world view

photo(15)The other day, a friend of mine who is co-founder of an amazing blog, Grace for Moms, posted about opening our children‘s hearts to the world. I was grateful for the article and loved Jessica’s ideas. It’s so easy raising children in affluence to forget about how the rest of the world lives. When we’re not doing all of the things that our daily life demands, we as parents worry about things like class placement and test scores, our children fitting in and being involved in the right activities. I’m not saying these preoccupations are bad. We all want the best for our family. I just believe that exposing our children to what’s happening in the rest of the world is also part of our role as parents.

I know that I often refer to my own mission experiences in developing countries when on this topic. To be fair, I realize this provides a whole different dynamic to the conversations I have with my children. I do say that I highly recommend doing something similar if the opportunity comes along. My devotion to raising grateful, global children is in large part due to my involvement in other countries. But there are ways to reach out without leaving your native soil.

Just the other day, AP had one of her kindergarten classmates over to play. They had stools pulled up to the counter while we baked together. Her friend turned to the side of the refrigerator and asked “Who’s that?”

AP looked at the refrigerator, glancing at the picture of herself in a swing with her Daddy at 10 months old. “Oh that’s me as a baby.”

“No, him.” Her friend pointed to a photo of a beautiful Kenyan girl with a shaved head, smiling from ear to ear.

“Oh, her?” AP replied. “That’s Mary.”

“Who’s Mary?” her friend asked.

“She’s our friend.”

I went on to explain about Mary, that she lives in Africa and we help her to have a good place to live and to attend school. Then the girls moved on. But I was left to digest the conversation. The nonchalance with which AP responded made me realize that including Mary in our lives is integrated into my young girl’s world.

KP and I began sponsoring Mary before AP was even born. She’s always seen the latest picture of her on the refrigerator. Now that she’s older, she draws her pictures and writes her notes when we send care packages. For AP, she is just part of our lives. She is not unlike our family and friends who live in other states. There is no denying the deep chasms that separate Mary’s world from our own. AP will learn those over time. But I hope she will know that just because she was born here and Mary there doesn’t mean Mary shouldn’t have the same opportunities she does. Opportunities like the right to a safe home and the chance to get an education.

You hear again and again that our children are watching us. So try bringing opportunities for world outreach home . Check out Jessica’s ideas here.

If we show that we care about the world, our children will do as we do. They will learn that, inherently, we are all the same. As adults they will believe this. And, as their hearts yearn for change, they will make it happen.

we remember

ImageThis morning, I woke up in one of the tallest buildings in Atlanta. My husband and I attended a concert in a downtown park last night. With an early morning flight to catch, we decided to get a hotel in the city. With my love on a plane and a view of the surrounding city, remembering 9/11 today seems especially poignant.

Twelve years. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long. It seems like yesterday that I stood in my office with my coworkers. Since we were a post production house, we had our share of televisions. We stood around the biggest one, in the workplace “living room”. As the minutes turned into hours, we sat together, glued to history unfolding before us. We never worked that day. Eventually, we all left and went home to our families. For me, that meant heading straight to my boyfriend’s apartment. I don’t even remember much of that evening. We just wanted to be together. I went home that night scared and afraid and shocked like so many of us.

Like many couples, said boyfriend and I got engaged that next year. There was a spike in marriages and babies following 9/11, as people sought to rebuild from our very foundations. Twelve years later, KP and I have a family of four.

Each year since, we pause to remember. We remember the lives lost, the innocent people who didn’t deserve that kind of death. We remember the first responders, heroes who did what they were trained to do and by paying the ultimate price saved many. We remember that there is misguided hate in this world, people who believe in a cause bred from evil.
KP and I have two daughters growing up in a post-9/11 world. Twelve years later, what does that mean? How do we teach our children to remember an event they weren’t born for?

