Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Hole in My Bumper -- Reflections on Sin

     There's a hole in my bumper.  On the day after Christmas, I was backing out of a tight squeeze and hit the base of one of those light poles that they stick right in your blind spot.  I got out and looked at my mangled bumper in complete and utter shock.  I cried all the way home.  

     I really don't care what type of car that I drive.  I don't.  I just want it to work.  After I smashed my bumper, though, I realized that rust doesn't bother me.  Paint flakes don't bother me.  Age doesn't bother me.  Big gaping holes in the bumper -- that bothers me.  That hurts my pride.  

     The bumper was just not doing well.  My husband taped it with silver duct tape to keep it together.  I looked at it sadly, shaking my head.  "That looks awful," I thought.  We looked into having it fixed -- $1200.  It's not worth fixing; the car is too old.  I commented that the silver duct tape was embarrassing.  One day, my husband and son, decided to "fix" my poor, sad, embarrassing bumper.  They applied royal blue duct tape to my navy blue bumper, hoping to camouflage the gaping hole.  Now, I can see the hole from a block away.  It's an advertisement that says loud and clear:  YOU smashed your own bumper.

     A few days later, I went back to the scene of the "crime."  I picked up broken little pieces of my bumper and threw them into my car.  Why?  I have no idea.  I noticed that the business had put up a sign on the pole that said, "Caution:  Not responsible for damages." 

     I realized today, that after the initial and incredible embarrassment of driving around with a blue and silver duct-taped hole in my bumper, that I don't notice it as much as I used to.  It doesn't bother me as much.  It's annoying, and every once in a while I look at it and shudder, but frankly, I've grown somewhat accustomed to it.  Sure makes my car easy to spot in the parking lot. People in 3rd world countries would love driving this car, I reason.  We'll get another car soon, I assure myself.

     Sin is that way.  It enters your life, often unexpectedly.  It's embarrassing.  You don't want anyone to know.  It makes you cry.  It hurts.  Then, if you don't get right with the Lord and get it fixed, it sort of grows on you.  Every time you see it, it's a little less embarrassing -- a little less shocking.  Next thing you know, you're pointing it out with pride.  Yep, that's just who I am.  The dude with the great big ole sin --  just like my duct-taped hole in my bumper.  

     Then, later, the enemy puts up a sign that says, "Caution:  Not responsible for damages."  Sin always leaves behind damages.  Consequences for you and those around you.  While you are picking up all the broken pieces, sin does not care.  

     Thankfully, God does care. "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."  (John 3:17)    Unfortunately, as James 1:15 says, "...after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." The enemy wants to put a hole in our bumper, make us ineffective, or even worse -- bring us to death.  Thankfully, though, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."  (1 John 1:9)

     So when it comes to sin, get your bumper fixed.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Learning Hospitality from My Kids: A True Story

     Several weeks ago, a boy started showing up on my doorstep asking if my boys could come out and play.  Eventually, he made his way into our house, oohing and ahhing over Lego creations, eating popsicles, having Lego battles.  One day, my oldest son came to me and said that this boy found out about his upcoming birthday party and begged to come.  I didn't really want to do this, but two days before the party, we left an invitation taped to his door.  I did not know his last name, and I had never met his mother.
     Frankly, when he showed up at the party with his mother, I was shocked.  I don't know that I would take my child to a party for a kid I'd never even met.  We made small talk, and I learned that they would be moving soon.  I asked if she had other children, and she replied, "Yes.  I have an older son who is 19, and then I had him," pointing to the boy, her son, standing by her side.  "I don't know what I was thinking.  I could've been done by now."  
     Did my mouth drop open?  How long did I stand there, staring, in stunned silence?  She said her goodbyes and left him.  
     On another day, around 6:00 he showed up and asked to play.  Around 6:30 the kids asked to come inside because "It's hot, and I want to show him something."  I mumbled that he could come in but only until dinner was served.  I was running behind.  Dinner was late.  I had a million things to do.  I really did not want this boy in my house very long.  At 7:00, right as I was calling my boys to come and eat and explaining that it was time for the boy to go home, my youngest son asked if the boy could stay for dinner.  "Please, Mommy," he said with those big, droopy, hopeful puppy-dog-pleading eyes.  I looked at the boy.  I looked at my husband.  "Help," I was thinking.  "Don't make me the be the bad guy."  My husband asked if he'd eaten, and he said he had not.  I set another plate.
     When he began to eat, it was clear that he was very hungry.  We found out that he stays home alone all day and wanders the neighborhood.  This specific night, after work, his mother had gone to visit her boyfriend and his mother.  She had not been home all day.  This boy had just finished the 4th grade.  He is ten years old.  Ten and he'd been fending for himself all day long.  I felt such sorrow and conviction, and I was thankful for my children, who are clearly more hospitable than I.  
     That night, when I checked my Facebook news feed, I read this on the status of a dear and precious friend:  

