Settling in for the Wait

By Scott James

Patience has never been my strong suit. More than just a general restlessness, I can usually trace my impatience back to a single, sinful root: frustration over a lack of control. Whatever the situation, if I’m the one calling the shots and setting the pace, then I am the epitome of long-suffering. But put me at the mercy of someone else’s timeline and you’ll see how quickly my foot starts tapping. Obviously, this trait doesn’t serve me well.

My children seem to have inherited this disposition, which is bad news for them because at their age they’re not in control of much. The funny thing is, seeing my impatience reflected in their lives has given me a perspective that I failed to grasp on my own. When my children are at their most impatient, I often see the folly of it because I know something about the situation that they don’t — some piece of information that, if they only knew it, would relieve their frustration. While they’re fretting over what’s for dinner, when they’re going to get to pick the family movie, or what’s wrapped up under the Christmas tree, all I want is for them to trust me. I have a plan, and everything’s going to be OK. When my children are bothered by not being in control, I want them to know that someone who loves them and wants what’s best for them is in control.

Yet, how often do I fail to trust God like that? I see the folly of my children’s impatience so easily, but then I turn around and act as if life would be better if I could step in and work everything out according to my timetable. But helping my children recognize and repent of impatience has helped me understand that true contentment arises out of a deep trust that God loves us, He wants what’s best for us, and — unlike me with my children — He is in perfect control. It does no good to watch for the promises of God and then fret over not being in control of their timing.

Waiting is hard, but God uses it to teach us to depend on Him. When we cry out with Habakkuk, “O Lord, how long?” (Habakkuk 1:2), God patiently reminds us that He acts according to His schedule, not ours. He will keep every one of His promises for our good and His glory. And if we’re prone to impatience along the way, He has a word for us just as He did for Habakkuk: “If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3). Give up the illusion of control, trust in God’s timing, and then settle in for the wait. It’ll be worth it.

Scott James is a pediatric doctor and a member of The Church at Brook Hills. He loves helping families grow together in Christ and is the author of several family worship devotionals and children’s books. He lives in Birmingham with his wife and four children.

This article appears in the December 2018 issue of ParentLife.

Hands-On Ideas for Thankful Living

By Dixie Walker

The family feast is coming, and I’m looking forward to it as much as anyone. My normal contribution to the spread each year includes a few pies and a side dish or two. These goodies are a fun part of the annual Thanksgiving festivities, and items that we’re all grateful to have. But, other than wolfing down another slice of pumpkin pie, do you ever stop to count your other blessings, “naming them one-by-one” as the old hymn suggests?

When we think of our blessings broken down in this way, we have so much to be thankful for! But before we become proud in thinking this has anything to do with our own goodness, we need to keep some things in mind: God is the provider of all good things in our lives. In Psalm 121:1-2 we read: “Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

As a reminder, things in life as we know them can disappear so quickly! We must change our mindset to one of thankfulness each day — not just in November. So, after we get this “attitude of gratitude” drilled down into our thinking, how can we enhance and pass on this philosophy to our kids early in their lives?

Through the Senses
Help your child with hands-on projects to show thankfulness for what she has by sharing with others. Use sight, taste, touch, hearing, and smell to get a start with these outreach projects.

  • Preschoolers can create a watercolor picture as a Thanksgiving “card” for an elderly neighbor.
  • A simple fall-scented candle would make a great gift for a friend of any age.
  • Record a cheerful message from your child(ren) on your phone and then text it to relatives and friends who live too far away to visit in person.
  • Share your homemade goodies with some international students who are “stuck alone” on campus over the holiday.

Through Relationships
When you hear of friend or family member experiencing a challenging situation, take note of it. Find ways to include your kids in reaching out as a way of showing gratitude for the ability to help during this difficult time.

  • Take some food to a friend or family member who recently lost a job.
  • Buy additional baby items (diapers, bottles, formula, pacifiers) for a young family you know who may be a little tight over the holidays.
  • Provide a “free” night of childcare for someone with young kids, knowing they are typically stretched financially.
  • Invite a single adult from church or work to your home for the holiday mealtime fun if they don’t have a place to go to for the day.

