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.

Think Before You Speak

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by Cherie Werner

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  Ephesians 4:29

 One of the greatest jobs I have as a mother is to instill godly character into my children. To do this, I intentionally utilize both resources and teachable moments. I have found that it is best to learn from life’s blunders.  Currently I am reading aloud and discussing the book Love As A Way of Life by Gary Chapman with my youngest daughter, Cayley, as well as the mom group I’m leading.  At the end of one of the chapters, I became convicted. There was a challenge to evaluate verbal interactions with others and determine whether or not the words spoken were kind. If any unwholesome words came to mind, the challenge encouraged you to take action and apologize.

My heart sunk as I remembered a phone conversation that I had with a friend. I sent the apology email below to my friend and then read it aloud to my daughter. Even though I was embarrassed by my blunder, I wanted to use it as a teachable moment. Words do matter and carry weight.

OK my dear friend, things just got real.  I just finished reading a chapter on kindness to Cayley and I was convicted.

I read, “To make kindness a habit, ask yourself after each verbal interaction with another person, what kind words did I say and what unwholesome words did I say?” I thought back to our conversation and was convicted.

 I realized that sharing with you about my disgruntles with ________ were not edifying or life giving.  I did looked up the quote you mentioned by Dave Ramsey concerning gossip which said, “gossip is defined as discussing anything negative with someone who can’t help solve the problem.”  So I’m apologizing for gossiping.

Words are powerful as they give life or death.  I desire to be known as one who spreads life. 

Love ya.

My friend wrote me back the following:

Your email made me think, what if the words about _______ were said in a happy, surprised, and excited tone, but because it was hearsay, and because of our filters, we assume it was negative?  It gave me a lot to think about.  The other thing that I want to sort through with you is where is the line between gossip and sharing our heart, and frustration with a friend.

Was I gossiping or simply sharing my heart and frustration with a friend? I wanted to know. Actually, I needed to know.

Two definitions of gossip:

  1. Dictionary – Casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.
  2. Bible – One who reveals secrets, one who goes about as a talebearer or scandal-monger.

Gossip is different from sharing information in many ways. Below are some ways I feel the two differ but I’m sure there are many others.

  • Consider your motives for sharing? Are you seeking to build yourself up by making others look bad? We often feel superior to the person we are talking about which is prideful and often gossip.
  • Gossiping wants to share and tell a story for reactions. It is done repeatedly to many persons.
  • If you are hurt or angry with someone and desire to draw others into your pain wanting them to side with you it’s likely you are gossiping.
  • What type of information is being shared? Gossipers speak of the faults and failures of others or reveal possibly embarrassing or shameful details regarding the lives of others without their knowledge or approval.
  • Gossip usually occurs when you complain or talk about one person to someone who knows both of you.
  • Ask if what you are saying is helpful for building up the person I am speaking about by sharing this? Charles Spurgeon said, “Tale bearing/gossip emits a threefold poison. It injures the teller, the hearer, and the person concerning whom the tale is told.”
  • Ask yourself why you want to share this information, do you have permission, and if it’s necessary? Then consider whether you would share if the person you were talking about were present? If not, you are most likely gossiping.
  • It’s gossip to say anything about someone that will lower the listener’s opinion of that someone as gossip changes the way we see people.
  • Do you have a complaint about someone that you take to someone else who can do nothing about it? If so, then that is gossip.
  • Do your words build up and edify others? Gossipers seek to tear down others.
  • Kind words see the best in people and call it forth. Gossipers tend to focus on the negative and nit pick.
  • When someone is talking negatively about others it become gossip on your part if you jump into the conversation.
    • Don’t participate. Excuse yourself from a conversation that becomes full of gossip, to avoid “falling into” gossip games or socializing-by-demoralizing.
    • Encourage them to speak directly to the person who is involved as it’s biblical, see Matthew 18:15
    • Let gossip end with you. Help navigate the conversation to whatever is true, pure, and lovely.
  • Always remember your words are powerful enough to give life or death.
  • Will what you share glorify God?

With this particular situation, I decided that my friend might be right as I truly was sharing my heart. Nevertheless, I realize that it is a fine line. Next time, before talking to a friend about something, I will ask myself if what I am about to say is true, kind, necessary, or helpful? This whole experience has reminded me that it is important to THINK before speaking. “He who guards his mouth keeps her life, but she who opens wise her lips comes to ruin.”  Proverbs 13:3

T –is it true?
H –is it helpful?
I  –is it inspiring?
N –is it necessary?
K –is it kind?

