Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Raising Children, Protecting Marriages

Ever feel like its been too long since your "date clothes" made an appearance?  Has your mommy identity taken over all of the others - like being a wife?  It's easy to have this happen when we're already sleep deprived and balancing a million scheduling items while pushing aside our own.  This article encourages us to reflect upon the attention we are giving our marriages.  Prioritizing our husbands is biblical, and it can make a real difference in our own fulfillment and the strength of our families.

Make no mistake, I know that parenting can be an all-encompassing, sacrificial enterprise.   We want what's best for our children from the moment that they are conceived.  But our culture seems a little off kilter in support of parenting these days.  With terms like "helicopter parenting" being the norm, when do mom and dad get a break, let alone have time for each other?

I would be remiss as a mommy blogger to solely focus on my children and child-rearing.  Yes, that's what my blog is most about, but what that ministry actually rests upon is the construct and stability of the family...

To read the rest of this article, please click here to find it on  This is my first published article, so give it some Facebook likes!  Thanks, Moms.  I pray that it inspires you and brings you blessing as we journey on!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Safety Tips Every Mom Should Know

Jesus had a special heart for the suffering and vulnerable.  Children are indeed vulnerable because of their youth, and it is our job as adults to protect them.  I recall Jesus' words to his disciples concerning our day of accounting in heaven, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40, NIV).  What can we do to come alongside our children and protect them from abuse in the name of Christ?

I attended a seminar on child abuse recently and learned that the best prevention is education; thus I am sharing some important tips with you.  Sexual abuse in children is more common than we might think.  It can make us uncomfortable to "go there," but doing so can be what makes the difference.  Perhaps you will find these statistics as starling as I did:

Startling statistics:
  • 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday
  • The median age for reported abuse is 9 years old
  • 98% of offenses against girls and 90% against boys are committed by males
  • Less than 1% of child sexual assaults reported by a child have be found to be false
  • 90% of offenses are committed by someone known to the child and trusted by the parents

Child abuse is called the hidden epidemic, because it has the highest rate of recidivism (re-offense after a conviction or sentence) of any other crime.  What's more, 95% of child abusers were themselves abused as children.  Thus, it's a perpetuating cycle.

Luckily, most offenses occur after a period of grooming and desensitization by the offender;  therefore, they are often preventable.  The criminal prosecutor that I heard speak said that the offender often begins by showing favoritism to a child, like giving special presents and sitting next to him or her and casually rubbing their leg.  Therefore, having our radar up, observing our children around others, and trusting our instincts are key to prevention.

Because 85% of child abuse occurs in a one-on-one setting, here are some additional and concrete steps that we can take:
  1. Identify private parts to your child.  The best time to do this is during bath time for young children.  An easy way for them to remember is whatever is covered by their swimsuits is private.  Explain to older children that no one should pressure them to do things that make them feel uncomfortable.
  2. Teach your child the proper names of private parts.  That way, if your child ever attempts to report abuse, any adult can understand what is going on. 
  3. Never force a child to be physically affectionate with an adult.  Children need to know that they are in charge in a physical situation with an adult.
  4. Monitor the supervision of your child's activities and make a habit of stopping in unexpectedly, even on family members.  When I did youth ministry, we were encouraged to have "two-deep" leadership, meaning that there were always two adults with children - never just one.
  5. Trust your child's instincts.  Do not force or encourage situations where your child is uncomfortable.  Let him or her know you respect their feelings and instincts.  Our goal is to empower our children.
  6. Your child should speak with confidence after an interaction with an adult; monitor any changes in mood and reluctance to speak about time spent apart from you.  Both are warning signs.
  7. Set family boundaries.  All members of your family should have the right to privacy in dressing, bathing, sleeping and other personal activities.  If anyone in your family expresses a desire for privacy, all family members need to respect it.
  8. Do not have secrets in your house, only surprises!  I found this to be an interesting and helpful tip.  Make it a family rule that there are no secrets in your house.  Explain the difference between a secret (something that you are never meant to tell and excludes others) and a surprise (something that's exciting and revealed after a short time).  Tell children the worst secrets of all are secrets about private parts.
  9. One way to equip children with confidence in decision-making and self-protection is to play the "What-If Game."  When faced with an uncomfortable situation with an adult, children often don't know how to react and fall back into obeying the adult.  Use downtime at restaurants, appointments, shopping, etc. to give children real-life examples of situations that may happen and talk about what they should do.  Help them come up with appropriate responses.  With younger children, it often helps to mix silly situations in with more serious scenarios.  Use new experiences like sleepovers, camps, etc. or incidents in the news as opportunities to go over the "rules" with older children.
  10. Always encourage an open line of communication between you and your child! 

Finally, if you suspect abuse, here are some important pointers:
  • Believe your child and make sure he or she knows it.  Thank them for coming to you and praise their courage.
  • Encourage your child to tell you what happened without using leading questions and try to remain calm so that you respond appropriately.
  • Assure your child that it is your responsibility to protect him or her and you will do everything possible to make sure it happens.
  • Report the abuse to trained professionals and don't panic.  Sexually abused children who receive support and help can and do heal.  Your belief in them and your commitment to stop the abuse is a large part of the battle.

I hope you find this information as valuable as I did.  Please help me pass it on.  WE can make a difference in protecting our children!  Together, we can help make God's creation safer for the vulnerable who are under our watch.

These statistics and tips are a summarization and sometimes direct copy of information by criminal prosecutor Beth Little and are used with her permission.  She lives in NJ and has four children.  For further reading and help, Beth's recommendations include the DARKNESS to LIGHT and Stop It Now! agencies. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

What to Do in Life's Storms

This month marks the year anniversary of Super Storm Sandy.  It marks the anniversary of our family's eleven days without power.  My children were cold, my husband and I were on the verge of panic, and we saw a devastation around us that we did not think possible in New Jersey. 