I am personally not ready to explain to my 5 and 3 year old what actually happened 12 years ago. Especially when their father is on a plane and in big cities practically every week. They still live in a place where nearly every adult they encounter is kind and loving to them. Thankfully, they don’t even realize that kind of evil exists.

So instead, my plan is twofold: I will exercise my freedom and I will promote acceptance.

I will show my daughters what it is to live in this great country. After school today, we will get our flu shots. I will explain to them that not everyone in the world can just walk in to a clean, quality healthcare facility. That preventative care is an added bonus. We will then attend Wednesday evening activities at our church where they can freely study and worship God. Where their mother will attend a council meeting and teach the Bible. And that’s just today. Every day, we have freedoms so many in our world don’t. I will work to share those with my girls in ways they can understand.

I will teach them to embrace differences. As I foster a firm foundation in what they believe and what they support, I will continually encourage them to learn more about what they don’t know. From different cultures to different religions, I want to raise children that are open and accepting of others. This begins with exposing them to that which varies from their norm. So we will try new foods, new customs. We will step outside the routine.

Baby steps now will lead to greater strides later. And when they do learn about what really happened that day twelve years ago, they will have a mindset that will allow them to promote peace.

In remembrance of all who were lost on September 11, 2001.

up up and away

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This week, my youngest started preschool. All along, I haven’t thought twice about it. She was, after all, in an early learning program located on the first floor of the school for the past two years. But when I dropped her the first day, I was really sad. When we arrived, she begged me to pick her up. I was firmly against it.

“No Mommies or Daddies are carrying the kids going upstairs.”

Downstairs is now a thing of the past for our family. Everyone is headed up.

I think walking MP up those stairs reminded me that we, as parents, are constantly helping our kids up: up the stairs to the “big kid classrooms”, up a grade, up a shoe size. Then they grow up, and we send them out. Out into the world to serve the next generation.

So as our time and our influence on them shrinks, how do we make the most of the time we have together?

I have the true privilege of raising two amazing daughters as well as working with an incredible group of young women at my church. I like to think I have a three year old, a five year old, and a dozen 16 year olds. I see how the girls relate with their mothers and I know the days of holding mine on my lap and kissing them too many times won’t last forever. I do see some great relationships between them and their parents. But I also see the attempts to break free. The time to send them out is close at hand.

However, there are some basic things I work at that I believe will prepare my children (and myself) for the next step. Please note, I am not an expert on this subject, nor do I actually put all of these into practice as I regularly as I should. Yet no matter where we are on the parenting train, I think they are worth a try.

Practice what you preach. There’s no better time to give this a whirl than immediately. Whether your child is 5 or 15, they are watching your every move. If you expect it of your child, the least you can do is practice it yourself.

Put away your phone. Now, trust me, I’m just as guilty as the next parent about this. The new world of constant communication puts a real strain on family relationships. But once your children have their own handheld connection to the outside world, they will do like you do.

Don’t lose sight of who you are. Don’t drop your life for your child. KP and I were just talking the other day about how our entire world and life focus honed in on our firstborn the moment we laid eyes on her. All affection, including for each other, was pulled toward that soft bundle. It was actually quite a bit of work to get straight. But we did. We have a life outside of raising our children. We are convinced it’s beneficial for everyone.

Establish communication habits early (But it’s never too late!) Find a way to make communication between family members a priority. At our house, we have a nightly ritual of high’s and low’s. We go around each tell the best part of our day, the worst, and we throw in a silly for good measure. Sometimes this is at dinner, sometimes in the car on the way home from somewhere. For KP, it often involves him on FaceTime from some other city. But we do it.  By now, our three year old has the hang of what is a high and what is a low. No one says communicating is easy. But if you listen to the small stories now you’ll be rewarded with the big ones later. And if your kids are older and communication is nil, start small. Better than not starting at all.

Have fun! This seems easy enough. But with to-do’s mounting around you, sometimes the last thing you can imagine is stopping everything to play. Or just to talk. Do it. Find a balance, mind you. But do it. Cheese and crackers (with a healthy side of fruits and vegetables) can make a great dinner. And then you have time to watch your child ride his bike or read just one more book together.

