just like God?)

Therefore, our conversations often sound like this:

"Are you feeling humble? Or are you feeling vain, wanting others to notice you?"

"Are you putting yourself above others by acting this way? What would Jesus say about that?"

And yes, even:

"If you wear that skirt and bend over, will your undies show? Or will onlookers expect that your undies will show? Will that draw attention to you?"

"Are those pants so tight, your private parts are obvious? Will that draw attention your way? What does Jesus say about that?"

"Why are you so worried about how you're dressed? Are you feeling pretentious? Or humble?"

It comes down to this: The modesty issue does not have to be complicated if we simply know the definition of modesty, and recall that God calls us to serve and love others.

Aug 13, 2015

My Crazy Life...and Back to School

The give away pile.
Has anyone ever told you I'm crazy? They were right, you know. Or at least, that's how I feel this week. You see, I've started packing. We have some repairs to make on our house, and we need to have our stuff out of the way before we can start on them. Our little hauling trailer is empty now (the first load of things is already in our shipping container) and soon the shipping container will be insulated and completely ready to be filled with furniture, family photos, books, and yes, even my piano. But I'm doing the packing alone - in my spare time (ahem). Time is a little critical here (gotta get it done before the rainy season). So I'm feeling a weeeee bit stressed.

Because in addition to packing and working on and off for clients, I'm prepping for school. My daughter is begging to start, but I'm not quite ready yet. This year of homeschool will be my most complicated ever, since my son is starting kindergarten and 1) it will be the first time I've really taught two grades at once (to my way of thinking, preschool is so easy, it doesn't count) and 2) I'm working hard to make kindergarten as interesting as possible for my son, who is an unwilling school kid. So there's that.

Plus, I'm preparing for a birthday party. Every year, my husband and daughter share a party, and most of our local family comes. As it happens, this is also the year my daughter turns a decade old, so it feels like a bigger deal than usual. So as I pack, work, and prep for homeschool, I'm also working up games (like a bean bag toss, pin the tail game, and pinata). The good news is, my daughter wants to help with everything. Finally, her "I want to do it myself" attitude is paying off!

At any rate, you can see that all this doesn't leave much time for blogging. So today, I just want to point you to some archived posts about getting the kids back to school. I hope they help you!

* Back to School Breakfast Ideas - Quick, healthy ways to get your kids off to a great start each day.

* Back to School = I Love My Crockpot - Make school time easier by making good use of your slow cooker.

* Age Appropriate Chores for Kids - Back to school time is an ideal time to set up or revise chore charts!

* Sleep Deprivation: The Childhood "Epidemic" - Poor sleep means poor learning; here's how to help your child sleep better.

* 5 Safety Rules for Every Kid - School time often means more time away from mom and dad. Be sure your kids know these important safety tips.

* Why Homeschool Preschool? - Why I, and so many others, choose to homeschool during the preschool years.

* Homeschool Preschool: Thoughts on Readiness - How do you know when your child is ready to learn?

* Letter of the Week Activities - Easy crafts to help toddlers and preschoolers learn their letters and the sounds they make.

* Activities to go with The Little House on the Prairie Books - This series has been a real blessing in our house. If you're considering reading it to your children, consider some of these easy "go-withs."

* Keeping Toddlers Busy While Homeschooling - Tips from a mom who's been there!

* 10 Ways to Save Money on School Supplies - In case you missed it.

Jul 27, 2015

"What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?" Is it the Right Thing to Ask?

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" It's a question children are asked regularly, but my 9 year old daughter hesitated before answering. She looked down at the ground. Then she looked up, cleared her throat, and her words flowed: "A missionary and a singer and an actress and an astronaut and a mechanic and a scientist..." Some kids may have a pat answer that pleases adults, but not my girl.

I smiled. We've talked about this before, she and I. "There's no reason you can't be an astronaut and a scientist and mechanic. In fact, astronauts have to do a lot of science and need to be able to fix machines. Then maybe you could sing and act for fun - as a hobby. It could even be part of your missionary work. You might have to do that on vacations..." Who am I to squash her dreams?

But you know one question I've never heard anyone ask her?

"What does God want you to be when you grow up?"

Oh, I'm not talking about general character traits like being honest or loving - though of course God wants us to have those traits. No, I mean something far more specific: What are God's plans for your life? What is he going to do with you?

I recently asked my daughter this, and from her puzzled expression, I could see it was something she'd never considered.

I didn't try to answer the question for her. That's between her and God. And just asking the question will have her thinking about it for some time, no doubt. And perhaps that's enough. Too many of us just don't think about what God's plans for us are. Perhaps it's an American trait - part of the idea that as Americans, we can do anything we put our mind to. There's nothing wrong with that, per se. But as Christians, we have a bigger purpose.

