The Freedom of Flexible Traditions

7368903048_8f910beeb1_o

My mom is the original Martha Stewart. She has a great eye and palate, crafting lambs out of butter for a Spring table and stuffing huge globe vases with tulips overflowing and spilling out onto a precisely pressed linen tablecloth. I once overheard a guest in our home telling her daughter, “Pay attention to what Mrs. Hopper does. Her gatherings are just wonderful.”

 They really are. But what makes my mom’s mad entertaining skills so appealing is her ability to remain flexible, adding or subtracting guests according to their needs and scrapping traditions that feel more like a burden than a blessing.

Traditions can be a wonderful thing. In fact, there are many resources around for helping you start some of your own, but what I love about the traditions in our home growing up is that they remained in flux; they grew or shrunk with the reality of our home life and the needs of our family.

So when my mom created a gorgeous sit-down Christmas meal the year my oldest brother brought two kiddos under two years old to the table, she laughed about their inability to sit with us and dine. You know how it goes with a two-year-old — down from the table in 3.7 minutes. Next Christmas she created a casual buffet that allowed us all the freedom to pop in and out of the room to nurse a baby and put the toddler down for a nap.

Traditions become a burden when they cannot morph and change with a growing family. If baking your homemade cinnamon rolls with the dreamy cream cheese frosting for Christmas morning seems daunting this year because of morning sickness, a dying relative, a shocking life change, or for any other reason, then a can of ready-to-bake rolls will not be the death of your family life. Neither will buying them from the mall, popping them in the freezer, and warming them up after the gifts are opened.

Loving our families well often means learning to let go of our grip. Traditions that cause unnecessary stress or conflict amongst family members serve one thing: the tradition itself. And what good is that?

This year our family has swelled by one college-aged “big sister” who has been living with us, bringing our family total to 11. Add in-laws next door, family coming in from the Bay Area, plus a musician friend from Nashville, a lot of traveling and speaking this spring, and I’ve got a major recipe for overwhelmed.

Despite whatever the Easter traditions have been in the past around here, I had to choose to major on the most important one of all — Jesus. We talked about Him, read about Him, quietly pondered His gift and mercy during a Good Friday service, and then rejoiced with abandon on Sunday. All the other details were periphery. Whatever I used to make for Easter brunch doesn’t matter. This year, it was a picnic in our sunny California backyard where everyone’s happy to pitch in, making the menu even more doable.

The tradition of gathering and celebrating remains firmly in tact, but there is freedom in the details. Your joy and ease will be treasured for years by children who understood that your relationships always trumped the china and the table setting. 

In this season where God has reminded us with every new blossom and leaf that he makes all things new, how can we renew the heart of some of our traditions to fit the current needs of our families?

What did you learn from your celebration this Easter?

Blessings,

Kendra

photo credit

Children do not accidentally become righteous leaders or emotionally healthy and productive adults – any more than seeds thrown randomly to the wind grow to be part of a thriving garden. Someone needs to take responsibility for their nurture, protection, nourishment, intellectual development, manners, recreation, personal needs, and spiritual development. Someone needs to commit time and energy into staying close to them as they grow, encouraging and correcting and teaching. Sally

DON’T FORGET TO REGISTER FOR THE E-CONFERENCE, MONDAY NIGHT, APRIL 26, 7-9 MOUNTAIN TIME!

REGISTER HERE.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 5.42.11 PM

Teaching children to think by Raising Children Who Read!

photo (13)

Statistics have shown that in a class of 20 students, few, if any, teachers can find even 5 minutes of time in a day to devote to reading with each student. These studies have also come to find that the majority of children in our generation will stop reading as soon as they no longer have to. This absolutely breaks my heart for a number of reasons. Children are no longer delighting in reading, getting swept away in a captivating story, or enjoying the wonder and fun that comes from learning.

As parents, God has trusted us with a very important job. We are here to not only be mothers, but to be teachers and instructors in all that is good and lovely in the world. In my sweet Sarah’s book, Read for the Heart, she quotes:

The first thing that a young heart needs is an education in all that is good.”

