Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Extreme Home Makeover

I've just re-decorated our house and it only cost me $1.24! Thanks to my new mission to make Scripture memorization and usage a little easier on me, I now have multi-colored index cards plastered all over my house! I've placed them strategically. I have "Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe" above the crib in Silas' nursery so whether I'm standing there rocking him to sleep for 20 minutes or 2 hours, my chances of surviving without a Mommy tantrum greatly increase. I have the fruits of the Spirit posted on the wall in Isaac's room to help me remember to encourage and correct him with them. I have "The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother" on the cabinet above the dishwasher to help put in perspective the consequences of letting Isaac's misbehaviors slide (even when I'd rather pretend that I didn't just see him push the books in on the bookcase that he knows he's not allowed to touch.) I have "Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious!" posted above the light switch in my living room to remind me that it's okay to smile and be happy as I go about my day! I probably have around 10 of them now beautifully gracing the walls of our house and it has been WONDERFUL! On several occasions already I've been tired or frustrated or busy and a verse I've read while changing Silas' diaper or rinsing lunch dishes or putting Isaac down for a nap has helped me re-focus. Amazing what God's living Word can do, huh? Okay, so I'm not gonna lie, I don't like the index card in my living room. It's tacky. But, I have a solution thanks to my friend, Jen! She is super creative and took a decorative block of wood and covered it in chalkboard paint and put it on a cute stand to display a verse. So, I'm going to be a copy-cat and I'm buying all the supplies (one 40% off coupon at Michaels at a time). It's painful, considering I wanted it done yesterday, but in a couple of weeks, I'll have my own chalkboard that matches my decor on an end table with the verse of my choice on it. I can't wait! I grew up in a great Christian home, participated in AWANA, and memorized verses in college to earn my theology degree. I have memorized many verses over the years, but I've struggled with actually USING them in everyday life. I don't know how many times I've put a Bible verse on the mirror in my bathroom to help me memorize it or made flashcards to study in my free moments. Strangely enough, even with all the Scripture I've put to memory, this is one of the first times I've memorized with such a practical purpose. Everywhere I turn there's godly advice staring me in the face. Not the cutest thing I've ever done for my house, but totally worth it!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Replacing the Explicits

Isaac is now trying to repeat almost everything we say, so naturally it is time to remove the explicit language from our vocabulary. You know, 'c%&p,' 's#%ks,' 'st%#id,' and worst of all, 'f#t.' All the things you don't want your toddler going up and saying to a complete stranger. It may be fine for adults in some instances, but its less than cute in a 2 year old. So as we've tried to oust the bad, I've worked on replacing it with something good. One of my goals lately has been using Scripture to correct and discipline Isaac. It's been great and so far has been working out well for both of us. I'm calmer when I administer the punishment, so he's more responsive and I leave feeling okay with how it happened. My biggest concern with using Scripture to aid in his punishments though is that he'll become bitter toward God and His Word because he sees Him as the reason he's always getting in trouble. So, now I'm working on phase 2 of this process: Encouragement. Even as adults, we love to be praised and often love the people from whom the praise is coming. What a great way to help him fall in love with his God! The Bible can just as easily be used as a means of encouragement as it can for correction. A lot of times the same verses can be used both ways. So, I've been looking for opportunities to encourage Isaac lately. Just last week, he provided a perfect opportunity. He's been into puzzles lately. For a few days last week, he wanted to do them for a while right after he woke up from his nap. Though I enjoy helping him and watching him try to put the pieces in, it's often a short-lived activity that quickly turns into a meltdown. He usually lasts anywhere from 30 sec-5 min before he gets super frustrated that a piece is not cooperating and he can't get it in. He squeals with annoyance and throws the piece or knocks all of the pieces that he's already done out. On this particular occasion, he did every puzzle he had (about 5 or 6) without incident. He worked patiently and diligently until he'd done them all. The opportunity almost passed me by. I was sitting there thinking, "Wow! I can't believe he hasn't flipped out yet! He's being so patient. Good. Maybe he'll be in a good mood this afternoon." (Sigh of relief and contentment). And then it hit me, or probably more likely, the Holy Spirit did. PATIENCE! Oooh! Oooh! Here's my chance! So I said, "Isaac, you are doing such a good job of being patient with your puzzles! Did you know you honor God when you're patient? That's one of the fruits of the Spirit! Good job! Mommy is so pleased when you show patience!" And he beamed. I'm sure he didn't understand it all, but he got the idea that the way he was playing was a good way to play and the right way to play. Since then, I've been looking for opportunities to compliment him when he's displaying a behavior or attitude that is pleasing to the Lord. He loves my praise, and when it's Scripturally based, I love giving it! I've been able to find instances where he's shown almost all of the fruits of the Spirit and have used more general verses like Ephesians 6:1 to thank him for being obedient to me. Once again, it's been a huge blessing to me as I parent and gives me more peace when I have to correct a behavior as well. Replacing the explicits in our home has been one of the most enjoyable parenting processes yet!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

To die is gain...