Through the Community & World
Keep yourself updated on needs in your community and (for older kids) the world. When you see a way your family might help, discuss a plan for meeting some of those needs.

  • A project such as Operation Christmas Child® is a great way to enlarge your child’s focus toward people outside his immediate circle of family and friends.
  • Check community boards at local gyms and churches for tangible ways to help in surrounding neighborhoods with service projects, or provision of clothing or food items.

Always remember to verbally express your own thankfulness for God’s goodness when interacting with your family members. Your children especially will enjoy hearing your excitement as you recount God’s blessings in your life.

Dixie Walker has been in childhood ministry with families and teachers for the past 20 years. She and her family reside in the metro Atlanta area.

This article first appeared in the November 2017 issue of ParentLife.

8 Weekly Prayers To Pray for Your Kids While They’re at School

By Joshua Straub

I genuinely believe there is no greater parenting technique than to pray boldly for our kids.
For many of us, sending our children back to school can feel like an emotional roller coaster ride. Fears and questions concern us. Will they make friends? What challenges will they face? Who will influence them? Can they keep up academically?

If you homeschool, your fears about your kids may be a little different, but are no less valid or worrisome.

The reality is that God gave us our kids to steward well. God chose you to raise your kids. I think that’s incredibly generous and really cool of Him. It’s also humbling.

That’s why we need God’s help.

Whether you homeschool or send your kids off to school, here are some prayers you can regularly pray for your kids each day this coming school year.

Monday: Father, though grades matter, I pray that you instill in my children a love for learning. Give them wisdom, insight, and understanding above all else.

Tuesday: Dear God, surround my children with friends, mentors, and loved ones who champion and affirm their worth, strengths, and gifts. Place people in their lives who love them dearly for who they are.

Wednesday: Father, help my children to be honest, hard working, rested, patient, faithful, empathetic, and kind. (Insert your own values into these prayers for your kids. You can pray a different value for your kids each week as well).

Thursday: Dear Lord, instill in my children the courage to do the right thing, even in the face of being unpopular or being picked on for it. Give my children the call and resolve to be kind and strong, and to walk confidently in Your love for them.

Friday: Father, your eyes are looking throughout the earth for a heart that is completely yours. I pray for these hearts for my children. Woo them to be undeniably in love with you.

Here are a few extra I pray regularly as well:

A prayer for character: Dear God, develop my children’s inward character. Help me to show my kids, by how I live and teach, that I value it more than outward success or the accolades of others.

A prayer of lovingkindness: Father, whether it’s a word of affirmation, helping with a task, standing up for someone, or giving a gift, help my child to show someone they’re valuable today.

A prayer for good belly laughs: Dear Lord, I pray for a belly laugh today for my children. Teach them the value of having fun and laughing hard. And, Lord, do the same for me.

Tell us, what prayers do you regularly pray for your children?

Joshua Straub has two cherished roles—as husband to wife, Christi, and dad Landon and Kennedy. He serves as Marriage and Family Strategist for LifeWay Christian Resources and leads Famous at Home, a company equipping leaders, organizations, military families, and churches in emotional intelligence and family wellness.

This article appears in the September 2018 issue of ParentLife.

Making Memories

One week ago today, ParentLife writer Wynter Evans Pitts suddenly passed away. Today we wanted to share with you one of our favorite columns that Wynter wrote. This originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of ParentLife. As we remember Wynter’s legacy, we encourage you to use her words as a reminder to make memories with your children at every opportunity.

— The ParentLife Team

MAKING MEMORIES

By Wynter Pitts

I imagine the conversation will go something like this:

“Mom, remember that time you wanted us to do a craft together and you looked on Pinterest?”

Silence – immediately followed by an uproar of contagious giggles and uncontrollable laughter.