Trouble starts, however, when we decide for ourselves what God wants us to do. Like Jonah, who didn't want to minister to his enemies. Or like Phil Vischer, creator of Veggie Tails, who explains this trouble in his book Me, Myself, and Bob. Once Veggie Tales was taken away from Bischer, he began to realize that he'd never asked God what He wanted to do with his life. He never asked God if he should start Veggie Tales, or any other endeavor. That's why the Veggie Tales empire that Vischer imagined was swept out from under him. Ask God first, Vischer, now older and wiser, stresses.

Of course, if you ask your child what God wants to do with her life, your child will inevitably ask how God will make this clear to her. There is no pat answer. He might speak to your child audibly, as he did young Samuel in the Old Testament (1 Sam. 3). He might put a thought in her head or a feeling in her heart - something that aligns with the Bible. He might speak to her through His Word, making a certain verse or passage stick with her. Or he might just put her in situations that make it obvious - or not - that she should be doing a certain thing. (At his construction job, my brother once injured the fingers on one hand, and had to have them sewn back on. A few months later, doing similar work, he nearly severed the fingers off the opposite hand. He said, "I think God is trying to tell me something." Soon after, he went into ministry.)

We just don't know how God will speak to us. Which means we have to be attentive. We have to actively listen for him, and pay attention when he's calling.

But to do that, children first need to know they should be listening. And that God will use them...if they are willing.

Jun 12, 2015

His Grace is Revealed through Parenting

The morning was like many recent mornings. My daughter seemed too tired to listen to my brief instructions about what she needed to do before we started school work. I had to repeat them at least six times. Then she took an hour to dress and brush her teeth and hair. Then, instead of doing school work, she chose to stare out the window, daydreaming. 
When I told my 6 year it was time to start school, he said "No!," then tried to run away from me. (Why did we ever move into a house with a circular floor plan??) When I finally caught him, disciplined him, and got him seated at the kitchen table, I marked the rows of handwriting practice I wanted him to do. He purposefully chose to do rows I didn't mark. When I made him come back to the table and do the rows I marked, he argued with me, saying, "You hate me! You're the worst Mommy ever!"

That was it. I broke into tears. Here I was trying to do right by my children, and all they could do was fight me and make everything more difficult.

My son's heart instantly softened and he gave me a big hug as I reminded him, "I do the things I do, and ask the things I ask of you, because I love you."

He patted my back and I wiped away my tears of frustration and hurt. Then he turned around and did the work I had asked him to do, this time without complaint.

Parenting isn't for the faint of heart, and there's nothing wrong with having one of those days when all you want to do is cry. In fact, crying makes you feel a wee bit better. And if you don't hide those tears from your children, wet cheeks can suddenly put things in perspective for them.

As for me, while my children took new interest in doing their school work, I took up some housework and prayed.

"God, thank you for reminding me how I look in your eyes. I know I often don't listen to you as well as I should. I often take too long to do the things you ask me to do. Sometimes my heart rebels and I say "No!" Sometimes I wonder how a God who loves me can let certain things happen. I am a sinner, Lord. Thank you for showing me grace. And please help me to teach my children about your amazing grace, too."


...He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away.

Apr 13, 2015

Helping Dawdlers Notice Time Pass

I've written before about helping dawdlers...That's because my daughter is the dawdler of all dawdlers. Seriously.

All the tips I previously shared worked to a certain extent, yet my dear girl is still a Dawdler Supreme. But here's a tool that's been helpful that I haven't mentioned previously: Using a timer.

No, no, I'm not talking about saying, "Okay, you have 10 minutes to brush your teeth. I'm setting the timer now. Go!"

That sometimes works for my dawdler, but often it just gets her stressed out. And if she's busy being stressed out, she's not doing whatever else she needs to do.

Instead, what I've found is more helpful is to get her started with whatever job she needs to get done, then set the timer for, say, 10 minutes - telling her that this is only to help her feel time passing. When the 10 minutes have passed, I have her evaluate what she's accomplished, if anything. Then I set the timer for another 10 minutes...and so on.

When I use this method, I no longer hear things like, "It can't possibly be time to leave yet! Only a minute has passed!" I don't believe that when my daughter says such things they are an exaggeration. I think that's how the passage of time really feels to her. We often say that our dear daughter just has a different internal clock. By using this method of noting how time passes, we are helping her to adjust her internal clock to become more inline with the rest of the world.

Is this a quick fix? Nope. But it does help her...and I think that over time this method will be a good chunk of the answer to reducing her dawdling time.

Mar 2, 2015

Thank You, God, for Dirt to Vacuum

The house was an utter mess. Toys everywhere. Dishes piled in the sink. And a filthy kitchen floor. Try as I might to teach my children to always remove their shoes before they come into the house, they rarely do, and end up tracking dirt, mud, and debris over our light-colored floors. It doesn't help that their daddy refuses to remove his shoes before he comes into the house.