I've been thinking about death a lot this past week. It seems to have surrounded me.
Friday marked the three year anniversary of my uncle's death (who often felt more like my big brother). He was killed in a car accident on his way home from work the day after Father's Day. I think it was the worst day of my life.
This week also marks the two year annivesary of when I was the sole witness of a horrific motorcycle accident and the young man did not survive. It still haunts me when I sleep.
Wednesday, Matt's great granmother passed away at the age of 104. Though she had lived a long life, it was still hard to see my family members grieve the loss of someone they loved.
On the three year anniversary of my uncle's death, some friends of the family lost their newborn baby girl who was only a few weeks older than Silas. I have wept for her mother and at the thought of what she must be going through.
Needless to say, I've had a knot in my stomach most of the past week. Death makes me sick! I hate it! As I've contemplated over it the last few days I've thought about how death came about as a result of the Fall. I know I would have done the same thing too, but I might have a hard time being nice to Adam and Eve when I get to heaven. We could have lived forever in perfect harmony with God had it not been for sin! (At least until we made it to 1983, when I was born and screwed the whole thing up!) :)
So then I started thinking about how great it must have been in the Garden of Eden. No sin. No death. Walking with God in the Garden. That would be awesome. And it makes me wish that I could experience something like that.
Then I think, I'm going to get to experience something even better. Heaven! And now I've come full circle. The only way to experience life without death, sin and perfect communion with God is to die! (Unless of course Jesus returns during my lifetime.) Now, I don't have a death wish or anything, but today I think I related with Paul better than I ever have before when he says, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21). Serious gain. I can't wait to be with Him one day!
Though it doesn't necessarily make it easier, I know that those who are in Christ and have gone before aren't sad at all! They get to worship at the feet of Jesus. These aren't new things I've learned, but it helps for me to think about them again in light of my week. I'm so thankful that I don't have to dread death and can be excited about what awaits me when God has fulfilled His purpose with me here on earth.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Not so quick on my feet...

I love running! I've been trying to get back into it these past few weeks after the birth of Silas. I'm training for a 5k and can't wait until I get that "I'm in shape" feeling back. I was a sprinter in middle school and high school and transitioned into longer distances in college. I've even run a couple of half marathons (though not well and I don't really enjoy them). I've always been physically "quick on my feet." That's why it pains me that when it comes to spiritual sharpness, I often blank. I'm about as slow as they come. So I'm trying out this whole biblical parenting thing and I've committed to use God's Word to guide the way I discipline. Isaac provides me with numerous opportunities everyday to practice! He's such a good helper! :) We've been working lately on not throwing things in the house. Bless his little heart, he's having a hard time with it. A few months ago we were encouraging him to throw the balls to us and cheered wildly when he threw it straight down and it landed 2 feet in front of him. He's progressed a little since then and his toys ricochet around the room with one quick swing of his arm. So, what once was greeted with cheers and applause is now met with a firm, "No, no!" At one of his recent pitching practices, I decided to let him know that he needed to stop while using my new biblical approach. "Isaac, please don't throw your car. It's not (pause)....kind. Yeah. God wants you to be............(longer pause)kind. That's what the Bible says." (Cringe.) Come on, Desiré! You've got a degree in Bible theology and that's the best you can come up with? Yeah, like I said, not so quick on my feet. So I've been compiling a list to help me out. If you're impressed with the list, don't look at me, I'm a copycat. I went through "Don't Make Me Count to 3!" by Ginger Plowman and "The Well-Versed Family" by Caroline Boykin and found what I could use for Isaac in their books. They have a plethora of Scripture you can use in parenting your child and tons of examples of how to practically make it work. A lot of it would be over Isaac's head right now, but there are plenty of verses that can speak to his heart already. I've honestly been blessed as I've been speaking God's Word to him recently. Ephesians 6:1-Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Galatians 5:22-23- But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Matthew 5:16- In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Proverbs 15:1- A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Luke 6:31- Do to others as you would have them do to you. Proverbs 20:11- Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right. I think it's important to not only use Scripture as a means of discipline, but also as a means to encourage Isaac. I'm going to blog more about that soon, but I want to use these verses not just for correcting, but for teaching (in a positive way) and encouraging him as well. I'm excited to add more to my list as I come across them and as Isaac matures and begins to understand more! Please comment with any verses that you have used or think a toddler would understand that I can add now! As I practice speaking the truth of the Bible to him, I pray that it becomes more and more natural for me. I hope to get back into spiritual shape and become "quick on my feet" when I'm given opportunities to run to God's Word.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Watch your tone, young lady!