 "Real and costly hospitality requires a paradigm shift for Westerners because it endangers certain sacred cows: time, money, privacy, autonomy, and especially choice. Hospitality is a drain on your free time, discretionary income, emotional energy, and independence. It may mean we have to limit our career opportunities to maintain roots and relationships. It may mean that we have to stop scheduling every last minute of our lives, so that we can leave space for unexpected guests. It may mean that we have to place ourselves intentionally in situations and communities where such encounters might occur. It may mean we have to open our hearts and shut off our smart phones."  (from arthouseamerica.com)
     Do you ever want to throw your hands up and say, "OK, OK, Lord.  I get it.  I'm sorry.  I'm so so sorry"?  This was one of those moments.
     Now, every night, we pray for this little boy, especially my youngest -- he never forgets.  We pray that he will know the love of Jesus and trust Him as his Savior.  He moved away two days after he ate dinner with us, but for me, the memory of our few weeks with him reminds me to "Always show more kindness than seems necessary, because the person receiving it needs it more than you will ever know."1  I pray I don't forget this, but thankfully, I have my boys to help me remember.

1.  Powell, Colin L.  "Kindness Works."  Parade Magazine May 20, 2012:  12.  Print.  Adapted from It Worked for Me.  Colin Powell recounts an elderly priest saying this at the conclusion of a sermon in a small suburban Episcopal church in Northern Virginia.

Thanks to Holly for sharing the awesome blogpost on hospitality!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Building Resentment Among Siblings

     Recently, I wrote about Encouraging Love and Friendship Among Siblings.  Now, I want to do the opposite and write about how to build resentment among siblings.  Your children's relationship with each other can be strained because of their personalities or birth order.  However, there are things you can do as a parent that can create a breeding ground for resentment.
*Refusing to Judge the Case.  A popular author states in one of his books that parents “should never play judge and jury.”  I disagree.  Children need help and guidance to see how they are wrong. The assumption is that children use a judge/jury scenario to intentionally manipulate their parents.  However, I believe they come to their parents for legitimate help (and if they are trying to manipulate their parents, then they need help with that, too).  In my opinion, it is human nature to believe one is always right and to not see how we have sinned against one another.  We like to blame each other, instead.  Parents need to fairly, objectively, and patiently help children figure out what they cannot figure out on their own -- how to resolve conflict.  As they age and mature, then begin to back off and give them time to work on the problem before intervention and begin training them on conflict resolution by asking questions to help guide them through the process.  Initially, however, siblings need parental intervention.  Left on their own, the conflict will remain unresolved or unsatisfactorily resolved, and the children will remain angry and hurt.  They will feel unprotected.  Over time, this builds incredible resentment, especially if one child is being bullied by another, physically or emotionally.  
     On the flip side, being the judge is exhausting and takes time.  However, if you do so and do it fairly, over time, you will judge less because part of what you are doing is helping your children realize when they have sin in their lives that needs addressing, and thus, shaping their character.
     Sometimes we are tired.  Sometimes we are sick.  Sometimes we are weary from being pulled in a million directions, but please don't shoo them away and tell them to "just work it out."  Chances are, they won't, and they need your help and guidance.
     Finally, if things are particularly heated, separating the children and hearing each side separately helps you know better who is at fault or how each is at fault and gives each side time to calm down.  Nine times out of ten, both children in an argument are wrong in some way, and both will need to apologize to each other and perhaps receive appropriate discipline.

