Comforting Sick Children

It is that season again…the one when it seems everyone is getting sick. I find from Christmas until March, it is not at all uncommon for little ones to get sick a lot. And so it began for us last week with one of my daughters getting a cold, now my youngest is sporting a fever and headache.

As I nurse my little ones back into health, I recall what it was like for me when I was sick as a child. Honestly, I kind of liked being sick as a child, not because I enjoyed feeling fevered or congested, but because my mother would treat me so tenderly. I could stay the entire day in bed and be served food on a tray. I would get checked on in the night. There were no electronics when I was a child, and our family did not own a television, but my mother had a special bag she kept aside for her children when they were sick. It had coloring books, puzzles, and some interesting toys we didn’t see any other time. Mom kept an old school bell in that bag too, that she would give us to ring if we needed her day or night while we were sick. When my Daddy would get home from work he would come check us and tell us how sorry he was that we felt bad.

The comfort and care I received as a child during the times I was sick, have endured as sweetness in my heart. I felt loved and cared for all the time, but those times I was sick, I was able to feel it a bit more.

When I hit college, and ended up in the college medical facility with a fever, I quickly found that being sick was not so warm and fuzzy. I had a nurse check on me on occasion and that was it. There was nothing to do but sleep and get well. The people around me were doing there jobs, but really did not care about me in any tender sort of way. I really grieved the loss off pampering when I was sick as an adult. Growing up is a good thing, but it comes with its losses and griefs as well. The warmth of loving memories as a child, is certainly something I will never cease to be grateful for.

As much as I was sad to receive grown-up care from that time on, until now, the tenderness and concern of how my parents treated me when I was sick lives through me to my children.

I was also surprised to learn that not every parent coddles their sick children. I know books have probably been written about toughening up children and such, but I believe the toughest child is the child who knows and feels loved unconditionally. And I don’t want calloused, unfeeling children. I want to raise children who are inwardly strong, confident, and resilient. This takes wisdom I know, but it also takes a lot of gentle loving.

Having a sick child (or even husband) is an opportunity to give snuggles, slow down, fix off-menu food like cereal for dinner, and show the deep seeded compassion for a person in discomfort.

Nothing will bring more healing and joy to a soul who knows and feels deeply loved and cared for while he or she is not well.

As I throw my heart into nursing my children or spouse back to health, I feel as though the affection of what my parents poured into me still pours out of me toward my children.

I wake up multiple times a night to feel fevered foreheads and make sure my little ones drink some sips of water. I let them take showers or baths several times in one day to let the steam sooth their sore throats or Epsom salt clam their fevered muscles. I take them soup and crackers to their beds. They are allowed a tablet or Nintendo Switch to play games, but are also given a good long nap in the afternoon. Chopped ice can be given for them to suck on, warm honey tea for healing and calming, cold washcloths to wipe their sweaty heads, and I rush to their sides to tell them it will be okay when they are holding a trash can with an upset stomach.

There is absolutely no scolding of a sick child, and certainly I do my best to keep them happy.

One might say I overdue the pampering, but I know from experience, it is a fantastic time to pour into my children affection and love. I also know, time will come soon enough when there will be no one to fix their tea or wipe their sweaty heads when they are sick. And perhaps the love and affection they feel now, will come to mind in those days, and they will be able to find comfort in knowing how much they are loved. So, for a season, I get time to love on my sick little ones and give their not only their bodies, but their hearts the much needed care as they recover.

When the King Comes

I took a walk today. It seems long walks are becoming more and more a part of my daily routine. Today, I took my youngest child with me, my little six-year-old boy.

Those who know little ones, know that children slip with ease between the complex and the simple. A child can ask questions that are deep, and meaningful in the same run on sentence of his or her light-hearted conversation. I guess to all inquisitive minds, one question is of no more value than another. Everything is meant to be discovered, known, and touched, whether it be the wonderful truths of God or the little freshwater clam from the shore of the lake.

To my little fellow, it was no different. As we started our walk, he wondered if there were any dangerous animals in the woods that might eat us while we are on our hike. I assured him that the largest animal in the woods was a fox. And foxes don’t harm humans. Foxes eat little animals like mice and rabbits. Then he  asked me if foxes will always eat bunnies.

My heart was warm to his sweet curiosity and the delight within my heart at the answer to his question.

“When the King comes,” I said “All things will be as they were created to be, before sin. Foxes and bunnies will be friends then, and foxes will not eat bunnies anymore.” (Is. 11:6)

It is a few days before Christmas, and with each Christmas season that passes, I find my heart spending more and more time pondering the coming of the King. I still think of Him as the baby born in Bethlehem a few thousand years ago, but I always let my mind move from Bethlehem to a glorious future day.  It will be a wonderful day when my dear, gentle King will return and reign over this broken earth, bringing healing in nature, in life, and in hearts, restoring all that was once broken to its original perfect state.

Oh how my heart longs, for the day when all will be right, when all will be as it was made to be. But what is wonderful for me, will be dreadful for all who have not crowned Christ King of their hearts.

It is my prayer that as Christmas reminds me of the birth of the King, I will also remember that He is the King of all, and one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11). And for the brief time I have among those who do not claim Christ King, I can share His Kingdom with them and pray for their souls that they will be drawn into the great Kingdom of which I am deeply privileged to be a part.