The main reason behind why children won’t find joy and excitement in reading is the fact that they are not being exposed to great books. We don’t live in a culture that is filled with very much excellence. While we may not be able to control the media of our generation, we must take on the responsibility of exposing our children to excellent books that will encourage, inspire, and help them flourish into adults who have a love of literature.

In our home, each child has his or her own book shelf. Every Christmas everyone gets their own books!

Book baskets are all over the house–with picture books, magazines, art books, and piled with all sorts of genre’s of interesting tales.

In our library, we have overstuffed recliners so anyone can go read in comfort at any time.

At bedtime we kept baskets of short stories and picture books and chapter books to keep going one more chapter each night. (and of course we always followed with cd’s of favorite music that placed beauty in their little heads as they drifted off.)

Mediocrity is natural. There are a lot of time wasters out there. However, as mothers, God has called us to the supernatural–the above and beyond of ideals that Jesus wants us to understand. We must rise above what our culture views as normal  activity and cultivate minds and hearts in our children that are excellent, joyous, and full of wonder. What we feed our children’s minds will in many ways determine what they will have in their soul to respond to when they are adults.

3 Excellent Picture Books to Introduce to Your Family This Month:

1- Tuesday by David Weisner
2- Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey
3- Song And Dance Man by Karen Ackerman

photo (12)

 

Why I Believe in Marriage

My husband Randy and I on our wedding day.

My husband Randy and I on our wedding day.

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will and I know that I will not be put to shame.” Isaiah 50:7 NLT

The tea party was finally ready. All morning I had been baking chocolate chip scones, setting the table with my china and praying over the afternoon’s festivities. I was expecting a beautiful group of precious college girls over to my house for tea and discipleship. What an honor and a privilege it is to be with these sweet young ladies of God. This was my second time to have them over and, as usual I was running late, and praying that they would be late too! Why is there never enough time? Oh well, I learned long ago that the heart of the hostess is much more important than the perfection of the get-together, so I asked the Lord to help me and I managed to get it all together and have a happy heart. What a blessing it is to have the Lord to help us!

 After the hot tea and yummy food was consumed, I then began to ask the girls a question. I had already purposed to talk about marriage and family so I asked them, “What are some of your fears about getting married?” The young ladies began to pour out their hearts with fears that I had heard many, many times before: “So many Christians get divorced.”  “What if my husband stops loving me?” “What if I marry the wrong person?” “What if God doesn’t help us to have a good marriage?” “What if we wake up one day and realize that we no longer love each other?”

According to the Huffington Post, married couples are at an all time low. In 2011, just 51 percent of Americans were married, compared to 72 percent in 1960. And new research predicts that marriage rates will remain at a historic low in the years ahead.

It seems as if people have stopped believing in marriage.

Even if America doesn’t believe in marriage, God does. At the end of the Creation account in Genesis 1, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” But when we look over at Genesis 2, God said that something was NOT good. “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Even God thought that man needed a companion, so he gave him a wife.

Marriage is God’s idea. Why do we have so little faith in marriage these days? What if, instead of doubting, we “set our face like a stone” and trust that God will help us with whatever comes our way, no matter what!

What if, when the trials come, we purpose to pray every day, walk with the Lord and love our husbands?

What if marriage could be the best thing ever? What if, instead of looking around at other failed marriages, we ask the Lord to bless ours, stick as close to God and our husbands as possible through the seasons, and choose each day to love in the power of the Holy Spirit, never giving up.

What could God do through a generation of committed marriages, of people that choose to love, believe and walk by faith? How could God use Christian marriages to change the world and bring more into His kingdom? Oh, the possibilities!

I believe in marriage because I believe in God. I believe that God can redeem anything, and is committed to our marriages because marriage is His idea. I believe we can accomplish more for God’s kingdom with our spouses than we ever could do alone.

God loves to work through ordinary people who have chosen to trust Him, and He desires to bless our marriages more than we could ask or think. God wants to bring glory to His name through our Godly families, and to show His love to a hurting world.

What a blessing marriage is!

For the rest of my time at the tea, I decided to talk to the girls about how wonderful marriage is, trusting God, and all of the blessings that go along with it. After the tea party was finished, one of the sweet girls came up to me and said, “Mrs. Weakly, thank you. I have never heard anyone talk about the beauty of marriage before like you have. It’s good to hear that marriage can be wonderful!” Out of the mouths of babes…

 Marriage is wonderful.