*Allowing Yourself to Be Manipulated.  If you have a child who is manipulating you, the other children in the family will see it.  Resentment will grow against the manipulator.  Be on guard for manipulation.  Don't let tears or temper tantrums influence YOUR decisions.

*Punishing All for the "Crimes" of One.  If one child is being disobedient during the movie, do you turn it off and send all the children to their rooms?  There are times when you have one child who is causing trouble, at the pool, for example, and you simply have to take everyone home.  If at all possible, try not to do this.  Perhaps call your spouse and have him pick the unruly one, or put just the one child in time out.  If all must be disciplined because of the one, make the offender apologize to the others at an appropriate time.  Encourage the others to forgive.

*Punishing One When Both Are Wrong. The LOUD child is the one who yells and screams when upset or offended.  The NEEDLER is quiet and sneaky.  Often the NEEDLER instigates, and the LOUD one throws a fit, hitting the NEEDLER, saying ugly words, or throwing things.  Make sure BOTH are disciplined.  It is easy to see the sin in the LOUD one, but the behavior of the NEEDLER is just as selfish and sinful.  The manipulator, the passive aggressor, and the pleaser, the youngest and the oldest, the responsible one and the trouble maker, the smart one and the hyper one ... they all transgress.

*Showing Favorites.  Don't do it.  Help each child find their niche and gifts.  Encourage and praise all your children's successes, no matter how small.  Encourage them to praise each other.

*Comparing One Child to Another.  "I don't know why you get such bad grades.  Your sister always did well in school."  OUCH.

*Trying to Make Everything Equal.  If each child has to have exactly equal treatment and stuff, then each child will be constantly checking to make sure they have equal or more than their sibling(s).  Then, when something is NOT equal, resentment starts to grow.

*Spending More Time with One Child.  When you have a newborn, he or she requires lots of attention.  When you have a young child, he or she needs extra help with reading and learning math.  Try your best to stay aware of the time spent with each child and try to carve out time for each of them.

     In all the scenarios above, children feel frustrated and resentful.  However, they cannot take it out on their parents, especially when young.  So the discontent and resentment grows in their hearts and is aimed straight at their siblings. 

     Don't forget to pray for wisdom for how you deal with your children, and pray for their relationships with each other.  

Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.  Proverbs 29:17 ESV

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  Hebrews 12:11 ESV

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6 ESV

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Encouraging Love and Friendship Among Siblings

     Before my second child made his appearance into the world, I began thinking about how I could best teach my two boys how to become friends.  I have pondered, read, and prayed about this subject, and my conclusion is that creating siblings who care about each other takes a lot of time, energy, and work on behalf of the parents.  Here are some of my thoughts on helping siblings learn to care for each other.

