Moms, Shoot for This!

13245489_132797127136197_2138064978297995935_nCentral California this last week has been very warm in a couple of ways. The degree of hospitality was the best kind of warm as several families in the Lord’s church went out of their way to see that our every need, and so much more, was met. One of the conversations we had with Jason and Jill Jackson was about family life and parenting and how they, several years ago, sought advice from our brother, Wendell Winkler, about how to make a home from which children might emerge and faithfully walk in the ways of the Lord. He had five pieces of advice that are worth sharing. He was a man of great wisdom and moms will do well to put these in their hearts and around their dinner tables.

  1. About normalcy: Even if your family is a preaching family or an elder family in the church, don’t make your children feel as though they are “on display” or “different” from other Christians. After all, the reason we do what we do is not because of the preaching role or the leadership role. The reason we do what we do is because we are Christians. We can make our kids resent the work pretty quickly if we cause them to think there’s negative abnormality about serving the Lord. Don’t make your sons wear a coat and tie to events when the rest of the kids have on khakis and polos. 
  2. About the value of a dollar. Don’t try to provide all the “wants” for your kids. The work ethic is missing today in many homes, even in the church, and it is to our detriment.  Children will be better stewards of their material possessions if they understand that earning and saving are prerequisites to enjoying and sharing material possessions. The entitlement spirit is strong in our culture and we have to work to help our children reject it. Perhaps another way to say this is “Don’t let your children complain about the food on the table.”
  3. About saying “yes”: You should say yes to the “asks” of your kids as often as you can (“May I go here?” …”May I try out for this?” …”May I have a sleepover with my friends?” etc…) because you will have to say “no” often because of the difference in our profession of Christianity and the culture in which we live. 
  4. About criticism: Criticism will come from those in the world and from those in the church. Your family, if you are faithful, and especially if you are in a leadership position, will often be scrutinized and there will be those who think it’s their job to “correct” or instruct you, even if you are doing your very best. Just expect that. Prepare your minds for it and go on and do your very best. 
  5. About balance. You will pay dearly if you neglect family to do “church work”. You will pay dearly if you neglect your work in the church for family priorities. Be sure you have a good balance and blend. The work of the church should be the family’s work. Get in there and do it together! Family vacations, ballgames, family game nights and hobbies pursued together will grow and solidify the influence you are able to wield on your children. Never take a vacation from God, though. Whatever you are doing, be sure your family knows He’s always the priority and you will not forsake the worship of His church for any reason. Remember, as a mom, your most important evangelism is in your home. Those souls are the priority during their growing-up years. 

There you have it. I know lots of parents who are great examples of this kind of parenting and family balance. This spring, one of those families in Texas watched, as their daughter gave them this word of thanks for that kind of “raising”.  Kastin Carroll would have included lots of Biblical references had she been speaking just to women. But in this graduation ceremony, you can hear the Word behind her remarks to her parents. Her father is an elder in the Brown Trail church in Fort Worth. She and her dad are in the photo above.  You will enjoy and take courage from watching. 

Mama’s K.I.S.S. #43–Cooking Times Four

Portrait of happy mother and her daughter cooking in the kitchen

As you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been running little installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” I know that lots of readers could give many more and far more creative ideas than I can offer, but these installments are just a few tried and true and mostly old-fashioned ideas for putting service hearts in our kids.  This is number 43 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to serve. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

I’m sure you’ve thought of doing this with your kids, but it’s been a real benefit to ministry on several occasions for this family. Every time I make a casserole, a cobbler or a soup of any kind, I multiply all ingredient amounts by four, prepare the ingredients, and then spoon them out into 4-6 casserole dishes (depending on dish sizes), cover them well with heavy-duty foil, and freeze all of them except the one we are having for supper. I usually place the wrapped dishes in individual giant zippy bags to help guard them from freezer burn. I also label the bags with the name of the dish and the instructions for cooking or re-heating the dish. The casseroles and pies are almost always placed in the freezer before the baking, so you can just grab them from the freezer, thaw them and bake according to directions. Soups only need reheating. This is great math for upper-elementary kids, as they multiply the fractions of cups and teaspoons, and it’s great hospitality and benevolence planning for kids (especially daughters) of any age.

I know I don’t need to explain the benefits of this, but here goes. It’s cheaper to buy ingredients in bulk.  It greatly reduces cooking time because it only takes a few more minutes to make four casseroles than it takes to make one. When you do four meals at the time, you have one mess to clean up instead of four. 

But the biggest plus for me is being able to take a dish to a grieving family on the spur of the moment or to enjoy time with visiting family or friends instead of spending all my time cooking and cleaning the kitchen. It’s great to be able to have food on hand for Sunday dinners or fellowship meals. It’s great to be able to take a meal to someone who has just gotten home from the hospital or to someone who has a sick child. Best of all, your kids are watching and absorbing this active freezer ministry which just becomes a part of your family’s routine. It would be worth the price of my deep freezer many times over just for the consistency of hospitality and benevolence that it afforded our family. Of course we were still not even close to thorough or perfect as we took advantage of having a deep freezer. But still, it was/is a very helpful tool. 