You see, I am not the craftiest of girls, but God blessed me with four sequin-wearing, glitter-paint-splattering, and sugar-loving darlings, so I try.

The reality is, I am actually the mom who …

• Has an entry-level Pinterest board named, “Projects I Think I Can Handle.”

• Buys a kit to create your own gum, only to burn it in the microwave.

• Takes three days and a dozen YouTube videos to figure out how to turn rubber bands into a beautiful work of art and a colorful accessory using a “Rainbow Loom.”

• Tries to bake an edible cookie bowl … I can’t even think of the proper words to describe how horrifically this ended. It was pure pandemonium as a party of 10 girls tried to scoop ice-cream into a pile of burnt crumbs.

• Paints nails. And cuticles.

• Always has to double the amount of suggested flour in order to stop the homemade play dough from becoming a permanent placemat.

• Forgets to turn on the oven light when making a “Shrinky Dink.” Causing us to entirely miss the point — the shrinking.

• Successfully bakes reindeer cupcakes (from Pinterest!) but then arrives too late to the class party … missing the unveiling and enjoyment of my labor.

And this is just the beginning! I am serious — this list could go on and on! Regardless of my many failed attempts, my ultimate goal is to never stop adding bullet points.

Let’s just call it a work in progress.

The specific activities may not be my proudest parenting acts, but combined they are what define the most significant contribution I give to my girls.

My time.

So, I imagine my girls will have endless stories from their childhood … and I am prepared to be the punchline for most of them! However, it’s the first few words of their stories that are the most important to me, “Mom, remember …”

Memories are not defined by perfect scenarios. It’s the present — the daily and the quality time we spend with our children that will guide and provide the substance of future conversations.

Enjoy the activities, but focus your best efforts on the memory.

Helping Your Child Respond to Tragedy

By Dixie Walker

Think of the most recent tragic event that’s made headline news. What was your initial response to it? Did it create fear in you? What about uncertainty for your future? Did it make you feel afraid to continue your normal daily routines, wondering if something bad would happen to you or your family?

Times of upheaval are difficult for everyone. We all want to think our world and the environments we live in are safe, secure, and happy. However, when unexpected disasters occur, we’re often left without understanding or reasons behind the chaos. And for children, these difficulties are especially upsetting.

Adversities come in a variety of ways. We may encounter natural disasters such as tornadoes, floods, or hurricanes. We see video and photos of the ways weather can destroy individuals’ lives, homes, and belongings. Other times we may face what appears to be an untimely accident or death of a loved one. And, sadly, there are also senseless catastrophes caused by the evildoing of mean-hearted people.

It is reassuring to know that none of these situations are a surprise to God. In fact, our Heavenly Father gives us words of comfort for such times. In John 16:33 we read, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. You will have sufferings in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

As parents, you wish to protect your children from the grim circumstances that are happening in our world. However, kids often hear of these events from their friends, in classroom discussions, or through the media before you know they’re aware of the situation. Although there is the desire to explain these difficult conditions to your child, be careful to temper details according to his age and level of understanding.

Here are a few guidelines that can make these frightening situations easier to get through with your children:

  • Keep daily schedules intact. Children find security in routine. As much as possible, continue your child’s normal procedures with school, home, church, and friends. Doing this will show your child that God helps us deal with everything that comes along in our lives and that we can move forward.
  • Discuss tragedies appropriately. It’s not healthy to offer unnecessary traumatic information to children. But if your child asks you questions related to the event, answer her questions as simply as possible — giving enough information to satisfy but not so much as to bring about more distress.
  • Explain events on your child’s level of understanding. Even preschool-aged children realize the concept of good and bad choices. You can relate information, even that of evil behavior, in terms of people making bad choices. Remind your child that God loves all people, and that He wants us to make good and right choices in relationship with Him and to others in society.
  • Offer comforting words from the Bible. Place a bookmark in your child’s own Bible where he can easily read promises that bring assurance to him when he feels unsettled about the unusual events that are happening. If he is unable to read on his own, then you can be ready to read the verses to him as well as explain what they mean. A few comforting passages of Scripture include:
    • “Casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you” (1 Pet. 5:7).
    • “God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble” (Ps. 46:1).
    • “I will not leave you as orphans, I am coming to you” (John 14:18).