  • Do not allow siblings to be unkind to each other physically, emotionally, or verbally.  "Shut up," "stupid," "dummy," and "hate" should be bad words worthy of discipline.  Consequences for such behavior needs to be swift and consistent.  
  • Encourage siblings to praise each other.  Help them learn to intentionally build each other up.  Set the example.  While eating dinner, say, "Joe did a great job building that Lego spaceship, didn't he Frank?"  or "Wow!  Frank, don't you agree that Joe got a great grade on his math test.  Why don't you congratulate Joe?"  
  • Remind siblings of how lucky they are.  When warranted, say, "You're lucky to have a big brother who ...." or "Your little brother really loves you and looks up to you."  Remind them to thank each other, too.
  • Teach siblings to treat each other with honor and respect.  When an unkind word slips out or someone takes something from someone, ask, "Are you treating each other with honor and respect? No.  OK, let's try again."  On the flip side, praise them for playing together nicely, showing love to each other, and helping and serving each other.
  • Teach siblings to ask for and extend forgiveness.  Then hug and make-up -- regardless of their age!
  • Encourage siblings to pray for each other.  Pray for the older brother on the mission trip.  Pray for little brother if he's nervous about swim lessons.  Pray for sister if she's having bad dreams.
  • Discipline, and discipline fairly.  If you do not discipline fairly, you will create a wedge between siblings.  Lack of discipline fosters resentment.
  • Discourage competition.  If at all possible, do not put children on opposing teams.  Teach them to cheer for each other.  Praise both equally.  Along that line, do not compare them to each other.
  • Give them space from each other.  Even the best of friends need time apart.  Work time away from each other into the day, especially once one or more siblings is an adolescent with younger siblings.
  • Do not show favorites.    Again, this drives a wedge between children.  
  • Teach them everything does not have to be equal.  Do not fall into this trap.  You cannot and should not treat all of your children exactly equally.  Children have different personalities, maturity levels, and needs.  My oldest had his first sleep-over at age 5, but my youngest was much older.  If you try to make everything equal, then you will hear, "But he got to.... when he was my age?" or "How come you bought her a shirt and not me?"  You will wear yourself out trying to be equal, and this will create competition between siblings.  
  • Teach empathy.  Ask:  How do you think that made him feel?  If he did that to you, would you be ok with that?  How can you make this right?
  • Model proper behavior for your children.  If you are sarcastic with your spouse, they will be sarcastic with each other.  If you yell at your spouse, they will yell at each other -- and you.
  • Emphasize family.  Tell them that we are a family, and we act like one.  We work together.  We play together.  We live in harmony with each other.  We don't say unkind words to each other because we're a family.  We treat our siblings better than or at least as good as our friends because we are a family and always will be.  Tell them about a good friend from elementary school that you rarely speak to, and remind them that your family will always be there.
  • Don't get angry when a child expresses something you think is ridiculous.  If a child expresses that he or she feels that a sibling is a favorite, sit them down and discuss what is probably a very real fear, albeit unfounded.
  • Use teachable moments.  If you are in a store or in someone's home, and siblings are acting poorly, ask them, later, if you think they were treating each other kindly.  Ask, "How do you think they should treat each other instead?" 
  • Be careful about the books and movies that come into your house.  Do not invite tv shows into your home that promote sibling rivalry as normal or funny.  If you see such behavior in a movie, pause the movie and ask your children if they are treating their siblings appropriately.  (We also do this when children are treating their parents disrespectfully.)
  • Teach them to protect and look out for each other.

    Above all, pray for your children and their relationship with each other.  Ask God for wisdom to help you where you need help.  Then roll up your sleeves, and do your part to help your children become friends.  Do not be discouraged if it takes a while.  Parenting is hard work and takes time and endless energy.  

And let us not grow weary of doing good, 
for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9 ESV

Note:  See Building Resentment Among Siblings here.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tasty Science: Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream in a Ziploc Bag

     Here is a FUN activity and lesson that I did a while back.  I'm sharing it with you to do with your children this summer -- along with some history and science!  The end result is yummy ice cream!

READ:  Should I Share My Ice Cream by Mo Willems

HISTORY:  No one knows when ice cream was invented.  About 3,000 years ago, the Chinese mixed rice, snow, and milk together to make a tasty treat.  In Persia, about 400 BC, people would pour grape juice on snow and eat it when it was hot outside.  The Emperor Nero had ice and snow brought to him in Rome to eat with fruit juice.  It seems that the Arabs were the first to use milk to make ice cream sweetened with sugar.  In the 10th century, many cities in the Arabic world such as Baghdad, Damascus, and Cairo produced ice cream with milk, cream, or yogurt and flavored it with rosewater, dried fruits, and nuts.
     Here in America, the British brought ice cream to the American colonies about 300 years ago, but only the wealthy could eat it because ice was very rare and expensive.  In the 1840s, Nancy Johnson from New Jersey invented a hand-cranked ice cream maker, and the rest is history!