In closing, I encourage you to ponder the following poem by Ann Landers. Personally, this poem really made me think deeper about a few things.

Remember Me?
“My Name Is Gossip. I have no respect for Justice.
I maim without killing. I break hearts and ruin lives.
I am cunning and malicious and gather strength with age.
The more I am quoted the more I am believed.
I flourish at every level of society.
My victims are helpless. They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face.
To track me down is impossible. The harder you try, the more elusive I become.
I am nobody’s friend.
Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never quite the same.
I topple governments and ruin marriages.
I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights, heartache and indigestion.
I spawn suspicion and generate grief.
I make innocent people cry in their pillows.
Even my name hisses. “I AM CALLED GOSSIP.” Office gossip. Shop gossip. Party gossip.
I make headline and headaches.
Before you repeat a story ask yourself. Is it true? Is it fair? Is it necessary?
If not – KEEP QUIET.

GREAT minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; shallow minds discuss people. Eleanor Roosevelt       

Which are you?

How do you differentiate between gossiping and sharing?  I’d really like to know. 

How Living With a Sibling Can Be Preparation For Living With a Spouse

“Mommy, we don’t want to play with him, he’s mean.”

I have heard that line so many times from my daughter in reference to my son, my warrior lion boy who leaps through his day growling and preparing for battle.

“Honey, boys sometimes act differently than girls, and while it may seem like he’s being mean, he’s just really into playing lions.”

I bring my daughter and my son and her friend together, and we talk about playing together, and taking turns with what they play. I advocate that they find ways to include each other. I understand that sometimes girls need to play with girls, and boys with boys, but overall, I’m trying to instill a bond between my children where they want to play with each other.

I do not want to perpetuate the popular thinking that sibling rivalry has to be normative (sin, of course, is normative).

Almost every movie or T.V. show I see, siblings are at each other with ugliness; it’s a rarity to see genuine friendship or tenderness between them, especially between brothers and sisters.

I understand that there is conflict between siblings, we have plenty of it, but I don’t want to foster the idea that it’s okay to ignore or even encourage sibling bickering. I am holding my ground on this one in our family, and at every turn I’m reminding my children that God gave them to each other to be friends, and to love each other and be kind to each other. We deal with conflict daily, but my heart is to admonish my children to be close and tender-hearted with each other.

We even encourage our children to be best friends.

We tell them to watch out for each other, protect each other, and respect each other. We try and teach them to serve each other, think of the other before themselves, and treat the other how they want to be treated. Basically, we’re civilizing them. We’re preparing them for life, and even marriage.

I know the more I strengthen my children’s resolve in treating one another with love and respect, the more prepared they will be in marriage. Living with a sibling is like living with a spouse. You must choose to love, even when the days get long and the other person’s faults make you crazy. You choose love. You choose forgiveness and grace. The day in and day out of choosing to love someone, faults and all, is accepting the human story: we are mess makers, but the Maker loves us anyway.

I want my children to reflect the Maker. I want them to love well, to be gracious, and to be long-suffering.

I want to teach them to love the eternal soul of another, with all its intricacies, weaknesses, and beauty.

No, I will not accept the “cat and dog” mentality of the sibling relationship; I’m aiming higher. I’m aiming for love.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7

How do you handle sibling conflict in your home?

Love, Sarah Mae

P.S. Want more encouragement in motherhood? Consider coming to a Mom Heart Conference! I’ll be speaking at the Denver one January 24th-25th and I’d love to meet you!

Passing On the Gift of Hospitality

meal at Nona's

I love to cook, plan events, and invite people into my home.  Though some might call this a “gift” of hospitality, it really is something I caught growing up. First of all, it was something my mom and grandmother modeled. They are Italian and immigrated to the United States when my mom was a young girl.  My grandmother never had the chance to go to school— and so to this day is illiterate and because of that never learned to speak English.  Yet, she is the best cook I’ve ever met and has hundreds of recipes committed to memory. Her greatest delight in life is to cook up a feast for family and friends and to gather them around her table. Often, as the holidays approach, she will begin cooking several days in advance—waking up before sunrise to begin her sauces, bake crusty bread, roast sweet bell peppers for salad, make meatballs, and bake ricotta wheat berry pies. She had 11 kids, and family get-togethers today can easily number over a hundred people, though my grandma, mom and aunts still do all of the cooking! They take such pride in each dish—using only the finest ingredients, sometimes even making trips to specialty markets that are an hour away. It is a labor of love. These dinners consist of several courses and go on for hours—and laughter and merrymaking abound. Around the table relationships are nurtured, stories are shared, the family bonds run deep.