So maybe you can imagine my grumpiness as I, tired from a long morning of homeschool and disobedient children, pulled out the vacuum and began sucking up the mess on the kitchen floor. I found my thoughts were grumbling, resentful, even angry. "Why can't the kids learn to remove their shoes at the door? They aren't new here - and this isn't a new rule. I'm so tired of constantly cleaning up their messes. They need to learn to clean up after themselves!" And so I became grumpier. And more resentful. And more angry.

Then POP! My thought bubble burst. God busted in and I literally stopped vacuuming, stood up straight, and thought, "Why am I grumpy and complaining? Why am I resentful and angry?"

And I began to pray: "Lord, please forgive me for my wrong thoughts and attitudes. Instead, I thank you for the dirt and mud on the kitchen floor. Because that dirt means you've blessed me with young children. Children I prayed earnestly for. One child who is a miracle, escaping death on several occasions. Another who is a miracle because he was born full term. And I am thankful because I have a husband - a man I prayed years for. I am thankful he doesn't take off his shoes! Because the dirt he tracks in reminds me he lives here with me, every day. And that he's an answered prayer.

"Thank you, God! Thank you for dirt to vacuum!"

Feb 3, 2015

An Important Role in the Household - What Your Child Needs to Know

Last weekend, my 9 year old daughter's behavior was hindering me. I can't even recall what she was doing. I just know I was utterly exhausted and trying to get a little housework done. And then it hit me. We'd never talked about her role in the household. So I set aside the dishes and cuddled up beside her.

We're in the middle of reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy, one of our favorite books in the series. It fit in perfectly with what I wanted to say. "Think about Almanzo [the main character in the book]. He had a very specific role in his family. What was it?"

"Chores," my daughter replied.

"Yes, but be more specific. Who was he doing chores for? Wasn't he doing chores to help his father?"

She agreed this was correct.

"What about Almanzo's sisters? What was there role in the family?" I asked.

"They work in the kitchen and stuff and help their mother," she said.

"Exactly. Their role in the family was to help their mother with her work. Now, what is your role in our family?"

She shrugged. And why wouldn't she? Nobody had ever explained to her what her role in our family is. So I clarified; her role is to be a helper - primarily for me, but also to help and serve others in the household. That's part of her job as a daughter in the Seleshanko household.

My daughter's face lit up. She'd never considered that she had an important role in our household - a role that really matters. She just knew she had to do chores she didn't much like. She couldn't see the purpose behind those chose and why her involvement in them helped the whole family. Suddenly, she felt pride that she could help everyone in the family by doing very obtainable things.

I think this is something most modern day children are lacking. In Almanzo's day, children knew if they didn't perform their role for the family, it could have serious consequences. If they didn't help plant the fields, there might be no food to eat the following year. Today, children are rarely told that their role in the household is important.

But as my daughter really stepped things up and not only began doing her chores more quickly and willingly, but offered to do more to help me around the house, I realized that children need to know not so much that they are Important with a capital I - an overstatement that has lead to a self-centered generation - but that what they do is important.

How dare I deprive her of this vital knowledge? Well, no longer.

Jan 21, 2015

How to Make a Child Safety Kit

Every once in a while, our insurance company gives us child safety kits - brochures, really, designed to give to police in case our children get lost or stolen. This is not something any parent likes to think about, and such ID kits are not something we're likely ever to need. But...if the need did arrive, we'd never forgive ourselves for not having the information handy.

So last weekend, I finally got my act together and filled them out for the first time. I didn't tell my children what the kits were for; I just told them I was going to take their fingerprints - a statement that was met with happy squeals. I jokingly called the photos I took specifically for the kits "mug shots." And the kids loved comparing their weight and height, too. A fun time was had by all, and in just a few minutes, I had a complete kit for each child.

Where to Get Child ID Kits

If you don't have a current child safety kit for each of your kids, it really is worth the little bit of time it takes to complete them. If your insurance company doesn't give them away for free, you may feel uncomfortable about ordering kits online. (You might think: "How do I know this is legit and not some weirdo collecting info on children with families?) So the FBI recommends getting kits from the National Child Identification Program - although there is a fee for kits from this source. (I do love, however, that churches can order bunches of these kits to give every child in their congregation or community.) The Polly Klaas Foundation (named after a famously abducted child) offers kits absolutely free, and is a known and legit organization.

But wherever you get your child safety kit, it should include:
  • A place to put fingerprints (along with instructions and ink)
  • A place for a current photo
  • A place to record, periodically, your child's weight and height
  • A place to record birth marks and other identifying features
  • A place for recording basic contact information (such as address and phone number). 
 Some kits may even include a place for a DNA sample.

