Friday, December 20, 2013

Answering the Right Question

In my last post I talked about the confusion that holidays bring.  They teach our kids pretty much the opposite of the example Jesus lived and taught us.  Kids are overwhelmed with messages in our culture on a daily, hourly, and now smart-phone-instantanious basis.  Parents, here's a wake up call: 1-2 hours a week sitting in a church gathering of some sort will not break through all that other noise.

So this brings me back to the question that we really need to answer:  How do I show my children who Jesus is?

  •  It starts with us, parents.  How can we expect to show our children who Jesus is if we know nothing about Him, never speak with Him and never listen to what He has to say?  Start by digging into the Bible and talking to God about what you're reading. And if your kids happen to see you doing this, awesome!  They learn by example, so be mindful of what you're showing them.

  •  We need to talk with our kids about Jesus.  I know this sounds simple and trite, but so many people just expect that a little time in church will cover all the basics, and they're scared of not having an answer for their kids' question.  Well, if your kids don't ask you questions and you're not starting a dialogue with them, I can guarantee you they are asking someone else or hearing answers elsewhere.  Don't be afraid to tell your child, "I don't know the answer to that, so let's find out together."  Even if they don't show it, they will appreciate your honesty and probably feel special when you go to any length to help them find the answer.

  • It's Christmas time, so even more so than the rest of the year kids and adults alike are inundated with advertisements for what they need.  We ask our families to make wish lists that only confirm we must really need this stuff.  Watch out, I'm proposing two radical ideas...  Turn off the tv and do not make wish lists.  If you want to watch something, try popping in a DVD or turn on Netflix and enjoy the show without the onslaught of ads.  Instead of having your family make lists of things they want, have them make a list of things you could surprise other friends or family members with, or even a local family in true need of the basics.  Keep the focus off of themselves and onto others.

    •  This Christmas, don't let Jesus stay a baby in a manger.  I think a lot of times that's all kids (and adults) see Him as, a baby.  Ask your kids why they think the magi would come from so far to bring gifts and worship a baby.  At the level they can understand, discuss what Jesus did, how He is God, He is Messiah and He is King.

    • Cut down on your family gifts. I know it's fun to give and receive, and we should celebrate with some of that, but set some limits.  One that we like and implement is "something they want, something they need, something they wear and something they read."  That includes our stockings stuffers.

    • Allow your children to choose a family gift.  There are a lot of ways to do this and you can make it look however you want, but if your kids are old enough, let them take the lead.  Have them do research and come up with something they can do for someone else, whether it's an organization, a local family, a ministry, whatever their little hearts are drawn to.  If it's something they want to donate to, then let them figure out how to earn some money and help them take/send that money.  If it's buying gifts for a local family in need, it's always nice if the kids can actually pick out, wrap and give the presents to the family.  Don't write off doing this with your kids if they're still young.  Mine are both 2 but helped me pick out clothes and toys to send to Zoe's orphanage in China.  We even had a full discussion about where the box was going and who was getting the present.  They were very excited to help me pack the box, after they made sure the toys were good, of course.

      Zoe packing the box.

    • Make an advent calendar but get creative.  Do not do candy and presents.  Make each day different.  Maybe some have scripture you can talk about and have the kids draw a picture about the scripture.  Maybe other days have simple ways to give back around your community.  Perhaps even others say things like "Tell someone about Jesus today" or "Pray for a friend that is having a hard time."  Each day can be a way to learn more about Jesus and how to live like Him.

    • Invite someone over for Christmas.  We have always had an open door policy in our family.  Our friends know they are always welcome, so some years friends just show up unannounced, and sometimes we invite friends that we know don't have anyone to celebrate with.   Either way, we can always make room for more!

    • Keep things simple.  From decorations to presents to food.  This is the most stressful time of year for most people, but it should be a time of celebration, joy, and love for Jesus.

    Keep your eyes on Jesus and He will keep you from sinking.  Fill your heart with love for Jesus and there won't be room for all the overwhelming things this world offers.

    Sunday, December 8, 2013

    Asking the Wrong Question

    Becoming Mommy forces you to think about issues you haven't been confronted with since your own childhood but with the stakes raised to a whole new parental level.  You are now fully responsible for every aspect of raising another little human.  Suddenly you are faced with difficult questions that everyone else on the planet seems to have a very opinionated answer for.  It's hard to have open discussions with people because they just jump on their soapbox and rant and rave.  So how is a Mommy to navigate these turbulent waters, figure out how to parent, and come out the other side with more than just a barely functioning child?

    I'm learning that there are many times where I just have to be like Peter- disregard everything else, plant my eyes firmly on Jesus, jump out of the boat with both feet and start walking, trusting Jesus to grab hold of me when I get distracted and begin to sink (Matthew 14:22-33).

    You know you this is how you pictured it in your head.

    Well, one turbulent parenting topic that's been weighing heavily on me for a long time is the holidays and the overwhelming monstrosities they have become.  My kiddos are still very young (2 and 2.5), but I've been thinking about this since they were just little hopes in my heart.  And I've had plenty of time to think about it since I became a parent later than most of my friends.  So I've been an avid watcher of everyone's experiences.