We experienced firsthand that storms impact several of our senses.  We hear the noises, whether it's rain pelting our roofs or claps of thunder.  We might feel the wind's vibrations.  In addition, we can see the leaves spinning in circles and the trees bowing down in wave-like motions.  And sometimes, when the power goes out, we see nothing.

When it storms now, our littler son gets especially scared.  I wonder if some of his fear stems back to that big storm last year.  He was only one, but no doubt he remembers.  When the heavy rains and winds come, he starts crying and calling my name.  As I enter his room, it's dark and sometimes the wood floor creaks as I approach him.  There is a coldness in the nighttime air.  I pick him up and we cuddle on the rocker; he becomes warm and calms to my breath.  Oftentimes, I've looked at the weather radar and know what to expect.  I reassure him that storm will pass quickly.

We may not shudder every time it rains as adults, but we still have scary storms.  There are times in life when we face situations that appear insurmountable.  Fear and anxiety set in as we realize that there are certain things we cannot control, and sometimes only God knows how long they will last.  Just as my son cries for comfort, we need it too.  We might need the embrace of a friend or spouse.  And we surely need the reassurance of God in scripture. 

I like to read Psalm 46 in those times.  It begins, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."  God is a refuge for us during our storms.  The psalmist goes on to say, "Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult."  It is no coincidence that the psalmist is describing a natural disaster.  It is a storm, something wholly beyond his control, and it is precisely in that moment that he encourages us not to fear. 

The mountains are crumbling.  The waves are crashing.  And what is the psalmist doing?  Not running.  Instead, the psalm ends with instructions to stand still!  He describes the Lord, who's proclaiming, "Be still, and know that I am God!"  The psalmist takes comfort in the fact that God is actively working in his life and is ultimately in control.  Therefore, it is in humility and with praise that the psalmist approaches God as his refuge. 

That humility and praise can be helpful for us too.  Do we have the humility to reach out to others in the midst of our storms when we need help?  Are we praising God for the times that he has been previously faithful when we're encountering uncharted waters?  Most importantly, are we following God's command to be still, allowing ourselves a break from worrying?  Scripture tells us that we are invited to rest in the sanctuary of God's providential care.

We worship a God who will not let one hair on our head be harmed that's contrary to his purpose (Luke 12:7).  We worship a God who will never leave us alone.  Further, a friend reminded me this week that everything has a beginning, middle, and an end according to Ecclesiastes (3:1).  If you're going through a hard time right now, remember that your storm will only last for a season.  Stand firm in faith, and God's love will always be victorious.

Hurricane Sandy did have an end.  But the incredible thing was that God did not leave my family alone during those eleven days without power in its aftermath.  We worship a God who brought us an invitation from another family to stay at their house that had power for almost eight days.  That incredible hospitality was offered in the name of Christ.  Be assured, God is waiting for you too - with life vests.

If this post resonated with you, you might also like Warning: Peaks Ahead and Risky Business.

{Photos by mrpbps  and Scott Butner at Flickr}

Friday, October 4, 2013

When Is The Best Time To Plant A Tree?

It's fall.  I love the persistent breeze and gentler sun of fall.  And I think of trees.  I think of the beautiful foliage that has just started to turn.  There are hills and mountains out east, so in a few weeks, they will present breathtaking views.  The kind of views that make you want to drive somewhere, sniff the air, and pick some apples.  With their sticky juice on your fingers and the crinkle of leaves beneath your feet, you know you've entered a special season. 

A friend of mine sent me a post the other week about the best time to plant a tree.  Its author was at a tree nursery and had a conversation with the owner.  She wondered if fall is the best time to plant a tree. Yet while there, she recounts an old Chinese proverb:  The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.  The second best time is today.  In other words, the answer to her question wasn't dependent upon the seasons at all.

There was something spiritually nagging at me after I read this short encounter.  The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.  The second best time is today.  We know that trees serve a vital role in our ecosystem, so of course they need to be respected and plentiful.  But the Chinese proverb hints at something more.  Trees also signify strength in their stature, a persistent life force in their growth, and quiet wisdom in their enduring presence.

Is there a place in your life where you need to plant trees? 
  • The best time to kick a bad habit was twenty years ago, but the second best time is today.  There is strength waiting for you from your Heavenly Father, who is reaching out his hand and saying - today is the day
  • The best time to end an abusive or damaging relationship was twenty years ago, but the second best time to seek help is today.  The God of heaven cares about every hair on your head, and you where made for something greater.
  • The best time to cast your fears aside and invite the Word to inform your daily decisions was twenty years ago, for it's invitation is ongoing, but the second best time is today.  Not only does Jesus want to be your best friend, but he has tremendous plans for your life - and he wants to accomplish those plans together.

As usual, I write for me as much as for you today.  We all have things that we would like to change.  God knows this about us.  That's why there is an invitation linked to that Chinese proverb through the lens of our Savior.  God is in the business of planting.  But God doesn't just plant and leave us alone; scripture says that we can only thrive if we stay connected to him (John 15:5).

God can give us new and abundant life, and he wants to take us higher.  Allow him to sow seeds in a new direction in your life, even if the pattern is ingrained and the history is long.  Allow his love to enable you to dream again.  Christ claims that if we simply have faith the size of a mustard seed, which is the smallest of seeds, then he can move mountains (Matt 17:20).  I can think of no better time to claim that blessing with confidence than today.

Does this post resonate with you?  Please share this post with any friends whom you know could use some uplift today!

{Photo by Tony Hall at Flickr}

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