Some Other Important Safety Measures

In addition to having a child safety kit, it's an excellent idea to always have a recent, clear, headshot-style photo of each child in your purse/wallet or on your cell phone. This way, if your child does get lost, security or police have instant access to an identifying photo.

Your child should also play a part in his or her own safety. For a complete list of things you should teach every child from the time they are toddlers - with a refresher every few months, click here.

Jul 23, 2014

Teaching Children to Not Interrupt

All children need to learn to respect others. One way they can show lots of respect is by not interrupting when others are talking. I have an easy - yes easy! - and practical way to teach children how to avoid interrupting taught to me years ago by a preschool teacher.
Step 1: Explain to your child why interrupting is so disrespectful. It's best to do this when you're both rested and in a good mood - and before your child starts interrupting. Cuddle, look your child in the eye, and use a friendly tone of voice. Explain that interrupting is just like saying "Nobody else matters. I'm the only person who matters right now."

Step 2: Explain the Interrupting Rule. When your child wants to speak to you, but you are speaking to someone else, they should say nothing, but put their hand on your shoulder or, if they can't reach your shoulder, you arm. You will then place your hand over your child's as a silent way of saying, "I know you want to speak to me. Give me just a moment, please." Maintain this position; then, within in a minute or two, stop and ask your child, "Thank you for waiting, honey. What do you need?"

Step 3: Explain that if you're having an important phone conversation, one that can't be interrupted, you will warn your child before you get on the phone. In such cases, your child will have to wait until you are off the phone to speak to you - unless there is a true emergency. (Be sure to define this, because usually a child's idea of an emergency is different from an adult's. I tell my children that if someone is dying, bleeding a lot, or gets burned, that is an emergency.)

A few other tips:

* Set a good example. If you interrupt others, your children will notice and conclude that interrupting is no big deal.

* Once your kids know that interrupting is disrespectful, they will tell everyone - adults and kids - this new-found information, often in a way that others will find rude. Teach your children never to yell "I was talking first!", but to instead politely and calmly overlook the interruption. With siblings, this will be harder to accomplish, so you may need to teach your children to quietly and politely say, "I'm sorry, but I was speaking first. May I finish?"

* Don't neglect to memorize some Bible verses about the importance of respect. For example:

"Do to others as you would have them do to you." Luke 6:31

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother' (this is the first commandment with a promise), 'that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.'” Ephesians 6:1-3

 "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." Philippians 2:3

"Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." Romans 12:10

Feb 26, 2014

11 Tips for Dealing with Grumpy Children

Your cheerful "Good morning!" is met with a frown. Your kiddo complains about any type of breakfast you offer him. The least little thing makes your daughter cry. Or throw a temper tantrum. Or start World War Three. These are The Really Hard Days of dealing with grumpy children - and every mom has experienced them. But there are ways to deal with grumpy kids and get through the day with your sanity in tact:

1. Find at least 5 minutes to tuck yourself away from the kids to pray and read a little of the Bible. Put the kids in front of the television for a few minutes if you have to - because you especially need to focus on God on Really Hard Days.

2. Set aside your plans. Your children are going to need more of your attention than usual, so don't focus on housework or other chores, and try to cancel appointments.

3. Give your children lots of cuddles, hugs, and smiles. Even if they act like they don't want them.

4. Read to your children. If they will cuddle on the couch with you, that's great. But if that causes squabbling, set them on the floor with something to color or draw while you read.

5. Play soothing music. Something like Hide 'Em in Your Heart is perfect. Or maybe some classical music.

6. Take baths. Water is very soothing to many children. Give them each a bath - by themselves - and see if they don't feel better.

7. If it's sunny, make sure the windows are uncovered. Open some windows or doors to let in fresh air. If it's a dark day, turn on some lights. If you can get your child to read, color, do puzzles, or do some other activity under a bright lamp, all the better. If it's near the end of the day, dim the lights.

8. Remove clutter. If the house is a cluttered mess, it's stressful, and that's not going to help anyone on a Really Hard Day. Take a few minutes to pick up.

9. Get moving. If you can, go outdoors and encourage your kids to run or do other vigorous activities. If you must remain indoors, try jumping to upbeat music.

10. Avoid the television. Yes, I know. On Really Hard Days it's easier to set the kids in front of the TV. But the fact remains that TV time tends to lead to poorer behavior in your children. At the very least, postpone TV time until late in the day.

11. End the day well. You may be ever-so-anxious for bedtime, but don't let that make you rush through it. Make sure your children receive your full attention during tucking in. Read. Cuddle. Pray together about the day, asking for tomorrow to be happier. Then kiss them goodnight.