The next time you encounter tragedy, trust that God will help you as you seek to bring about understanding and give comfort to your children. Most often, kids find peace in homes where parents rely on God for their strength. Pray, alongside your children, for God to take care of families who are affected by tragedy and to protect your family as well.

Dixie Walker is a freelance writer of Christian family ministry resources. She and her family reside in Nashville, Tenn.

This article appears in full on pages 8-10 of the March 2018 issue of ParentLife. To order the current issue, click here. To subscribe, click here.

Seeing Sparkle and Choosing Joy by Mary Carver

photo-1453654166571-88b6571a59a3

Sara Frankl was a friend and fellow blogger who suffered from an autoimmune disease and several complications. As I worked on the book that tells Sara’s story and shares her message of hope and joy, I was amazed and moved to read about the incredible strength Sara drew from her faith. That inner strength allowed her to withstand immeasurable pain both physical and emotional — and to choose joy through it all.

I invite you to read an excerpt of our book today, where Sara shared a story from her childhood and gave us a glimpse of where she learned to choose joy.

——————-

Listening to the sound of the wind whistling around the building as the windows shook and the snow whipped into tiny volcanoes in and of themselves, I found myself suddenly nostalgic for our farm house back on the acreage.

The blizzard here was just starting to get its footing. The winds were reaching their 50 miles per hour and the chill of the outside could be felt in my inside bones. And then, for a moment, there was quiet. So I grabbed my camera and looked outside, knowing what I would see: sparkly snow, right outside my window.

It was always my favorite part of the storm, watching from the window with my mom. I can remember the night, being in the family room, watching television with the family and suddenly noticing Mom was gone. I walked into the laundry room, knowing that’s where I would find her. But there was no sloshing of a washer or tumbling of a dryer. It was quiet. Dark. And the only sound was that familiar whipping of the wind as she sat on a stool by the window, watching it swirl.

Her moment of silence in the peace of the white sparkly snow.

As an adult, I now recognize the quiet moment she was grabbing. A husband and six kids content in another room. Dishes done. The house vacuumed. No pressing for homework to be done or school clothes to be ready, because she knew the snow was only starting and our rural roads wouldn’t be fit for the buses to pass.

She would sit quietly at the window and rest in the sound of the new fallen snow. The peace in the wild whipping of the wind. I, of course, would break her silence, but only by my presence. I liked the quiet, too.

She would show me the light we were trying to see in the distance – the one a quarter mile away that lit up Dad’s hog buildings. She was making sure the power was still on so the livestock were warm and fed and safe. But then she would take her eyes away from the light to make sure I saw the diamonds in the snow. She said they were the little gift that God gives in the middle of a storm.

And I would curl up with her on her stool and think about how she sparkled right along with them, in the quiet of the snow. There is no doubt that those little lessons then, about sparkly gifts in the middle of storms, help me to see the sparkle in my life now. Quietly content to watch the storms brew outside my windows – but only letting the sparkle rest inside.

——————-

Frankl. Sara. Carver. Mary. CHOOSE JOY. Final cover. 050515.(1)

If you enjoyed this excerpt from Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts, you can learn more about the book and its authors at TheChooseJoyBook.com.

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She writes about her imperfect life with humor and honesty, encouraging women to give up on perfect and get on with life, at www.givinguponperfect.com. Mary is the co-author of a new book called, Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts. Released by the Hachette Book Group in 2016, CHOOSE JOY is a must-have for those searching for meaning and beauty in a world full of tragedy. Sara’s words breathe with vitality and life, and her stories will inspire smiles, tears, and the desire to choose joy. To learn more about CHOOSE JOY, visit TheChooseJoyBook.com.

Weekend Links

Enjoy these links as you start the new week! 