    My biggest issue with pretty much every holiday is they now promote buying a ridiculous amount of stuff, blowing budgets, caving into what everyone else is doing, stress, self indulgence, guilt and feeling empty when it's over.  How is that good for us OR our kids?

    It's not.

    Since we're closing in on Christmas, one of the biggies, let's go there.  My first big dilemma, was Santa or no Santa?  I've heard all the debates, rationalizations and arguments on both sides.  When deciding what we should do in our house, that topic and discussion led to many, MANY more discussions, no longer just about Santa but about all the other issues that surround Christmas as well.

    Last year right after Christmas, a friend of mind posted a simple question on Facebook.  She said something to the effect of "How do you talk to a child about Christmas without them only talking about the presents they received?"  I immediately thought of several Jesus specific questions to ask or things to do with our kids leading up to Christmas that might help.  People, I was TORN APART in the comments that followed.  It made me angry at first, but that anger quickly turned to sadness as I was so disheartened to hear these moms' responses.  At first I thought, maybe I really don't know anything because my kids are still so young.  But after dwelling on the topic, praying about it and dwelling some more, I realized that these poor parents missed some great opportunities to teach and grow their kids and themselves.

    How do children learn the best?  How do adults learn the best?  By doing.  And by doing repeatedly.  If I want my kids to learn about Jesus Christ at Christmas time (or any and every time of the year), how should I go about doing that?  I need to show them.  I lead them by example.  Then I should invite them to join me and teach them to do the same.

    If we are to be an example of Christ to our children, then we should obviously look to His example.  What kind of example did He set for us?  One of love (John 15:12-13), humility (Phil. 2:6-8), serving (John 13:5), sacrifice (John 19:30), teaching (John 13:12-15), obedience (Matt. 26:39), and prayer (Luke 22:45-46) to name just a few.  Pretty much the complete opposite of all those things I mentioned that the holidays are teaching us.

    So I realize now that I had been asking myself the wrong question all this time- to have Santa or not to have Santa?  The right question is: How do I show my children who Jesus is?

    Why is it so important to answer this question?  There are many reasons, but for a parent, here's a biggie:
    "Most statistics say that 80-90% of students who grew up in church are leaving the church within two years after they graduate high school."
    Friends, showing up on Sunday and sitting through a sermon or Sunday school class is not going to show our kids who Jesus is and why He is so important.  It is something they need to SEE and DO up close and personal, in a very real and tangible way on a regular basis in order to learn.  We can't be scared or shy away from having or initiating a discussion about Jesus.  Otherwise, Jesus is just a story in book, a baby in a manger and something to talk about in a particular building once a week.  After all, they are doing sports, music, school, etc. on a daily basis, discussing those activities ALL. THE. TIME.

    I'm working on another post to help answer the question: How do I show my children who Jesus is?  In the process, I hope it helps us focus on Jesus this Christmas, begins to open our kids' eyes to all that Jesus is, and that it also grows and strengthens us as parents and followers of Christ.

    Come on parents, let's set the example.

    Tuesday, December 3, 2013

    One Year Anniversary of Zoe's Gotcha Day

    A year ago today we were in Changsha, China.  We were filled with mixed emotions as we walked into a room where we met Zoe for the first time.  She had one emotion- FEAR.

    As she tried to run the orphanage director out of the room, then cried and flailed in my arms for a half an hour before passing out, she made it very clear she was not happy and not sure of what was going on.  I can't blame her.  Poor little thing had been in a small orphanage since she was a day old and had probably never been outside those walls.  She had never been in a car, then the day before we met her, she was driven over 8 hours on bumpy roads to this room.  To this room where for the first time she saw white people with weird curly hair and was then handed over to those scary looking people.  That's a lot for anyone to handle let alone a 12 month old.

    We discovered that at a year old she could not crawl, feed herself finger foods or be fed from a spoon.  The only thing she wanted and was familiar with was a boiling hot bottle of milk.  If it was not made with boiling water, she would not take it.

    In those first days and weeks were night terrors, only wanting to be held by me 24/7, sickness, and cries for her orphanage nannies while she slept.  Loving someone you barely know is hard.  Loving someone who doesn't yet love you back is hard.  Loving someone in the midst of trauma is hard. Loving someone when they only push you away is hard.  But loving them where they are, in a way they can accept it, and without expecting it in return is vital.

    Within 4 days she was smiling, clapping, crawling, waving, signing "thank you," saying "dada" and responding to the name Zoe Xiu. She was starting to bond, although still very cautious and unsure.

    After two weeks of living in hotels with her in China, we finally arrived back in the states.  When we got to the house, she just seemed to know she was finally home.  She LOVED Arella from the very first minute and started walking right after we got home, trying to keep up with this fast moving big sister.

    It was a bumpy road.  It was hard.  It was awesome.  We wouldn't change it for the world.  Over the last year Zoe has blossomed into a little toddler and loves her family very much.  Happy Gotcha Day my spicy peanut, and thank you for adding so much love, giggles and joy to our family!

    + LOVE =

    Fear and a Stranger

    Happy with Mommy

    Sisters from day 1

    Quick to love

    Always together