How does it happen:
  • Milk can change from a liquid to a solid with the help of ice and salt.
  • It involves the exchange of heat.
  • Cold does not exist by itself. It is simply the absence of heat.
  • For example, a cold room is cold because some of its heat energy has escaped.
  • Heat energy goes from places with more heat energy to places with less.
  • The milk mixture has more heat energy than the salt and ice does.
  • Therefore, heat energy goes from the milk mixture to the ice and salt.
  • The milk mixture lost heat energy, which caused it to cool and freeze, eventually becoming ice cream, a solid.
  • The ice gained heat energy, which caused it to melt, eventually becoming salt water, a liquid.
  • When you add salt to the ice, it lowers the freezing point of the ice, so even more energy has to be absorbed from the environment in order for the ice to melt.  This makes the ice colder than it was before.
  • So the addition of salt lowers the freezing temperature, which causes the ice cream to freeze sooner.
  • If you do not add the salt, the mixture will get cold but only as cold as the ice – so it will be more like a thin milkshake.
TRY THIS:  Put ice and water in two cups.  Add salt or rock salt to one.  Stir.  Take the temperature of both.  Which is colder?

  • So….The ice cream mixture is about 32 degrees.
  • The salt-ice mixture is below 32 degress.
  • Heat flows from warmer to cooler objects, so the energy from the ice cream mixture flows to the salt-ice mixture.
  • The ice cream mixture gets colder, and the salt-ice mixture begins to melt.


Large gallon size ziploc/re-sealable bag
2 Quart sized ziploc/re-sealable bags
1 cup half and half
½ to ¾ teaspoon Vanilla
2 tablespoons Sugar
½ to ¾ cup Rock salt

STEP 1. Carefully pour the half and half, vanilla and sugar into one of the small bags. Seal tightly, squeezing out as much air as possible.
STEP 2. Place the bag with the mixture inside the other small bag and seal it, leaving as little air as pos­sible.
STEP 3. Place the ice inside the one-gallon re-sealable bag.
STEP 4. Place the two small bags containing the mixture inside the larger bag with the ice. Make sure the ice surrounds the bags with the cream mixture.
STEP 5. Sprinkle the salt over the ice in the larger bag.
STEP 6. Seal the larger bag, letting as much air escape as possible.
STEP 7. Wear gloves or wrap bag in a towel.
STEP 8. Shake and massage the bag for approximately 15-20 minutes.  
STEP 9.  Remove small bags from the large bag, open, and eat!  (Be careful not to get salt in the ice cream.  You may want to rinse off the bag in the kitchen sink before opening it.)

*History of Ice Cream,  Wikipedia 
*Ice Cream:  The Full Scoop by Gail Gibbons

Monday, June 4, 2012

Shoe Tying 101

     I do not remember teaching my oldest son how to tie his shoes.  I know we did because he does it on his own every day.  However, I don't remember how old he was nor how or when we did it.  With my youngest son, the process was much more difficult and therefore, memorable.  My youngest lacks fine motor skills and loves velcro so I knew shoe-tying was not going to be fun.  This is how we did it.

     We started with a 1/2 inch wide ribbon and his favorite stuffed animal.  On the first day, I showed him how to tie a bow on the neck of his stuffed penguin.  The next day and for many days after that, I helped him make a bow, slowly and step-by-step, trying to use the same words and steps every time.  We tied bows on different stuffed animals once a day about 4 days a week for several months.  

     After he mastered stuffed-animal-bow-tying, we moved on to a new pair of shoes -- the ones he would wear when he grew out of his velcro-tennis shoes.  I sat the shoe in front of him while he sat on the floor (as if it were on his foot).  I showed him how to tie a bow on this tennis shoe.  He practiced on this shoe for a few months.  (I added "Shoe Tying" on his checklist for school.)

     Once he got shoe-tying-on-a-new-shoe-that-is-not-on-the foot down, we put the single shoe on his foot and practiced tying it.  We did this for a month or so.

     One day, he could not wear his old shoes because it was raining.  He had put off wearing those new shoes for so long that there were holes in the bottoms and sides of his velcro shoes.  Alas, he had to wear his new shoes.  It took a while, but he tied those new shoes!

     We still practice once or twice a week, just to stay in practice.  It's sandal season here, and he loves his velcro, but he can finally tie his shoes!