Don’t fear letting go. Oh boy. One day, sooner for some, our children go from up to (gulp) out. That’s right. This whole parenting thing has an ultimate goal: to send capable, responsible people into the world. But sometimes parents, especially moms, lose sight of the goal. The child is too dear, the thought of letting go too painful. So we make decisions for them based on what is best for us. And in the process we hurt them. This is a fine line, and a hard one to walk. But we all do it. Which leads me to my last one…

Community. We cannot do this job alone. Nor were we meant to. So create a community for you and your children. Find a place or group of people where everyone feels safe. Where your children can turn when they inevitably decide you are definitely no longer cool. And where you can find support as well as learn from others. It isn’t a cure all, but it will help everyone keep things in perspective.

 This week, dropping off MP was hard. That one small act signified the end of an era. I took inventory of the last 5 plus years as a parent. Did I teach them enough? Did they learn enough? Did they have fun? Did I?

 This school year, I’m going to keep the list above. I’m going to reference it. I’m going to see how we do. Because the ups just keep on coming.

the value of a dollar

Money. It’s a heated topic for most anyone. Friends. Couples. Siblings. It keeps us up at night. It drives us to succeed and it causes us to fall. You may have heard the saying “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” It’s actually from the Bible. In fact, Jesus talked about money more than any other subject during his ministry.

 So how do we introduce the idea of money to our children?

 This summer, KP and I decided it was time our five year old began receiving an allowance. Aside from the obvious, like making her bed and picking up her toys, we created a list of chores she’d be paid for. She had to help with the laundry, the garden and the dishes. She had to help clean her bathroom and various other tasks assigned to her. For all of that, she would get $2.50 each Friday.

 That $2.50 would go into a bank with three slots:Image save, spend, and give.  Each week, she would need to save 10%, give 10% and the rest could go in the spend slot. From the start, AP saved until she could buy a small toy she wanted. It took a month to have enough money in the spend slot, and I’ve never seen someone prouder about a purchase before. It was a great day. Then she started over. Her next purchase would cost twice that of the first. Which meant she spent the rest of her summer saving for it.

 Just this past Friday, payday, she was able to buy her new toy. We also took $1 out of her give slot to put in the offering plate at church on Sunday. The plate passed and AP placed her money in. I bent down and whispered about all that the money would do; keep the lights on in our beautiful sanctuary, take care of the kids Mommy has met in Kenya and Guatemala, help her to have choir and Sunday school and all of those activities she loves about church.

I’m sure she grasped the idea. But she also placed her dollar in a plate and watched it get whisked away. There was nothing handed to her in return. It was just gone. She could look up and see the lights working that day. She could hear all the instruments played. But did she really get it?

 That afternoon, KP went for a run during a break in an otherwise rainy day. AP and I snuggled in the family room, solving word puzzles. Suddenly, KP burst through the door. He was sweaty and out of breath and grinning from ear to ear. He came and sat down in front of AP.

 He reminded AP of that morning, how she gave her dollar to the church. He went on to explain how we should not hold back giving for fear of not having enough. Giving begets blessings. Then he pulled a wet and crumpled bill out of his pocket.

 “This was on the road today” he said. “You gave your dollar this morning, and now you have another to give.”

I smiled at KP. We have a rule that if we ever find money, and can’t track down the owner, we put the lot of it in the offering plate the very next Sunday. We figure someone needs it and we’re just the middle man.

 KP got the bank and we made a point to put it in the give slot, for next week. Giving away our money isn’t always easy. We may not have anything tangible to hold in our hands to show for it. We may not see the immediate benefit.

But they are there. They are always there. Perhaps not in a dollar for dollar match, mind you. But that’s what happened Sunday. And for a five year old, it was a perfect opportunity for her to learn the practice of giving.