Don’t underestimate the power of a shared meal!

When I was in college I was asked by a couple of friends to start hosting the church small group I was a part of, which they were leading. The group had been meeting for over a year yet the atmosphere was not intimate. People weren’t opening up; no one really knew one another. The group needed a new place to meet, so I agreed to host and at the time didn’t even own a couch or comfortable place for people to sit! The only thing I did differently as the host was to serve food every week, and always something simple because my budget was very tight. As people ate together, something beautiful happened. They relaxed and lingered in conversation. They started to open up about their lives, hurts, joys, and struggles.  It became an intimate community as the Lord worked in and through each of us and knit us together. This idea of “breaking bread” is God’s idea and design. Jesus chose the setting of a shared meal—the last supper—to give his most intimate exhortation and a farewell to his disciples. Throughout scripture there is a theme of God preparing a place and a table for his people.

As a young adult, my vision of hospitality continued to expand as I spent several years in missions. I saw how other cultures practiced hospitality and learned from a missionary organization that deeply valued hospitality. Again, it all was more caught than taught as I spent time in the homes of both foreign locals and missionaries, saw how others practiced hospitality, and then copied what I saw them doing. Some of the most generous people I met were those with the most limited resources.

Here are a few practical ways to involve your kids in hospitality:

-If you have overnight guests, it is fun to prepare a small basket of snacks and drinks (such as a bottled water or even some tea bags with mini electric tea kettle and mug) in their room. Hospitality involves a sensitivity to other’s needs (whether physical or otherwise). Many guests would not want to trouble their hosts for a snack so this way they have something if the mood arises. It is nice to include a little welcome note with an encouraging prayer or verse the Lord puts on your heart for them.  Kids can put the basket together and/or design the card.

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-Another fun option is to leave a small gift in the guest’s room. This gesture lets them know they are loved, thought of, and prepared for. Your kids can help you select something and can wrap it or put it in a gift bag. Older women and grandmas—I know of one empty-nester who, when hosting out-of-town guests with small children, leaves a basket of games, toys, books, or coloring supplies in the guest room for the little ones. This is especially thoughtful when there would otherwise be nothing for them to do around the house.

-We love to buy a bouquet of fresh flowers when we know we will have guests. We’ve also started a small flower garden so my girls can cut and create their own bouquets. They love to arrange flowers and display them on the dining room table. But hospitality doesn’t only occur when hosting company. It is an attitude of welcoming others into your life and extending friendship and generosity, perceiving others’ needs and making yourself available to love on, listen to, and care for others. We love to keep $1 Walmart bud vases on hand so that if a friend or neighbor is sick we can place even a single bloom in it to be delivered to brighten their day.

- As you prepare your home for any company, take a couple minutes to pray together for your guests and the time you will spend together. Pray that they would feel welcomed and loved—that it would be a picture to them of the Father’s love. Pray for relationships to be strengthened and for the conversation to be an encouragement to one another. Ask God to help you be sensitive and available to their needs. Pray too for the children that will be visiting!

-If you are hosting a meal, you could have your kids set the table and make place cards. As a new mom it would at times stress me out to let the kids help with anything because it wouldn’t be done “right”. With God’s grace and help I’ve learned to let that go so it is now about giving them those important experiences.

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-Include children in food preparations. My 6 year old loves to make salad. She chops veggies using a crinkle cutter, which is less sharp and easier to handle than a knife. Both of my girls (6 and 4) love to make cookies, scones, breads, or other treats to serve friends.

baking

 

-Chose an easy but delicious meal to make. A nice meal communicates honor to your guests— it says “you are worth it to me.” Throughout the Bible there are stories of people bringing out the best ingredients to honor and serve their guests. It’s how God treats us— he doesn’t skimp or hold back, his love is expressed lavishly. He prepared our environment in such a way for us to fully enjoy it using all of our senses.  But even when resources are limited, you can offer what you do have to bless those around you.