Sep 13, 2013

Handling Pressure with Grace - Guest Post by Liberty Speidel

Being told your child needs some pretty serious medical treatment is the last thing a parent wants to hear. A year ago, I was there. My son, Xander, needed a bone marrow transplant. And while the last year has been anything but a picnic, through the ups and downs of his treatment, God has taught me a lot about grace. Granted, the following are more applicable during large blocks of hospital time, but maybe there's a truth here that can be helpful in your own brand of stress.

Ask questions
When you're faced with a lot of decisions that may affect the long-term health of your child, you can feel pretty helpless. While I frequently have to tell my husband "I don't know," I ask a lot of questions where Xander's care is concerned. Write your questions down—it's clich├ęd, but there's an app for that, so keep a list of questions on your smartphone, if you use one. That way you don't forget what you need to ask.

Find reasons to laugh
In July, Xander underwent his second surgery in five days (to replace his central line, which is used for giving IV medications and fluids over a long period of time). When I got down to the holding area, pre-surgery, the surgeon asked me what my expectations were of what would happen. “Central line placement,” I told him.

"There's not to be a bone marrow biopsy today?" he asked.

I stared at him, bewildered. "No," I said slowly. "That's not scheduled for a couple weeks."

Turns out, one of the physician's assistants on Xander's case had seen that Xander needed this procedure, so he thought he'd kill two birds with one stone—but hadn't informed anyone else!

In situations like these, it's easy to be upset—the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing—but the head doc on Xander's case was relieved when I laughed when she told me what had happened.

God's Got This
My pastor, Dan Sutherland, introduced this motto to our congregation in 2012. It became something I clung to during the past year. Very little in life is within our control, and when you're going through a trial, it's important to remember this. With Xander's transplant, we could choose the doctors who would treat him and the drugs they would use, but whether it worked—that was all in God's hands. While we've got a spunky three-year-old now, we know we're still wandering through the woods looking for the meadow as far as Xander's health is concerned.
Bible Time
I think my dependence on God got stronger throughout this whole experience—it almost has to when you realize how little control you have over this kind of situation. While I didn't find near as much time to read my Bible as I would have liked (or probably should have), I was able to sneak an earbud in and listen with the YouVersion app on my phone. Listening to God's word definitely was a quick way for me to get an attitude adjustment on my bad days.

During this time, my prayers were frequently short snippets or sentences, dispersed throughout the day - not one long conversation at once, but a bit here and there throughout the day. If I had it to do all over again, I'd probably plan to do things differently, although with the irregularity in my son’s five month treatment, it might not have been possible to have a regular prayer schedule.

The biggest thing I learned through this whole experience is to offer everyone grace; even my husband had to receive it on multiple occasions. Stress leads to crankiness, making you lash out at everyone in your path. But if you offer everyone grace and keep a positive outlook, they'll thank you for it—and you'll show Christ to everyone you meet. You may even get a chance to share the Gospel with those who want to know how you keep such a positive attitude!

Liberty Speidel is a wife, mom, and writer of mysteries and science fiction who blogs at Word Wanderings. Though happiest at her computer creating fictional worlds, she enjoys baking, yarn crafts, hiking with her family, and taking very long walks with her family's Labrador Retriever. She and her family reside in Kansas. You can learn more about her son's medical struggles here and here

Jul 10, 2013

Teaching Kids Not to Covet

Coveting, or wanting what others have, is a huge problem in our society. It's what fuels occupy protestors. It's behind the cry for higher taxes. It's the basis of most television commercials. 

I think we all fall into the trap of coveting at least once in a while. Have you ever thoughtL "I wish my husband helped with the kids like her's does" or "It must be great to have a husband who helps with the housework. Wish mine did." Oops. That's coveting. And how many times have I heard other mothers say things like, "I wish we were able to take a yearly vacation like the Smith family." Or, given the right tone of voice, "It must be nice to have a grandma who watches the kids for you once a week." Oops again; that's coveting.

But as mothers, we are concerned not just with our personal sin, but about modeling correct thinking and behavior for our children. I feel pretty certain none of us wants our kids to grow up thinking everything should be given to them, or that if they want something somebody else has to get it for them. But with coveting being such a major feeling these days, how can we prevent them from growing up this way?

* Model good work ethic. 

* Avoid speaking covetous thoughts aloud. But if you slip, by all means, let your kids hear you ask God for forgiveness. You might also use such an occasion as a way to start a conversation about what coveting is and how the Ten Commandments show us it's wrong.

* Give your kids chores to do - no matter their age. Even toddlers can learn to work to make the home run more smoothly. (For ideas for age-appropriate chores, click here.)

* Let your kids work for stuff. For example, if your daughter really wants a new toy, suggest that she earn money to buy it herself. Not only does this help improve a child's work ethic, but it helps her learn not to be wasteful by not taking proper care of things. (And no, she doesn't have to go get a job at a local business, or even with a neighbor. It's just fine to give her extra chores around the house and then pay her for them.)