Our Two Parenting Principles

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

And he said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.

And the second is like itYou shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:36-40

 

Before my husband and I had our first child, we narrowed our child-training to 2 basic goals: To strive to raise children who 1. Love God and 2. Love Others.

Both of those goals have been the guidelines for all our our child-training choices.

We home-school, because that gives us the greatest opportunity to pour Christ into our children…especially on a very small budget.

We memorize Scripture as a family and for school, we teach our children hymns, we point them to God’s grace when we need to discipline them.

I buy books that will help them fall in love with Jesus more and more. Books by C.S. Lewis are particularly amazing in that way.

We encourage our children to have older friends to help mentor them and encourage them in their faith.

We talk about God, we read Scripture.

My oldest child just started youth group. And we have told her, that we are allowing her to attend because we believe it will help her grow in her love for God by hearing more about Him and developing relationships with other people who love Him. But we also told her that if we find it is becoming just a social event and that we are not seeing good fruit coming from her time at youth group. We will pull her out, at least for a season. Even youth-group, which many parents don’t give much thought about, must serve the purpose of helping our children learn love God and others.

I do not like the word “indoctrinate” because that connotates the idea of forceful education. I want my children to grab onto the amazement of God on their own. I only provide a feast of opportunity for them to learn about Him and be amazed.

 

Teaching my children to love others is a bit more practical and incorporates a lot of habit training.

When my children were very little, I worked with them to be quiet and still in church. I know a lot of parents would not bother, but I would tell them things like: “Do not talk to mommy. Mommy is trying to listen and that is unkind.” or “Do not be so loud. You will bother the people around you.”

I think a lot of folks would say that they are just little and such strictness is not necessary. But I do not expect people to accommodate my children. I expected my children to accommodate other people. 

If we go for a play-date with friends, I insists my children put away what they have gotten out. I might tell them on the way over. “After you play, I want you to pick up. You would not like it if someone came to our house and left their mess for you to pick up. So don’t leave your mess for others.” That is something my children understand well, because they have had to pick up often after their friends leave.

I expect good behavior when we visit other people. If my children are naughty. I do not give excuses for them. I never tell others, “He is just tired.” or “This is the result of too much sugar.” or even, “I think she isn’t feeling well.” I believe that giving excuses for my children’s bad behavior is not only a lack of respect to those I am with, but terribly wrong teaching for my child who will learn that it is “ok” not be unkind or grumpy if I don’t feel good.

I hold high expectations of my children because I am not raising children. I am raising adults. If a behavior such as crawling over the arm of a sofa, or picking one’s nose, or not answering when being spoken too, is NOT acceptable behavior for a thirty-year-old, it is not acceptable behavior for at three-year-old.

Teaching children to love others is hard work, and takes forethought. I find I do a lot of pre-event or pre-visit talks, like: “Be sure to say ‘thank you.’ Mrs. Boo has spent a lot of time getting ready for our visit today. I know you might not like everything she is having for dinner, but do not say a word about it. Be grateful for her hard work and eat a bite of everything she serves.” or “We have never been to the Doo’s House before. Please notice or ask if you should take off your shoes indoors.”

In any case, there is scenario after scenario we could walk through together, but everyone has different situations and I cannot predict what other people might need to prepare their children for. I do know it really helps make visits easier for me, for our host, and for my children if we talk about things before we go.

So, opening my children’s eyes to love them with a heart of compassion and understanding is an ongoing journey. In fact, it is something I still mess-up at doing myself.

In any case, teaching children to love God and Others will not happen on its own. It takes fore-thought, purpose, and planning to cultivate the children I pray will  someday be God-loving, kind adults.

 

Loving the Lonely

an elderly woman sitting on a blue armchair
Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

His big sisters were playing with dolls and well into their fun when my little fellow woke up from his afternoon nap.

“Mommy, I have nothing to do.” I knew those words were code for feelings he did not know how to express. He was lonely and wanting a playmate.

Loneliness is familiar to everyone on this planet. We have all experienced becoming a growing epidemic in our culture. I know we would like to point our finger to blame social distancing or technology for the surge in loneliness, but the truth is loneliness has always been among us. It isn’t about whether one is married or single, on Facebook or not, healthy or sick, rich or poor, or any particular circumstance. Loneliness can accompany anyone, at any season in life.

A little child can be lonely as he or she navigates his place in his home.

A teen can feel lonely as he or she wrestles with changes within and in his or her life.

A young bride can feel incredibly lonely as she navigates her first years of marriage.

Young mother’s feel lonely as they wrestle through the challenges of their world being consumed by little cries and little voices.

A mother can feel lonely and lost after her last child moves from the home.

Divorce, singleness, death, and crisis’ in life make people feel very much alone.

Loneliness is not about companionship. A person can be in a group of other people and still feel lonely. A wife can be in a wonderful marriage and still feel lonely. If a person feels that he or she is not seen or heard will feel lonely.

I have noticed three different causes of loneliness.