Here is one of my grandma’s recipes for an Italian style pot-roast. Very easy but so delicious— perfect to warm bellies on a cold day and one of my go-to meals for serving guests:

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Mamas, hospitality isn’t only for guests; the hospitality you show to your own kids will greatly impact them and give them a model to imitate. I was recently reading an out-of-print book— containing reflections on motherhood, and was struck by the introduction, a letter from the author to her mother:

“The emphasis on daily meals may have been nutrition (little appreciated by us), but then there was always Sunday noon dinner. No company was ever treated better than us! The appetizer was served on a silver tray in the living room—fruit juice with a blob of sherbet and wafers. In the dining room we ate our “company meal” from our finest china and silver and finished it off with a spectacular dessert tantalizingly displayed on a pedestal server. And you served tea from the lusterware tea set in a performance equaled only by a traditional Japanese tea ceremony! I suspect now that you were creating an atmosphere for the leisurely sharing of ideas and good conversation.

How we anticipated the holidays and special days—each and every one. You took these occasions and turned them into events which instantly were declared Traditions… Then there was my birthday, that one special day set aside to celebrate my being alive! The pink heart cake for my “almost Valentine” birthday, the florist arriving with a nosegay of fresh violets, a dainty heart-shaped box or violet-related gift. To this day violets, hearts, and the color pink in some way remind me that I’m someone special.”

Mamas, may you be blessed with joy and relationships that run deep as you gather loved ones around your tables, and may you know what a gift your life is to those around you.

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Join me!

In light of some happenings in the news lately, I want to start quarterly encouragement for moms for short/free/conferences–and longer e-conferences. We will talk about: why motherhood is so hard, how to built a defense against discouragement, breathing in peace. And how to stay the course.

hang out with Sally

Is Your Lens Properly Focused? Mine Wasn’t.

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It hit me hard in the middle of the first session of two-day parenting seminar at church.

To some degree, it had nothing to do with child rearing.  But it had everything to do with me and how I think about myself as a parent, as a mom.

Our pastor was pointing us to the Scriptures and encouraging us to minister to our children, reminding us of our call to disciple them through instruction, discipline, and relationship.  I think being reminded of all of the good we can do in our children’s lives might be what caused the Spirit to prick my heart at that moment with this thought:

I process my life through the lens of failure.  I have trouble seeing the good and focus only on what I’m not doing or can’t do.

Like a camera with an improperly focused lens, my perspective was blurring what should have been in crisp focus and drawing my eye to what belonged in the fuzzy background.

As I wrote down this observation about myself at the bottom of my notes, a weight was lifted.  It was as if the Lord said to me, “You do not have to look at your life this way.”  And, friend, I say to you: You don’t have to either!

Here are a few reasons why:

The Gospel Defines You:  When you believed in your heart and confessed with your lips that Jesus is Lord, you received a new identity.  You belong (every bit of you!) to God the Father.  You are His child.  The Bible tells us that our sins are forgiven.  Sure, you probably have in immense number of weaknesses and a hearty list of ways you blew it in only the last 24 hours, but in Christ you are a new creation!  We confess our sins, we remind ourselves we belong to the Lord, we receive His forgiveness, and we move forward joyfully in faith.  Phew!

You are Gifted:  The Spirit lives in you and has gifted you in a unique way to contribute to the body of Christ, including the little part of it that lives in your home.  Don’t be shy about finding out what that is and using it liberally in your church and under your own roof.  I repeat, the Spirit lives in you;  honor Him by processing life through and with Him, rather than focusing always and only on what you can’t or don’t do.

You are “Just Right”:  You have a unique life during which you have had experiences and training that make you who you are as a person and a mom.  I think that’s pretty stinkin’ cool!  You may be a crafter extraordinaire.  If you are, craft it up with your kids.  Share with them what makes your heart sing.  Or, you may be useless in all things domestic but love the great outdoors.  So, stop feeling bad that you’re not doing life with your kids someone else’s way, and do it your way.  THAT’s the way the Lord would have you do it.  After all, He did give your kids to you!  And I have strong feeling that there are some wonderful things happening in your home simply because of who you are as mama to your little ones.  (Don’t believe me?  Ask an outsider for their perspective!)

Moving from feeling like a failure to mothering in freedom requires refocusing the lens through which we see ourselves, making sure it lines up with what the Bible says about who God is and who we are.  These words from an article at howstuffworks.com say it well:  Camera focus depends on light passing through the camera lens at the proper angle to produce a clear image.*  Let’s kick the dark lens of failure to the curb, open our hearts, and let The Light shine in so we have a clear and right perspective!

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”   John 8:12

Photo Credit

*http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/camera1.htm