 Marriage is God’s idea.

 God will help us in our marriage.

 Marriage is GOOD!

Holding Their Hearts

Family

As the radio blares one of his favorite groups, we sing and dance as much as the confines of the car will let us. I am sure, to the oncoming traffic, we look hysterically funny! I don’t mind one bit. I’m holding my son’s heart, reaffirming how much I like him and gaining his confidence. I’m investing in our relationship.

It’s past time for bed and she want to practice “their dance”. It’s the one she and her daddy will dance at her wedding. Although she is only 10, and her definition of married life means she gets married and she and her hubby live with us, she must practice. So he gets up and moves through the routine of steps and twirls. They’re going to be pretty good when we finally let her get married at 45! {giggle} It’s more than a dance…he’s holding her heart & gaining her trust. He’s investing in their relationship.

The late night talks. The cuddles on a cold morning. A cup of coffee when no one else is awake. The extra special pink milk. The loud music, that I like…but isn’t my first choice. The spin around the kitchen island. They are all small efforts that have lasting effects on the hearts of our children.

As my children grow into independent young adults, I still want to hold their hearts. I want to have their trust, their friendship, the privilege of gentle guidance that trusted companions allow one another. When they are children, we mold them and lead them. But as adulthood tiptoes in, independence blossoms. Independence is a GOOD thing! We want our children to be independently dependent on God as they walk in adulthood. Independence in young adults is NOT to be confused with rebellion. Giving our children the power to make decisions and letting them practice in a protected setting is the perfect way to breed healthy independence they will need as adults. It is also the way to remain their confidant and friend.

“Train up a child in the way that he should go and
when they are old they will not depart from it.” (Prov 22:6)

This is a promise of the Lord…with a condition. TRAIN up a child. Not preach at the child. Not yell the rules at them. Not live by the ‘do as I say not as I do’ motto. NO! Training is time consuming. It takes effort. It takes repetition. Love. Character. Long nights. Acting Silly. Hot chocolate and their favorite snacks. As a parent it demands trust and sympathy toward our children.

Train: (verb) to teach a particular skill or type of behavior through practice and instruction over a period of time. To point or aim something.  Synonyms: Instruct, teach, coach, tutor, school, educate, ground, aim, point, focus, or direct.

Scripture tells us that children are arrows in our quiver (Psalms 127:4). Arrows are meant to be shot from the bow. But the arrow is at the hand of the archer. Where ever the archer guides or trains the arrow…so it goes.

Where are you training your arrow to fly? Is the arrow in your hand strong and straight for your leading, or is it crooked and flying off in a new and uncertain direction. If you find your arrows are a little bent…pray. Simply ask the Lord to guide you to capture the hearts of your children. When He answers you, act. Don’t let another opportunity to touch the heart of your children pass by. It is never too late! “For I know the plans I have for you, plans for good and not evil, plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jer 29:11)

Our children won’t be children much longer. We are working, intentionally, to invest in them while they still live under our roof and are under our covering as their parents. If listening to music and acting a little strange while we dance in the car reaffirms to my son that he’s the best…what a SMALL price to pay in securing a healthy relationship down the road! If a twirl around the island is what it takes to hold the trust and confidence of my daughter in his hands…my husband is more than willing to dance a million times around the island. We know their childhood is fleeting and they will be grown all too soon, so we are investing, singing, dancing and laughing. We are developing lifelong companions as our children step from childhood into adulthood. We are holding their hearts.

When Motherhood Includes Grief

 

1925252_699363426750391_1964048469_n

Motherhood.  The word conjures up a host of emotions and experiences that we long for and dream of for years.

Planning.  Expectations.  Anticipation.  Celebration.  Embracing.

Millions of women have experienced the miracle of motherhood.  The transition from a woman with a whole heart into a woman with a capacity to have her heart live both inside and outside of her body is a beautiful and miraculous process.