1. A person becomes lonely when he or she feels like no one understands.

2. A person will feel lonely when she or he is not truly listened to. 

3. A person feels lonely when he or she feel unnoticed, unseen, and invisible.

Sometimes just one of those reasons can be present. For some folks, all of those reasons can be combined to cause loneliness.

Life can present each person moments of internal solitude for various reasons. And it is important to note that what might make one person feel lonely, may not be an issue at all to another person. We are all different and it is good to keep that in mind when we do not understand why someone is lonely.

If we take time to consider it, we all have struggles, do struggle, and will struggle with seasons of loneliness.

As believers, it is important we can look out for each other during these seasons. Some friends may have times that last a long while or become permanent fixtures of loneliness. For others, loneliness comes and goes throughout various seasons.

Loneliness has accompanied my soul through various seasons of life. Having experienced loneliness myself, I have learned to recognize some clues in the hearts of someone else who is lonely.

My mother was good at teaching me from a young age to love lonely people. Some mothers tend to only plan visits to people who have children their own age. Although I have many memories with friends, I also have a lot of memories visiting older couples as we grew. We often would visit with widows and widowers, older couples, and those with no family. We even had some single friends live with us as they went through difficult seasons.

I too, now include a variety of ages in my children’s life. I find those relationships to be so symbiotic. Lonely people often are cheered more by my children than by me. And relationships with lonely people are an amazing training ground for my children to learn to think of other people.

Just like my mom did, I will give a synopsis of our friend before we go so my children know that person’s story. It helps my children to know how to interact with that person, and also helps them to behave well.

I might say something like this: “Mrs. Doodle’s husband died one year ago, and yesterday she just found out that she has something bad growing in her body. So we are going to take her dinner a some flowers today.” I try to make sure my children understand the seriousness and value of our visit. Generally each one of them will express compassion in some form like writing a note or giving a hug.

Just as my mother included her children in the time she spent with the lonely, my mother also taught me to recognize the symptoms of loneliness in people. I will never forget going with my mother to visit my great aunt. She was a widow and in her eighties. We spent the weekend with her. She wasn’t the same person I remembered visiting as a child. She talked without ceasing and seemed a easily agitated. When going home, I complained to my mother about my aunt. My mother’s response was simple. “She is lonely.” Then my Aunt’s behavior made complete sense. And I felt sorry for my frustration with her. I still am able to recognize symptoms of loneliness in people as a result of that visit to my Great Aunt.

Symptoms of Loneliness:

  1. Lonely people talk…a lot. Lonely people seem unconscious of another person’s time. They seem unconscious how many times a conversation has been ended and restarted. Lonely people are simply happy to linger in conversations. I have had phone conversations that lingered on and on, even as the person on the other end of the line acknowledges that they need to let me go. We had a sweet neighbor a few years ago who lived alone in her eighties. She never let us just “stop in” every visit was a sit down visit, then a tour of the stuff around the house, then she prattled on and on, and often sent us home with little trinkets or some sweets. Our sweet neighbor was lonely and just happy to have someone to listen to her.
  2. Lonely people can be persnickety. I find the critical spirit behind a person who is lonely to be a great clue into that person’s heart.  I have found that generally sweet people can become cranky if they find themselves lonely. I think of the Johanna Spyre Classic story “Heidi” and how cranky and persnickety the grandfather was before Heidi showed up into his life. He was riddled with loneliness until her companionship entered his world. No one liked him. I have seen normally cranky people soften as they are listened to, noticed, or feel understood. 
  3. Lonely people find comfort in things. We had a dear Sunday School teacher, Miss K, who lived with her mother until her mother passed. After her mother’s death, Miss K, began collecting things. Things upon things lined her small house until she was forced to move out for her safety. She was lonely. She found momentary comfort in the presence of things and so she held onto things. Lonely people can be incredible sentimental, keepers of stuff, and shopaholics. What little old widow doesn’t have her house decked out with sentiment and stuff? She is lonely, and keeping stuff reminds her of those who give or gave her respite from loneliness. In a way, she holds onto people by holding onto their photographs and their stuff.

It is normal to feel lonely. And it is okay to feel lonely. In fact ones loneliness can be a springboard to various ministry to others. I have several dear friends struggling with loneliness, but they use their loneliness as an avenue of understanding others pain, of being their for others, of providing counsel, love, and prayer.

Ministering to lowly people is truly a life-long endeavor. But it is also the backbone of how our faith in God is displayed, as we provide, without grudging, our time and resources to include, bless, and encourage those who are alone.  James 1: 27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

Saying “no” to Weariness

We all need rest. Rest is a biblical concept. We are approaching our two week fall break for school, and I thought it would just be the children who needed a reprieve from school, but it turns out that I feel I have benefited the most from our little respite.

cute cat sleeping on cozy bed with book at home
Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

Rest is a powerful source of energy and renewal for our bodies and souls. As I have raised our four little souls, I have learned from experience the power of giving others time to rest and taking time to rest myself.

Most mothers easily recognize the signs of a tired child. Children rub their eyes, cry, seem easily agitated, and become altogether impossible to manage when they are tired. Little people have bodies that are constantly changing, growing and learning. With such busyness as a child possesses, much more essential is his or her need for rest.