* Encourage your children to give to those in need. Help them to see that it's their personal responsibility to help the needy.

* Volunteer at a shelter or travel to a third world country (even if only via the Internet). Help your kids see how much they truly have.

* Encourage thankfulness. Every day, have your child thank God for at least one thing. Once in a while, have each child write (in words or pictures) things they are thankful for. When times are tough for your child and he is struggling with covetness, ask him to name a few things he is especially grateful for.

* Read 1 Kings 21. In this story, a king's covetness leads to murder. It's an extreme example, but see if you and your child can think of other stories where jealousy and covetness lead to bad things.

* Help your child think things through. If she is upset because she doesn't have the latest video game, ask, "If you had it, would you really be any happier? What if your friend got 10 new games - would you still feel as happy?" Encourage your child to come to the conclusion that things you can't buy are what truly make us happy.

"A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed." Proverbs 11:25

"No matter how much you want, laziness won’t help a bit, but hard work will reward you with more than enough." Proverbs 13:4

"You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17

"...make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." I Thessalonians 4:11-12

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters..." Colossians 3:23

" For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” II Thessalonians 3:10 

"Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." 1 Timothy 5:8 

"[Let them do] something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need." Ephesians 4:28

Apr 24, 2013

Motivating Yourself to Do Chores: How Long Do They Really Take?

Sometimes I completely loose my enthusiasm for home keeping. I find myself dragging around the house, putting off chores - or spending my time only on fun things, instead of doing my real job. But there's one easy way to motivate myself. Next time you find yourself putting off chores, give it a try.

My secret? Do the chore. I know, I know; this sounds like a sneaky way of getting you to work when you don't want to. But trust me: Commit to doing it just once.

* As you do the chore, time yourself. If you have a stopwatch, use it. Otherwise, write down your beginning and ending times. Don't trust your memory! You want as accurate a time as possible without getting all type-A about it.

* Do the chore at a normal pace. Don't rush and don't be lackadazical.

* Now note how long it took you.

Very often, I think you'll be surprised how little time the chore takes. For example, I used to dread folding laundry. It felt like it took forever. Then I timed myself and discovered it took me, on average, 5 to 10 minutes to fold everyone's clothes. Just 10 minutes? Wow! This completely changed my attitude about folding laundry and now whenever I'm tempted to put it off, I remember it takes a really short amount of time - and then it's DONE and I feel better.

How do you motivate yourself on days when home keeping is the last thing you want to do?

Feb 15, 2013

Raising Mission-Minded Kids, Part 2 {Guest Blogger Tanya Dennis}

Wednesday, I introduced the topic of raising mission-minded kids. We talked about exciting their spirits and equipping them to share. Today we’ll dive into a third element: Elevating their global awareness. This encompasses both education and action. Below you’ll find a number of resources for teaching your kids about missions and global cultures and concerns, but you’ll also find practical ideas for getting personally involved in missions, right where you are.

Educational Resources
You can raise cultural awareness in many ways. Geography and language study are obvious choices, but they’re only two avenues. Consider taking field trips to cultural fairs, ethnic celebrations and museums. Invite multi-cultural friends over for an international potluck or explore exoticflavors with your own culinary experiments. The possibilities are endless! Here are a few of my favorite books and websites to get you started:

·         Passport to the World {book} Written by Craig Froman, this book offers fast facts, cultural details, tons of photos and interesting stats about 26 different countries. All of this is presented from a missional perspective of reaching the world for God’s glory.
Target Age: 9-12

·         A Faith Like Mine {book} : This is not a Christian book, but it is an excellent resource for teaching children about major world religions. Vibrant photographs, maps and symbols help introduce 11 different faiths, including Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. It discusses their basic tenets, major holidays, traditions and unique characteristics.
Target age: 8 and up

·         My Passport to India {website} : This is my absolute favorite! I wish one existed for every country. This site features high quality videos with excellent content. Families follow an American guy as he explores India: the culture, the people and what God is doing there. It also includes family devotionals and activities for further exploration and involvement.
Target age: 6 and up

·         Quest for Compassion {website} : Hosted by Compassion, Intl., this website offers an interactive exploration of four countries: El Salvador, Brazil, Ghana and Bangladesh. Kids create a buddy character and then embark on a cultural scavenger hunt to learn about education, economics, living conditions and more in that country.
Target age: 6-10

·         The Caravan {website} : Hosted by IMB, this site explores the continent of Asia with all sorts of activities! Photographs, maps, stories, printables, coloring pages … seriously, a ton of stuff. There is also a tab with helps for parents and teachers.
Target age: Preschool – 6th grade

Ideas for At-Home Missions

Continuing our pattern of concentric circles, let’s start at home. Before children can care what happens on the other side of the planet, they need to care about what happens near home. What can they see that might increase their compassions and awareness? Here are some activities to initiate service and conversations:

·         Neighborhood Prayer Walks: A prayer walk is exactly what it sounds like – you walk around a neighborhood praying for each person you see and home you pass. It’s easy to do with your children and need not be conspicuous. Simply go for a walk. The benefits include exercise, prayer training, community awareness, and possible interactions with neighbors that could lead to opportunities to share the Gospel or serve in tangible ways.