Always on the Sunny Side

BV - Romans 8 28
source: nlcwood via Flickr

I was laying face-down on the table at my chiropractor’s the other day when I listened to one of the most depressing conversations I’ve ever heard between my chiro, Dr. C, and the person on the other table. No, she wasn’t telling about people dying, mortal peril, or sickness. It was just … sad. It went something like this.

Dr. C: What do you do for Labor Day?

Her: I think I slept through part of it. And then sat there.

Dr. C: Oh. You didn’t do anything with the so-and-so’s?

Her: They all went camping. I didn’t go. Too much chance of rain.

The woman complained about the way Dr. C was doing her adjustment, how she had to wait, about her pain level, her family and more. Everything she said was in an Eeyore-tone, pessimist to the core.

I’ll admit that I fall on the side of optimist. Recently my best friend contacted me to tell me she had a mass in her colon. They were doing a biopsy. And I was sure that it wouldn’t be cancerous. Just positive! She is 33, after all, like me.

It was cancer.

I felt silly that I had been so optimistic about it. I simply can’t bear to let myself think of worst-possible-scenarios when it comes to others. Maybe it’s too many years of struggling with depression, but I just cannot let my brain go there. I have to stay on the sunny side, or I will drift off into insanity.

And really, what good comes from pessimism? This Bible says, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28, ESV). We know Who is going to win in the end. We have confidence in the hope of heaven. I believe Christians should be living with one foot in heaven, focused not on each worldly nuisance but on the larger scope.

Yes, God lives in our day-to-day. For that, we can give great thanks! And because we have great hope, we can rise above negativity with the power of His Spirit.

I never want to miss out on what God has for me in terms of relationships or service or anything because there’s “too much chance of rain.” I don’t act happy when I’m not or put on a show for people. But I do truly believe, deep-down, that everything is in His hands and will work out for good. That is the joy of Christ!

And for that reason, I will never be a pessimist.

How about you?

Jessie WeaverJessie Weaver is the mom of three little ones (6, 4, and 2) in Chattanooga, TN. She is a freelance writer and editor and manager of the ParentLife Online community.

Friday Links

Have a wonderful, blessed weekend!

Resolution Baby Steps by Jessie Weaver

Resolution Baby Steps

source: Emily Price

I went to see my chiropractor today. He asked me how I was feeling, I guess wanting to gauge how things have been and where to start.

“I actually feel great, ” I told him. “No lower back pain at all.”

For me to be able to say that is enormous. Over the last 4 years, I have struggled through immense pain; numerous episodes of my back being thrown out, spasming, and being unable to get out of bed; and who knows how many chiro, doctor, physical therapy, and spine specialist appointments. During my last pregnancy, my disc herniated, leaving me with sciatica that didn’t dissipate after the baby was born. (So a newborn and constant pain in the calf – woohoo!)

As I talked to my doctor, I realized the baby steps I’ve made toward healthier living and taking care of my back and myself. I started with physical therapy exercises. In September, I joined the YMCA and have been going faithfully to work on the elliptical or take water aerobics or Zumba classes. And then last week, I decided it was time to tackle diet. I made a fairly drastic change in my diet, but have taken so many baby steps toward healthier eating in the last few years that I know what to do and how to eat for health. I just haven’t always done it.

It’s not how most resolutions work, is it? We like to jump in, erase the drawing board, get results as fast as we can get a Big Mac at McDonald’s (which of course we would never do anymore … until January 20 or so rolls around, and we are hungry and tired of salads).

Whatever your resolution this year, may I suggest you take the whole year to establish it? Break it down into 12 baby steps to implement over the year. It may not be as fun or drastic. But I am guessing it will be a whole lot more feasible for you. And yes, parents, this may involve taking time for yourself. I know it’s hard! But we want our kids to see us as people … not just as their mom or dad, who gives them whatever they want and caters to their every demand.

Read a chapter of the Bible … exercise for 10 minutes … drink one glass of water. Just do something! And gradually, change will come.