Every mother easily recognized the signs of weariness in her children. A grumpy, exasperated, unmanageable, child can often be transformed through the power of a nap. Sometimes a child simply has too much stimulation like a long trips from home, being around lots of people, stepping out of his or her routine, or illness and simply needs a bit of quiet time, even if a nap doesn’t happen.

Just as ignoring the need for my own children’s rest has brought no peace to me or my child, so ignoring the symptoms of my own need for rest only allows my soul to build in its turmoil.

How often we can see the exhaustion in our children but fail to recognize the signs in our own lives. Or if we know we need a rest, we refuse to take that needed time to give ourselves space.

I would really like to explore the topic of rest. What it looks like when we don’t take time to rest, why we don’t allow ourselves to rest, what rest looks like, are important to discuss, but so is our need for applying what we know about our need for rest and building that space into our days.

Recognizing the need for rest:

I so often ignore the signs that my body needs a rest from something or from the daily grind of life.

  1. Being irritable or easily agitated are the first clues that I need rest. I haven’t changed much since my toddler days. If I am grumpy, a nap can do wonders for my attitude. If I am finding my emotions difficult to control, I need to recognize that I very well may need to stop and take a break from something or get a nap in my day.
  2. No Joy in the things that once brought joy. Some people may see lack of joy as depression. But lack of joy can be complete and utter exhaustion as well. So many care-givers, mothers, elderly folks, and those with ongoing illness need more rest in their particular season of life than they might have needed in the past. People who are in grief can also need extra rest. As can people who are in a life crisis. I have seen complete exhaustion swallow up many a merry heart.
  3. Physically tired and lack of energy. This is the obvious sign of tiredness that we all recognize. We simply feel tired. We know we are tired. Our head hurts, our body doesn’t want to move. We have trouble getting out out words.

Why we Don’t rest:

Ok, so we can recognize when we are tired. Many of us do not see a way to give ourselves a needed respite.

  1. Pride is often at the root of our ignoring of rest. We think we can power through and that we are strong enough to keep pressing on. We think if we take the time to rest, the world will come tumbling down around us. (Yes we are THAT important.) We think that we will fall behind if we take a break and what will other people say or think of us then?
  2. There is really no time to rest. This is an actual crisis. I am not going to try to find rest in days that have none. Or give hope to people who have no time to rest. Full-time care-givers and parents with babies, people pacing the floors with grief and turmoil in their souls, or those who have inescapable physical conditions that prevent sleep…like menopause. Sometimes rest simply cannot be had despite our best efforts to carve it into our lives. I cannot offer options where there are none, but I will say, Matthew 11:28 was written for those with greatly troubled hearts and in need of rest (all of us) as Jesus tells us: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Resting in Christ is our primary source of true rest whether we can take the time physically or not.

What rest looks like:

Restful activities bring the soul space to think. What gives me rest is different than what might bring my neighbor next door rest. I enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend, writing out my thoughts, a walk in the woods, a book by the fire, a canvas and paints, and sometimes quiet music and sleep. Rest is a wholesome activity that re-centers my heart and soul on its God given purpose. For another person rest means climbing a mountain and going camping, or running a marathon, cleaning windows, or spending a weekend alone.

Rest is worship. The activities I engage in during rest are not busy helps my heart focus on truth, God’s purpose for me, and worship. This is a very important thing to note. Anything that distracts me from spending my rest on reflection and focusing on Christ are not providing my soul with true rest. Spending time reading Scripture ought to be a large part of our restful moments. Sleep can also be a benefit, if I find I am tired and my weary body is preventing my soul from being able to rest.

I am going to take a moment to explain this a little more. Our minds are so full of input. It comes from things we watch and hear. Input is often by our own choice, but sometimes it is unasked. In any case, adding to that input with anything but what turns our hearts to Christ, is not providing our souls with true rest. If I binge watch Netflix during my time of rest, I have not rested. I have added to by already busy and overwhelmed mind more things to consider. Rest comes from Christ as we read in Matthew 11:28. Quiet is very helpful for us to help our souls find stillness in Christ. But, an edifying conversation with a friend can be of use. So can just being alone with the Lord and our thoughts while we are busy with our hands can be a good use of our rest. Journaling and writing can also help organize our thoughts. I have a friend who would randomly take a day off work to “do laundry.” What she meant by that, was that she would take a day off to sort her thoughts and bring them into the light of truth. Such thinking is essential. Rest is really giving ourselves time to self-counsel. Bringing our false thoughts to light and and reminding ourselves of truth won’t happen unless we take time to do it.

How to rest:

Plan the Time: One thing I have also learned, is that rest will not happen naturally…on its own. If I am given free time, it is used for fellowship, housework, phone calls, doctor appointments, and anything else that needs doing while I have the time. I do not believe that is unusual.

So, rest must be scheduled into our lives, just like everything else. And that time of rest must be guarded like a doctor appointment or visit to Grandpa’s for Christmas.