It seems inevitable.
I wake up and decide, "Today, I'm going to be a good mom!"
Then it happens.
Isaac begins a temper tantrum because there's a sticker stuck to his sock.
Then Silas starts to cry because he's been doing "tummy time" 2 minutes too long.
Okay, deep breath!
"It's okay, Isaac, Mommy will help you!" as I roll the baby over.
Then the full-blown meltdown begins because big brother's not too happy that little brother got helped first.
Be a good mom. Be a good mom.
I rush over to save Isaac from the attack of the killer sticker and he kicks me with his free leg.
And I lose it.
"Isaac Steven! You do NOT kick Mommy! Do you understand me? That's a bad boy!"
Then I console and cuddle him and sigh. This is going to be a loooong day.
And I'm immediately discouraged.
Am I doing the right thing?
How on earth do you parent a toddler well?
I've been constantly second guessing myself with Isaac as he's gotten older. How much does he understand? One day I decide he understands most, if not all, that I'm telling him to do and find myself being very strict with him. The next day I'm not so sure and I let a few things slide. I think we're making progress in an area and then he proves me wrong in the grocery aisle for all the world to see my shortcomings as a mother. Sometimes I feel like I'm just waiting until he gets "old enough" so I can parent him "right." I feel like I'm in this weird transition time where I know he needs to face consequences for his sin, but I don't know how to do it well. I just wish I had a little more confidence in my approach instead of this trial and error, frustrating, floundering approach.
A few days ago, I was reading/re-reading "Don't Make Me Count to Three!" by Ginger Plowman (which I highly recommend) and came across something that showed me that even though I may not be able to know without a doubt how much he does and doesn't understand, there is something that I WASN'T doing the right way. In her chapter, "Guidelines on Verbal Correction" she says "You are ready to reprove your child biblically when you can speak to him in a normal tone of voice and with carefully measured words: 'The heart of the righteous weighs its answers but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.' (Prov. 15:28)" Yikes! There's not been a whole lot of "answer weighing" going on in this Mama's house lately. One reason is because I'm proud. There's a certain "type" of parent I don't want to be. You know the ones. Their child throws their toy out of the cart at Target and mom says in a sing-songy voice with a smile on their face, "No, no, honey, that's not nice" as her child proceeds to throw their other toy out with their other hand. Um, hello! Ineffective! I'm WAY better than that. I'm a no-nonsense kind of mom. I get right up in his face and tell him no like I mean it and let him know that he's exhibiting inappropriate behavior and hope that the intensity in my voice puts the fear in him that it should. And then he throws his other toy out of the cart with his other hand.
So, I gave it a shot today. Isaac has this annoying habit of screaming just for the sake of hearing himself scream. He started it up at lunch today and in a calm voice, I told him to stop and that the next time he screamed, he would get a spanking. Two seconds later, a shrill yelp escaped his lips and I calmly walked over and told him, "Mommy told you not to scream. You disobeyed me. You are to honor Mommy and Daddy and because you didn't Mommy has to spank you." I took care of his punishment and we finished eating. He didn't scream again (until after his nap, of course!) Not a perfect success, but maybe with practice we'll get better. Could it have been "luck"? Perhaps. Will it work every time? I highly doubt it. Did I feel better than I usually do after I have to punish him? Much!
I want more than anything to show a godly example to my sons and I'm pretty sure I can't do that well when I'm yelling at them for disobeying me. I was amazed by how well using the wisdom found in God's Word worked. (I know, I know, I really am a slow learner.) The punishments were the same, but because I took a second to think about my response to the behavior, I left the situations feeling more confident that I had done the right thing. It was a good feeling. I could get used to this. So, next time I'm tempted to raise my voice and let Isaac have it, I pray that the Holy Spirit gently reminds me, "Watch your tone, young lady!"