Extend Invitations: Kids love inviting friends to anything – VBS, Sunday School, church clubs … whatever! Encourage them to do just that. It’s simple, friendly and free of pressure.  

·         Participate in Service Projects: Every community offers abundant opportunities to serve, regardless of your children’s ages. When my kids were toddlers, we would prepare and deliver meals for shut-ins or new mothers. We still do that, but now we also help by shoveling snow, raking leaves or weeding gardens for our neighbors. We’ve participated in mural painting projects, food banks and coat drives. My kids’ favorite activities, however, involve hosting garage sales or lemonade and cookie stands to raise money for orphanages or our local crisis pregnancy center.

·         Donations: Got clutter? Use it as an opportunity to teach your kids about poverty and missions!

Ideas for Reaching Abroad

You don’t have to leave your home to make an impact overseas, but you do need to be intentional and take the initiative. Here are some reasons to do that and tips on how to start.

Most missionaries say feeling isolated is their greatest struggle. They don’t fit in there and they don’t fit in here; they feel nomadic. By building relationships with these families already on the field, you’ll encourage them while gaining an indispensable education for yourself and your children. Relationships are the foundation to healthy partnerships – and that’s exactly what missions should be!

·         Adopt a Child: For a monthly donation, you can adopt a child through Compassion International, World Vision or a number of similar organizations. You can correspond with these children and their families; learn about their lives and what struggles they face. If sponsoring a child is too much, consider a one-time gift of farm animals, medications or other necessities.

·         Adopt a Missionary: Select one or two families that you know or that your church supports and get to know them. Post their picture in your home. Talk about them with your kids. PRAY for them regularly. Try to reach out to them consistently. Once every couple months is fine. Let them know that you care and are interested in what they’re doing. Thanks to the internet, this is much easier than it used to be. Imagine having your kids Skype with someone in Kenya or Tibet! How fun (and educational) could that be?

·         Send Care Packages: Little things from home can make a big impact. When I lived in Bosnia, we couldn’t find ketchup or peanut butter. One day a box arrived with two bottles of Heinz57 and a jar of Jiffy. You would have thought we’d won the lottery! Due to customs regulations, be sure to check with the missionaries or mission agencies before sending anything. Some countries get a bit tricky.

·         Champion Specific Projects: Perhaps your family could sponsor a well in Africa or help build a school for girls in India. You could host a shoe drive in your community or partner with your adopted missionary family on something specific they need.

·         Visit or Participate in Short-Term Trips: Most recommend that your kids be at least thirteen before joining a team mission trip, but there are no specific limits to visits. If you build a good relationship with a missionary family, why not spend your family vacation in service to them? You’ll get to see first-hand the people and ministries you’ve actively prayed for.

Armed with three ridiculous French phrases, Tanya Dennis taught ESL to Chinese students in German-speaking Switzerland. This after working as a church planter in urban Philadelphia and a humanitarian worker in war-torn Bosnia. Her current role, as mother of two, has proven to be the most challenging. Learn more about her and what she's doing now at

Feb 13, 2013

Raising Mission-Minded Kids, Part 1 {Guest Blogger Tanya Dennis}

Each time I talk about raising mission-minded kids, I see moms’ eyes go wide. They envision their precious babies leaving them bereft and alone, and surely taking any future grandkids to a far-off tribal location where they’ll probably die of some third-world disease.

RELAX. I have no intention of stealing your children or guilting you into releasing them to demise. Quite the contrary, actually. I want you to be blessed. I want your children to be blessed.  How do we do that? By loving God fully and participating in what He is doing. 

And what is God doing? He is pursing the hearts of the lost and growing the hearts of His children. That’s missions. It doesn’t have to include a jungle or deep-fried cockroaches. It’s simply a willingness to love Him fully and share Him with those who need Him. 

The Great Commission Starts at Home

The Holy Spirit challenged the early church to be “witnesses in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth. “ (Acts 1:8) Looking at a map of theselocations, you’ll notice this call expands in concentric circles. This presents a great pattern for us, too. The Great Commission starts at home, then spreads outward, perhaps to your neighborhood, then your broader community and so on. You don’t have to rush to Siberia. Look in your backyard first. It’s the perfect place to start.

Raising mission-minded kids involves three things:
  1. Exciting their spirits
  2. Equipping them to share
  3. Elevating their global awareness
Let’s take a closer look at each of these.