Daily Rest: When my children were small, I gave them a quiet time. When they turned five, they could graduate from that time, but until then, sleep or not, each child spent and hour and a half alone each afternoon. Children really need their own space, just like we adults do. Little one do not see their need for it, but I noticed my children were so much more calm, at peace, and easy to be with if they were given a regular space to play quietly alone each day. I had some children that always fell asleep and others who needed less sleep, but they all needed that personal space each day. I also found that time alone was essential for me too. Sometimes that quiet time it meant a nap for me. There were other times, I invited another lady (without young children) over for tea and we could visit in peace (something that never happens for most young moms), I also found time to read Scripture and pray or journal during those much needed moments of silence. I no longer have rest time each day, but I rise early. That is the space I have to create during this season of life to rest.

Seasonal Rest: We are just finishing our two weeks of fall break from school and I am finding that the break was much needed. I am remembering what it is like to just be “mom” to take non-school adventures with my children and to arrange play-dates with friends. I am remembering why we are home-schooling and the preciousness of my children. I am having time to write, read, and study Scripture. I feel refocused for our next term of school and am ready to jump back in with renewed focus and vigor. Sometimes taking a rest means an arranged break from an ongoing situation, like a job, a routine, or a ministry. These breaks are not “quitting.” They are patterned with every intention of re-focusing and getting back into it. These breaks are also not breaks from what God requires of us. We don’t take breaks from faithfully gathering with other believers and church, we don’t take breaks from loving others, we don’t take breaks from Bible reading and prayer (sadly, this is often the case during what we Americans call “vacation.”) we don’t take breaks from our marriage, we don’t take breaks from being wife, mom, or daughter. We only take breaks from the extra-obligations we are called to do.

Healing Rest: This is a very special kind of rest that follows life-changes, loss, trauma, or even a rest recommended by someone like a husband who sees the need of it in his wife. We tend to power through so often that we do not allow ourselves to Biblically process what has happened in our lives. We need to give ourselves time to grieve, time to adjust, time to think about changes in our lives in a Biblical way. If we do not, it is far too easy for lies from our heart or the world around us to take a foothold in our pain and cause us to loose faith. We need to give ourselves time to read the Bible, talk with a friend, see a counselor, journal, create music, walk and let our hearts naturally unwind and settle into Biblical truth.

May we all peruse the true rest as our Savior gently bids us: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Mt. 11:28-30.

Notes About Loving the Mothers Whose Kids We Don’t Enjoy

The family had just left and we looked around our home. I love children and I love the noise of their chatter and the dirty little smudges they leave behind. But this experience with children had been different.

There were dirty boot prints all over my freshly cleaned carpet, leftover plates with half filled drinks left beside them on floors and tables and chairs, and something that looked like smeared frosting on one spot of the carpet. That was just one room. As I surveyed the scene, the entire house showed signs of a hoard of children passing through…toys were all over the children’s bedrooms, paper and crayons left on tables…We had only had three children and their mother over. I sighed, the mess was nothing compared to the frustrating conversation I had attempted to have with the children’s exhausted, and frazzled mother.

What I had gathered from her, was that she felt that we were raising our children the same way. She felt I was just as weary as she. She thought what she was experiencing in motherhood was normal. Due to the inordinate interruptions from children and her constant appeasing of her toddler, we never got to the part of the conversation where I could tell her that her expectations of her children and her expectations of motherhood were far too low, and that she could experience joy and peace as a mother instead of struggling through each day to survive.

I groaned inwardly as this dear mother expressed her desire to meet up again soon. I knew her soul was starved for fellowship and that she desired to have an uninterrupted conversation. But I also knew, that I had no desire to develop a friendship with her simply because her children were so difficult to have around.

Let me ask my readers, is this a mother one you know? Are you possibly this mother yourself?

Let me begin by giving hope. If you know a mother who is in need of fellowship, but is a burden be around simply because of her children, here are some tips I have implemented to build a friendship with her. The goal is not only to provide a weary should with fellowship, but to possibly give her hope that motherhood can be so much more than what she experiences.

I have quite a few friends whose children fall into the rowdy and unruly category. It is easy to simply choose not to develop a friendship, and I must admit that has often been my fallback, but as my children mature and as age has brought experience and wisdom to my soul, I find there is a way to peruse friendships with struggling mothers in a way that is a benefit for both of us.