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Elmo, Mickey Mouse and Jesus

"Melmo! Melmo!" (my son's name for Elmo) is a sound that can be heard multiple times a day in our house. He likes to watch Elmo, read about Elmo and even sleeps with a little Elmo doll. He loves him and can spot him in any store a mile away. Mickey Mouse comes in at a close second. When he's tired of watching Elmo, he'll request "Mimee" (which we have on video). He can name or point out all of the characters and when he hears the first two notes of the "Hot Dog Dance" he begins to jirate and move his body in robotic type convulsions that I think he believes is dancing. And then there's Jesus. He can point him out in his picture Bible and even frequently repeats his name when we talk about him, but despite my best, preschool friendly reading voice, full of enthusiasm and expression, I can barely get him to listen to a whole story. I am disappointed, frustrated and feel like a little bit of a failure as a Christian mother. Part of me wants to blame it on someone else. You know, the infamous "THEM." In this case we'll call THEM the Christian toy industry. Why can't they make better age appropriate things for my child? I find it annoying that the only toddler friendly Bible board books are on Noah's ark. "Maybe if Isaac could play with his Bible stories the way he plays with his Elmo books, he'd like them better," I think to myself. THEY should make some books like that. "Maybe if their videos weren't so stinkin' cheaply made and boring, he'd request those every once in a while." THEY should work on that. "Of all the 'Christian' junk marketed towards children, why, oh why isn't there anything that can actually help me do a better job of conveying who God is in a way that a one and a half year old can understand?" THEY definitely need to get going on that. Maybe some believe that he's too young to start learning the truths of God's Word. I've always been a firm believer that kids can understand way more than we give them credit for. So, I've come up with a few ideas and so far the ones I've tried have worked great! 1. I want to continue to read stories from the Bible to him, but in order to help keep his attention, I'm enlisting the help of some puppets. My mom helped me find some great ones online that I used while I was a preschool teacher at I'm going to start with the Jesus and Noah puppets in order to get started and cover the most stories with the least amount of money. (I'm going to use the Noah puppet for multiple Old Testament characters).

2. I've heard of lots of people doing "theme days" with thier kids based on letters, colors, animals, etc. It's a great idea! I'm going to try to do a Bible theme day once a month. For example, I might try to do a Jonah Day and have some activities planned for the day that reinforce the Bible story. We could read the story of Jonah from the Bible with our puppet and watch the Jonah Veggie Tales movie. For lunch, we could have fish sticks, goldfish crackers and Swedish gummy fish for dessert. We could play with water animals in the tub or pool. We could color a picture of a whale or large fish with crayons, markers or paint. The entire day would be spent talking about Jonah and the lessons learned from his life.

3. I've enlisted my mother to work on the toddler board books. If I can keep my babies young for just a little while longer, maybe I can benefit from them. She's one of the most creative ladies I know and I know she would do a great job at writing some kid-friendly versions of stories from God's Word that stay true to the text. In the meantime, I found a few Bible board books that I like at Mardel:

-My First READ and LEARN Bible (I like this one because the stories are several pages long with only a sentence or two on each page.)

-The Baby Bible Stories about Jesus (I like this one because all of the stories are about Christ.)

-My Great Big God (I like this one because the stories are put to rhymes and are fun to read aloud.)

Please feel free to comment with any ideas that you have or some things that you've tried with your own kids. I'm all ears!

Now, lest you think I'm trying to advocate that the Bible needs "help" to be interesting, you misunderstand my point. I know that on some level I'm not going to be able to make every biblical lesson I teach my children "kid-friendly." I know that for YEARS people have just used the Bible and nothing else to teach their children all they need to know about him. I hope to not be adding to the idea that everything has to be made bigger and better. All I know is, there are a lot of things already pulling for my young boys' attention. I just want Jesus to outrank Elmo and Mickey Mouse in this house and I (not THEM) need to get going on that!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Why a Blog?

I've decided to jump on the bandwagon and put my two cents in.
Actually, I need something to help me process this process called life.
Maybe you need to process something too and this will help.
Maybe I desperately need your advice
Maybe I'll lose steam and quit making posts in a month.
In the last couple of months, since our 2nd son, Silas, was born, I've found myself with a renewed passion (or maybe a first time passion) to do this parenting this well. Not right, but well. I've made mistakes and will continue to, but at the end of the day, when my children are grown, I want to look back and feel like I did it as biblically as I could, given my sinful nature. I know in order for that to happen I not only have to have a renewed energy for my family, but a renewed energy for my own spiritual walk as well. So, I've been taking time to think and read and talk and now, write. I'm a slow learner and know that if I'll take the time to put what I'm learning into words, it'll probably sink in a little better. Why publish it? Maybe you can help me. Maybe you've got experience with what I'm processing and can encourage me or give some advice. Who knows? Maybe something I'm thinking through will help you.
Psalm 86:11-12 says:
Teach me your way, O LORD
and I will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name
I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever.
I think I have a little ADD in me. I am easily distracted and have a hard time staying focused. I desperately want my focus to be on serving the Lord with an undivided heart and I think some of my other goals (such as parenting well) will fall into place. So here's to loving my God with all of my heart and all of my soul and all of my might! (Dt. 6:5)