 May her small life be a blessing to many.

 

sharing hands

ImageLately my sweet girls are driving me nuts. They’re in a fighting phase and as with all phases, I feel it will never end. What if they never learn to share?  I feel like I say “Share!” and “You have to learn to get along!” too many times a day.

Share with others. It has to be on the list of every early learning classroom on the planet. Children are bombarded with the idea. Their egocentric minds must constantly be reminded of the fact.

We say it to them all day long. But how many of us are doing it ourselves? Are we generous with what we’ve been given? Do we give of ourselves to serve others? Despite the presence of the Golden Rule in nearly every religion, in today’s world the idea is almost radical.

We rush to be first in line. We cut each other off in traffic. We say “Every man for himself” and “It’s a dog eat dog world”. We say it so much we believe it. We forget to stop and look at what’s really going on around us. Then we expect our children to peacefully pass the blue crayon.

Not long ago, AP had to complete a project about sharing at church. The children traced and cut out “sharing hands” and then stapled them to a booklet with blank pages. They were to draw ways they could use their sharing hands. There in the middle of her booklet, my daughter drew a stick figure on a roof, hammering. When I asked her what it was she said, “It’s Daddy helping people in Guatemala build their house.”

Last summer, my husband and I left our children for 8 days to help take a group of teenagers to the western highlands of Guatemala on a mission trip. We talked quite a bit about it with our children before and after the trip. We gave up our yearly vacation for the opportunity and we wanted them to know that sacrifices in life can bring special things. And then, months later, I see that the most important part stayed with her. We were sharing with others.

Part of my calling is to take trips like Guatemala. But you don’t have to go far to find opportunities to share. There are needs right outside your front door.

When was the last time you gave up something to meet the needs of someone else? Try it. Open up to a new experience. Let that car in next time you’re in traffic. Help out a neighbor. Or get involved in something. Volunteer with your kids.

Simply said, give more of yourself. It’s easier than you think. And I can guarantee one thing. Little eyes are watching.

the best job in the world

I’m a mom. And that means that I regularly take stock at whether I’m succeeding at the task. Raising my two young daughters is a privilege and a challenge. I can’t truly tell you how I’m doing, and I’m not sure I’ll ever know. How often do we see children from the same womb, the same upbringing take drastically different paths in life? Nothing is a guarantee.

However, I do know one thing. We don’t have our children for long. So while they are entrusted in our care, we simply must not let the time waste. It is far too precious. For my husband and I, this starts with the fact that our children are not ours to begin with. We are incredibly blessed with the task of starting them along their journey.

Yikes. The job can seem daunting. So many of us are apt to simply follow the crowd, keep our children comfortable and hope for the best.  But I don’t buy that. I want more- more for my family, for my children, and my children’s children. I want to equip my little travelers for the road of life as best I can, through everyday lessons and big adventures.

I don’t pretend to be one of these moms with a weekly planner containing amazing activities and learning experiences left and right. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we do really great things. But mostly the day looks more like this; wake up, make a meal, clean up a meal, run kids around, make another meal, clean up a meal, run kids around again, maybe work out, maybe do the laundry. Then I cook and clean again. I’m sure you can relate, whether your kids are small or grown. Moms don’t always have it all together because there’s simply not enough time in the day for it.

But I do have something each of us has. And it’s a start. I have my life.

 What I do, what I say impacts my children in a way big plans just can’t. So I’ll start there. And I will fail often. I will say the wrong thing, get angry too quickly, and judge others. But sometimes I’ll get it right.

And so every day I will get up and try and lead by example. I will make an effort to share the world with my children. I will teach them to be thankful for all they have and to share it with others. I will allow them experiences that show them that our differences make us stronger. And we’ll throw some big adventures in there too.

I’ve got my shot at life, and they have theirs. By pure miracle I’ve been chosen to steer them through the starting gate. There simply isn’t a better job in the world.