  1. Pray and Show Grace and reach out on occasion. It is easy to block out families with unpleasant children out of our lives. We can even try to make it sound righteous, like, “Those kids will influence my children to be naughty.” Honestly, if anything, children who are well managed, will find the other children difficult to play with and their behavior shocking and frustrating rather than joining in. If my child chooses to join in (usually the boys not girls) I can use it as a moment to instruct him otherwise in front of the floundering mother and often that gets her to think a little more about why her kids do what they do. In any case, I do still try to build a relationship with certain mom’s because they need it; not because I need it.
  2. Rule your home. Even though other people and parents might be visiting with their children. My home is ruled “my way.” I have no qualms entering a room and telling a group of children that “we don’t do that in this house.” Or “In our home, we clean up when we finish playing with one thing.” Or “I am sorry, but we are not playing with that today.” My son loves playing with kinetic sand. For him and his siblings, the mess stays contained to where I allow. He is not allowed to play with that sand with anyone but siblings. So when we have guests, even our well-mannered ones, the sand never comes out.
  3. Meet up at parks and museums, not in a home. This provides time for casual conversation while little ones are interested in new things. It also eliminates the need to clean up. I want my children to love hospitality and not dread the cleanup after each visit. There have been times they have groaned…”Oh no! Those people again.” Although, such friends can be tools to help my children develop grace and gratitude, I try to keep those occasions few for my children’s sake. I am a busy mom too and have enough clean-up in our home from my own family, to add another family’s hurricane into my week can be stress I do not need either. A park or indoor play-place also enables me to take my leave when I feel it is time instead of hoping a mother, whose children have overstayed their welcome, won’t continue to stay and try to have a conversation that will never happen.
  4. Meet at the other Mom’s Home. This is a great way to give yourself space to leave a house if you need, but also puts the weight of hospitality on the other mother and gives you opportunity to ensure that you show her by example how to get your children to pick up before they leave and tell the  hostess “thank you.” I have often been somewhere to visit and either been asked “how do you get your children to behave so well?” or if the mother comes to our house, she may require more of her children the next visit. Some mothers just don’t know how to make their children behave and have to see you do it first.
  5. Introduce your needy mother to other ladies. To be the only friend a mother has is no place for anyone. Mothers need lots of friends, so arrange play-dates with a couple moms at a time and try to help friends build friendships that can continue without you. I have done this often, and some of those friends will still get together with each other.
  6. Use other’s kids poor behavior as a teaching tool. My children love to tell me how disobedient other kids are. Things that are said, or done are often reported by “good” children, this includes sibling and friends. I have had so many wonderful conversations with my children about things other children have said or done and the consequences that brings. How many times my children have asked if I had a good visit, and I can tell them that is was not because of the little one who continued to bother his mommy. I cannot begin to tell how many times my children’s eyes are blind to their own rudeness or fussiness, but once they have seen it on someone else, they see it for what it is in themselves.

Sharing the Glory of Easter with the Neighborhood Children

I have a dear friend who has held a neighborhood Easter egg hunt in her yard for years. She was the first person I called when the idea struck my mind that we should do that this year.

My friend is entering the zone of elderly now, but her life is still truly a testimony of God’s grace. She spent a good hour with me on the phone, telling me how she went about hosting the egg hunt every year. She has shared the gospel with hundreds of children as they have passed through her yard searching for plastic filled eggs. Some years over a hundred-showed up!

My first Easter egg hunt is very much a trial version. I hope to build up to the extravagant event my friend prepared, but we are not there yet. I am curious how it will go this year. And what things I will need to alter to make it better next year.

My friend impressed upon me the value of praying in advance. She spent time praying for the people who would come, conversations, relationships, and things like the weather.

Then she would trust the Lord that the right people would be there…parents and children. She did not wonder if she would have enough eggs or stress about who might come or not be able to come. She simply rested in God’s sovereignty in the whole matter.

Her preparations began for the coming year, the day after Easter. She snatched up eggs, toys, decorations and games on sale.

She ordered bulk egg toys and shopped dollar stores for egg fillers.

But Easter eggs weren’t her only activity. She planned a craft table with things for children to do.

She prepared a short time to tell the story of Easter and share the gospel. She used the wordless book, Resurrection eggs, had young people from church come tell the story, or read a book.

As I listened, I realized, filling and hiding eggs was a very small part of my dear friend’s Easter egg hunt preparations. The bulk of her time was in prayer over the event and the people.

I was truly impacted by my dear friend’s testimony and humble heart as she described to me what she did. Her voice is quiet and gentle. I have met few people who are as much of an introvert as she is. Yet, her love for people and their broken souls moves her to reach beyond her comfort and into the lives of others!

Oh, that my heart may be so loving of others that I am daily moved out of love for them to share Christ!

A Few Thoughts for the Expectant Mommy

I will never forget the moment I looked at the positive pregnancy test for my first child. After my dis-belief caused me to take the second test, which of course also showed two lines, excitement was my strongest emotion. But there were twinges of fear and uncertainty as well.

A call to an OBG was top of my list the next day, and I found myself a bit disappointed that I had to wait 12 weeks before going in to hear my baby’s heartbeat! Yes, I chuckle at my complete lack of knowledge now, but, truly, I was rather ignorant.

But I will admit, that going to the store to register for a baby was far different from going to the store to register for a wedding. I had no clue what I needed…other than diapers of course.

I gleaned most of my information from family and friends who had already walked the pregnancy journey. I asked friends what they used and how they liked it. I soon realized, just like Christmas, weddings, and birthday’s, there is a large amount of commercialism, geared toward expectant mothers. From the “natural” perspective, diapers wipes, glass bottles, and baby wraps….to the “quick and easy” mother with disposable diapers, formula, and diaper genie.

There is also a baby fashion that will change from year to year. Colors that are popular for a nursery, and items such as pregnancy pillows, swaddlers, and wrap style baby carriers which could be out of sink with the next generation of mothers.

Even though I had little idea how to prepare, from day one of learning I was pregnant, a preparation for a little life began. Where to begin?