How to Excite their Spirits

Share engaging stories. Get them excited about God’s goodness and the extent of his love with truths from the Bible and contemporary examples. Read biographies of missionaries or historical figures that have made an impact on the world around them. Tell them about Paul and Barnabas, about the glories of grace and truth, the miracles of redemption and salvation. The stories of Jim Elliott, Corrie ten Boom and Amy Carmichael are excellent options. Search Christian Children's Book Review for age-appropriate choices.

One of my favorites is The Boy Who Changed the World by Andy Andrews. This book is not about missions, but about history and the rippling impact of small actions. A sparkle of hope ignites my kids’ eyes as we read it. They see that God wants to use them to reach the world right where they are. I love it! 

How to Equip Them to Share

Get out of the way. Kids naturally share what they believe and what excites them. If you excite them about God and what He’s doing, you’ll have more trouble getting them to stop talking than getting them to start sharing. Trust me. When we switched to public schools two years ago my daughter, then seven years old, accosted everyone she met with the love of Jesus. It was a beautifully fearsome thing to behold.

Be an example. If you share Christ freely, your kids will, too. You don’t need to start a street ministry or go door-to-door with tracts. You can, if you want to, but natural evangelism tends to work best – and it’s far less intimidating! Simply be open with your faith. Look for opportunities to incorporate elements of the Gospel into everyday conversations. Point out tangible examples of grace. Ask a friend if you may pray with her or for him about a present trial. Inquire about their beliefs and listen. Ask God to provide open doors and the courage to walk through them. And let your kids watch.

How to Elevate Global Awareness

This step I find most fun. So fun, in fact, that I don’t have space to tell you about it here! You’ll have to come back Friday for tips about prayer walks, pen pals, international dinners, and active partnerships. If you’re a Christian homeschooler, you’ll love this. The resources cross-over geography, social studies and Bible study.

Your Turn: I want to know what you find to be the most exciting truth about God’s character. How can you share that with your kids (or your neighbor) tonight?

Armed with three ridiculous French phrases, Tanya Dennis taught ESL to Chinese students in German-speaking Switzerland. This after working as a church planter in urban Philadelphia and a humanitarian worker in war-torn Bosnia. Her current role, as mother of two, has proven to be the most challenging. Learn more about her and what she's doing now at

Jan 18, 2013

Quiet Time: It's Not Just for Toddlers

My children stopped napping at very young ages, and like most moms, I mourned a little when it happened. The kids still needed naps - and even if some days they didn't, I needed the quiet time naps offered. As time has gone by and I've found myself increasingly stressed at the end of most afternoons, I've learned a little  trick: Quiet time.

Now you may think quiet time is just for toddlers. Not so! Quiet time is actually a blessing for children of all ages - as well as for mothers. Here's how ours works:

1. First, I chose a time of day. My children tend to start getting really cranky around 2 or 2:30 in the afternoon, so this was the obvious choice for our quiet time.

2. Next, when my children were fresh and in a good mood, I explained that from now on we were going to have quiet time each weekday. (You can do it on weekends, too, if you like.) I explained that in the afternoons we all tended to get cranky and that quiet time would make ours days happier. The children weren't thrilled...until I explained what quiet time was.

3. I explained the simple rules of quiet time: "During quiet time, we will all go into our own rooms. You may take a nap" (expect protests here), "OR you may read a book/look at picture books, OR you may listen to an Adventures in Odyssey or Jonathan Parks CD, OR you may play quietly in bed." Admittedly, the kids still weren't thrilled, but they weren't complaining, either. In fact, my 7 year old was slightly excited to have quiet time away from her little brother.

It's important for there to be no screen time (television, computers, electronic games, cell phones, etc.) during quiet time. Studies show these things are very stimulating. On the other hand, reading a book or listening to a story on a CD has a quieting and restful effect. Also note that while I told the children they could play quietly in bed, I've had trouble enforcing this rule with my 4 year old, so I allow him to play quietly alone in his room during quiet time. This works just fine for us.

4. Mom must follow the rules, too. THIS IS IMPORTANT! I know how tempting it is to use quiet time to do housework, pay bills, or do other work. But for quiet time to truly be effective, mom must follow the rules, too! Nap, pray, read the Bible, pick up a

How long quiet time lasts is up to you. My 4 year old can tolerate about 45 minutes, so that's how long ours is. Sometimes I can stretch it to an hour. I wouldn't go beyond an hour. If 45 minutes doesn't work for you, aim to have at least 30 minutes of quiet time. And don't be discouraged if quiet time isn't all that quiet - especially at first. You an introducing a new routine, so expect it to take some time before the children adjust.

If you stick with it, though, quiet time will be very rewarding. It's amazing how even a short quiet time refreshes and encourages all of us!