A woman’s heart is never again whole once she has children.  For each of her children carry a piece of her heart with them through life.  Our capacity for love grows with each new child.  We may think our hearts are full to capacity and yet with each new baby emotions shift and unexplainable reserves of love make their way into our hearts.

IMG_2927

Yet, because we live in a broken world suspended between the perfection of the Garden of Eden and Heaven, we understand that life is not always carefree.  Sometimes, life brings events that shake our foundation for a season.

Infertility.  Miscarriage.  Stillborn.  Pre-maturity.  Death.

Harsh, ugly words that no one wants to say much less experience as part of their journey in life.

Yet…too many of us do have one or more of those words as part of our life’s resume.  Known as grief, there is a process that we go through when our hearts are disappointed and we lose people or dreams that we had loved and held onto in our souls.

And when babies we carried beneath our breasts, those who lived and breathed and whose heart beat to its’ own cadence closer to ours than any other human being will ever be, leave us…part of our heart goes to Heaven with them and never resides again here on earth.

  • When we miscarry, hormones rage.  Ovaries and uterus contract and try to find their rhythm again leaving us with emotions that are often hard to control.
  • When death comes to a child, the word sorrow takes on a depth of unexplainable meaning.
  • When we long for a child and fertility alludes us, empty wombs and arms seem to betray our femininity.
  • Grief includes waves of sadness that suffocate us making breathing seem a difficult chore.
  • In our valley, words spoken by well-meaning and good intentioned friends seem shallow.
  • Maybe most painful of all is that human comfort is lost for a season.

But then…God

The One who created life and orders our steps, reaches through the clouds of grief and reminds us that He alone understands our pain and offers comfort that carries us through the storm.  Slowly, often painfully slowly, He shows us grace and strength and the only true comfort that exists that can penetrate the human soul.

1654640_729830837029370_1533021648_o

When healing begins, and it will, the next season is to find a way to remember and celebrate the life we embraced even if just in our dreams and in our womb for a few days or weeks.  The danger with grief is that it is so easy to get stuck somewhere in the process instead of moving through each phase toward healing.  We can get stuck in the stage of denial, anger, etc.  It will be that one season of life that becomes so commonly focused on that it emerges as that for which we are remembered if we are not careful.

All of those harsh, ugly words that we fear most about motherhood are just a few of the issues that the winds of life have blown my way.  And, while each event rocked me for a season (or more sometimes), no one event is the sum total of who I am.  I don’t want to be defined only as the mom of a premature baby, special needs child, mom of a stillborn son, the lady who lost four babies, or a number of other things.  While all of those statements are true, they are not the only part of the legacy I want to leave behind.  My goal for a legacy is to be remembered as a woman who loved God with all her heart and though she failed so many times, she claimed the grace of God and loved her family and friends with all her heart.

So, if that is my goal, then that must be the thing on which I focus every day.  I am not minimizing grief.  Please know that.  It is real, painful, and a life-altering process.  But it doesn’t have to define us.  Grief doesn’t have to overshadow everything else good and wonderful in our lives.  Oh, it will for a season, for sure, and that is healthy and wise.  Grief is painful, intense, hard, difficult, and sometimes the very act of taking the next breath is physically painful.  I understand that completely.

I also understand that God is bigger than grief.  His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23) and His grace is abundant and sufficient (II Corinthians 12:9).  But please know that if you feel “stuck” in the grief process, there is help available.  Seek out Godly counsel and ask God to help you move “through” the stages of grief so that your legacy will not be that one traumatic experience.

There are some benefits when motherhood includes grief.  We are given a unique perspective on the true miracle of life.  We can celebrate on a grander stage those who call us mom.  We can embrace a little longer and relish the presence of those children who grace our homes.  And we can reach out to others who are newer to the journey of grief than we are and assure them that even when despair is fresh and pain is great, behind the clouds the sun truly is shining and it will break forth again in their lives.

Motherhood is a celebration.  An amazing gift God has granted the females of the human race.  It is an opportunity to nurture, embrace, train, love, disciple the next generation of human beings.  How blessed we are to be in that group of women who have held motherhood in our hearts and life in our arms.

Photo Credit: Terri King (Timberlake, NC) and Laurie Whitehouse (Lexington, KY)