  1. Pray for the Little Soul. As many women, I did pray for future children…more that I would have them than for their body and soul. Once I realized the weight that a little life was actually growing inside me, I felt a weight. It is a weight I carry to this day…a sense of helplessness, accompanied by deep love for my children and hunger to see my children walk with God. The only treatment is to turn that weight into prayer. God created that little body and soul. He loves that little person far more than I do. And it is God, Who rules the rivers of the heart of man.
  2. Journal the Experience. Once she knew we were expecting, my mother-in-law sent a notebook that she had written about her experience with the pregnancy, and the birth of my husband. It was really fun to read through how she told the family, her awakening thoughts, and see little things like her weight rise with each doctor appointment. I decided I wanted to keep these moments I would soon forget. So, I used simple note-book paper as I began scribbling down my pregnancy experience and thoughts. A nice journal or baby book could be nicer ideas. Jim’s mother wrote in a journal fashion, I plan to give the notes to my children someday, so I decided to write in a letter format. It is a tradition I keep to this day. I wrote about it in more detail in the post: Letters to My Children.
  3. Take Ownership of Motherhood. This is something I wish I had felt more free to do as a first time mother, but it took me a couple months after my daughter was born for my ownership of who I was to her kicked in. I do believe there are many women who naturally feel confident in their newly existing mothership, and this is not a struggle. But for those who find themselves insecure, it is a great strength to remember that you are the one God chose to mother that little person and no one, not a doctor, not a family member, or any kind of expert must bear that weight. Every decision is yours to make based upon what you think is best for your child…right or wrong. That child belongs to God, and entrusted to you and must be seen in that way.
  4. Let wisdom be the guide; not fear. Within the first few weeks of discovering she is carrying a child, a young mother is bombarded with decisions. How to give birth, where to give birth, natural or epidural, vaccinations, tests, ultrasounds, which pediatrician….the list is truly endless. In our fear riddled world, my heart aches to see mother after mother basing her decisions for what is best for her child based on her fear. So often, a mother will read something or hear something and make a decision because she is afraid. I lean heavily into James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Again, going back to the first step in motherhood. Mommy’s must rest in wisdom and biblical truth for raising their children, not the latest post on Facebook.
  5. Rejoice! Oh how easy we become ungrateful for the most amazing gifts! Stretch marks, varicose veins, exhaustion, morning sickness, weight gain, emotional changes, sleep deprivation, and a rise in bodily temperate are all normal experiences for expectant mothers. Although I was very happy to be pregnant with our first child, I did struggle being grateful for the uncomfortable reminders of the person growing inside me. With each child, the preciousness deepened until with my last one, I could not wait for him to wake up and cry in the night so I could go feed him and snuggle a bit. I understand motherhood is a very sacrificial ministry, but each discomfort and sacrifice are only reminders of the joy and preciousness of bearing life and should not cause complaint. How many woman have longed for years to get morning sick and get a round fat belly! It is truly a gift.

Ten Simple Meals to Teach a Child to Cook

anise aroma art bazaar

When teaching a child to be able cook food without supervision, it can be a little tricky to decide where to begin. So much depends upon each child’s interest, motor skills, and maturity.

For us, it has been different with each child. I decided to begin building independence with my oldest when she nearing nine. It was partially out of necessity. I needed more help around the house and having someone who could make lunch on occasion has been invaluable.

As I have cooked, and taught cooking lessons, I have found it helpful to begin with foods that are multi-purpose and of course, simple. I also try to pick meals that can be cooked in various ways so my children can get used to different cooking methods.

  1. Scrambled eggs in a fry pan are my first go-to food to teach my children to cook. They can be served at any meal and require little effort. Besides, what child does not enjoy cracking open an egg?
  2. Grilled cheese (cooked on a gridle or in a frying pan) are not only simple, but a favorite of most of the children in our home.
  3. Salmon Patties are a simple dinner most children can cook. I mix a can of salmon with two eggs and a dash or two of “everything bagel” seasoning. Salmon patties can be fried on a gridle or fry pan.
  4. Taco Meat is incredibly simple if I have pre-mixed my own seasonings or use store-bought packets. All my child needs to do is cook up the meat in a frypan and add the seasonings. I can help with the sides.
  5. Chicken and Rice is a family favorite. I can teach my children to cook rice on the stove or instant pot and then we add cooked chicken and seasoned salt.
  6. Baked Potatoes are a simple side dish or meal that takes nothing but a good scrubbing, olive oil, and salt. This is a good introduction to using an oven for children.
  7. Hot dogs are a no brainer for anyone. They can be cooked on a gridle, fry-pan, or in the oven.
  8. French Toast is easily mastered by young chefs. It is basically eggs, milk, and bread and can be cooked on a gridle.
  9. Basic Chili is a great, and more complex dish to introduce to a child. It requires little but cooked meat, cans of beans, tomato sauce, and seasonings. A child can have fun experimenting with different beans and meats with time.
  10. Roast Chicken is far more simple than it sounds. Really, other than making sure the bird is cleaned out and salted, little has to be done but put it in a pan and in the oven for an hour. I do recommend a couple sturdy oven mitts to prevent any chance of burning if a child is independent enough to put the bird in a hot oven and take it out when done.

Motivating Children to Cook and Bake

Busy mother’s know how easy it is to do everything themselves and keep out the “help.” How many mother’s use their dinnertime prep to allow their children to sit in front of the television?

I think everyone should know how to cook. Cooking is a life skill that is essential to thriving. By learning to cook a healthy, balanced meal, a person can keep his or her body nourished. If one is prone to buy prepared food or restaurant food, cooking will save money as well. Many also find cooking to be a creative outlet and relieve the stresses of life.

Cooking is also an important for ministering tool. Food blesses people in a way little else can. When I was an undergrad taking a cooking an meal management class, a young man was in my class. He did not know a thing about cooking, but wanted to learn so he could help our his wife someday. I loved that sacrificial perspective. And think more people who find themselves uneasy in the kitchen, need to humble themselves and learn how to be more comfortable in the kitchen simply to enhance ministry opportunities.

I believe everyone is able to learn to cook. Cooking does not have to be of gourmet caliber. I am afraid the television has ruined our standards of what makes a fine meal. If one can learn to create a delicious plate of vegetables and meat, cooking has happened. In fact, simple meals are preferred by most of the population. People find such comfort it an unintimidating bowl of chicken and rice.

Baking is a little more complicated in my opinion because it involves a bit more chemistry than cooking, but baking is usually the preference of children’s kitchen activities. Children love to mix flours and powders. They love to sample the interesting ingredients. Children especially love to get messy, gooey, and sticky as they touch dough and powders.

So, as a busy mother, how am I inspiring my children to enjoy cooking and baking?

  1. Cultivate habits of keeping children close while working in the kitchen. Children need to know they have a place beside mother in the kitchen. They learn that as infants strapped to their mother’s chest while she works. Children learn to have a place in the kitchen while they hang on mother’s pant leg while she scurries to make supper. Children learn to have a place in the kitchen as they pull up a stool and stir ingredients into a bowl. The kitchen becomes connected to warmth, comfort, and home very quickly to a child who spends his or her time beside mother there, day after day.
  2. Allow time to include children in meal prep and baking. Kitchen work will move at a slower pace if children are involved. I confess it is not convenient to have children underfoot while I work in the kitchen, but the point in having children was not for convenience. If I allow a little extra time by starting dinner early or give myself grace to eat a little later, I can include the little dears into the cooking experience.
  3. Learn to cherish the messes made by little “helping” hands. If I embrace the blessing of flour on the floor, sticky fingers being licked, eggshells in the cookies, and splatters around the pot I find joy in my heart instead of frustration as I work alongside my little ones in the kitchen. It is all a matter of what I choose to see as beautiful in that moment.
  4. Let them enjoy have choices of what they bake and cook. All of my children have favorite foods. If I am making one of those particular things, I will often ask if they want to help me. For Thanksgiving, each child gets to make his or her favorite pie. For Christmas, I let the children choose a couple cookies to help me bake for our neighbors. As I am menu planning for the week or the month, I will often ask the children for meal ideas and they can help me cook the meals they choose.
  5. Be around to guide, but don’t micromanage. As my children get older, they are more and more independent in the kitchen. My older children can make lunch on days I have no time…scrambled eggs, noodles, sandwiches, and toast are a few easy lunch items they put together. I will never forget the blessing it was one morning a couple months ago to wake up to the smell of eggs toast, and hot coffee made independently, and unprompted by my three girls! Micromanaging my kitchen would make my children feel as though they have no place there. So, I am careful to say “yes” as often as possible to their kitchen endeavors. I wan them to feel that it is their kitchen too!
  6. Show cleanup is part of cooking. Cleanup is usually the least fun portion of cooking for both adults and children. I like to teach my children to clean as they go. It really helps not have a mountain of work after the food has been cooked. When they are very young, I help them out. I do not want the cleanup to discourage them from working in the kitchen. But as a child is more capable, I insist the cleanup be done by her. I so not want to cultivate habits of leaving messes for others, in the kitchen or anywhere else.
  7. Utilize, don’t stifle a child’s natural curiosity in the kitchen. Children have a natural interest in tastes, smells, and textures of what is found in the kitchen. I am not saying I want my children burying their hands in my container of flour, but I do my best to allow them to use their senses while they cook. To enjoy and learn, it is essential that they know the ingredients they are using, so yes, there is a lot of tasting, smelling, and touching going on as we cook!
  8. Create a kitchen environment for each child’s best experience. I enjoy listening to classical harp music while cooking, but I have a daughter who prefers stories, and a son who prefers toddler songs. I allow the child helping me to have his or her pick of listening material or conversation with mom while cooking or baking. I think it helps each child take ownership of the kitchen and have a sense of belonging while he or she works.
  9. Keep the cooking to one child at a time. I have mistakenly included too many children at once in my cooking work. Then I cannot remember if the baking powder was added in, or if both scoops of sugar were included… It messes things up a bit. Our kitchen is also a small one and there isn’t room for many people in it at once. We often take turns in our house, just to keep the food turning out alright. One child can help with vegetables for dinner and another prep meat for roasting. It can be divided up easily and in shifts. Oh the joy each child takes when “their” dish is enjoyed at dinner.
  10. Purpose to teach children to make age-appropriate dishes. When a child is at a certain maturity, he or she can be taught to use knives, turn on the stove, put cookies into the oven, and such. Only a mother will know when each of her children is ready to move on to the next step.