Here are some dishes that work particularly well in the freezer. I’ve included the most recent recipe that I prepared and froze as well. It was very good! Thanks to Diana Shafer in Collierville, TN for sharing! It has already gone to a couple of octogenarians in their home in Tennessee and  to a visiting preacher-student family around our table.

These work well: 

Any kind of soup

Chili

Lasagne

Poppy seed chicken casseroles

Chicken, broccoli and rice casseroles

Most pasta dishes (especially if they are creamy)

Ground beef and vegetable casseroles

Dumpling dishes

Cobblers of any kind 

Dump cakes

Enchilada casseroles

Casseroles with crescent roll type crusts/toppings

Homemade Bread (Wrap well in a couple of layers of heavy duty foil or plastic wrap.)

(If a casserole calls for a cracker or potato chip or corn chip topping, add this after you remove it from the freezer.) 

                                                                                  Creamy Chicken

Ingredients:

4-8 chicken breasts or 1 chicken

1 pt. sour cream

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 8 oz. package Pepperidge Farm dressing mix (may use more)… (Also, I think I used a store brand and it was yum.)

1/4 c.milk

1 can cream of mushroom soup

Directions:

Cook chicken (boil or cook in microwave). Cool. Remove skin and cut into bite-size pieces. Line 9×13 dish with chicken. (But you can really use any size dishes. cc) Sprinkle with salt. Combine soups, sour cream and milk. Spread this over chicken.Prepare dressing mix according to directions on package. Margarine may be omitted if you do not like rich dressing. Use broth from chicken or chicken bouillon for liquid required in dressing mix. Spread dressing on top of soup mixture. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes. May be frozen before baking.  (This is easy and so very good!)

 

Sister to Sister: Caught Praying on the Monitor

13344646_911796716419_9022849487098569765_nCaught on the video monitor the other night, Ezra, who was twenty months old, at the time, was praying. In his own crib, in his nursery, door closed, and darkness gathered round him, he listed his little litany of people , ending with Baxter (his cat) and ended with a simple, but very audible “Amen”.  I know God heard little Ezra, because he’s the God who takes time for the little ones (Mark 10:14). 

What makes a twenty month old talk to God when He’s all alone? You know what does. It’s pretty simple. It’s night after night of “practice”. It’s doing it when he’s not alone each night. It’s story time with parents who know it’s important, for the development of faith in God, to talk to Him every night. It’s intrinsically knowing that, in his daddy’s arms, hands folded talking to God, all is right in his simple little world. That’s why Ezra knows how to pray. That’s why, however simply and trusting, he talks to God when he thinks he’s all alone. 

One day you will think you are alone. There will come a time when you are facing your own alone-ness and darkness. You might not know yet exactly what that darkness will be. It may be the loss of someone you love. It may be that someone you love disappoints you deeply. It may be the loss of your health or wealth. It may be the fall of your freedom or encroaching national enemies. It might be loneliness or divorce or addiction. It might be sin.

When your darkness comes, will you be able to talk to the Father, even from the darkness—when you need Him most? The answer is yes…if, like Ezra, you’ve been talking to Him every day in the light; if you’ve spoken with Him daily from your safe and happy place when surrounded by those you love. 

The simple faith that gives us the solace and strength of prayer in the dark times of our lives is not instantly gained when we need it. It’s developed during the good times. It’s having a relationship with the Almighty that’s constant and secure through the ups and downs of regular and normal days. That’s what gives us the peace and assurance of knowing He hears us when life gets irregular and abnormal…and sometimes even, very nearly, unbearable. I have friends  who use prayer as a panic button. I have other friends who never need a panic button because they’ve got the security that comes with a life time of communication through prayer and Bible study. They deeply understand and cling to the promise of Romans 8:28…that He’s making every day, and even the darkest night, turn into ultimate blessings for them, as His children.   They are secure when they are alone and life is dark, because, like Ezra, they’ve  “practiced” when times were easier and gentler. 

“Amen” is a very comforting word. It means “let it be so”. I’m glad “amen” is in little Ezra’s limited vocabulary. I’m glad he says it already to the One Who transcends everything Ezra will ever learn or know in both majesty and power. But that One is also the One who knows how many little red hairs are on His head (Luke 12:7). He knows his down-sitting and his uprising (Psalm 139:2). He knows Ezra’s litany of loved ones and He even knows His cat, Baxter. Are you talking to the One who loves you that much? You should be living in that kind of sweet security right now. Someday, when night falls, you will very much need the sweet security of prayer. 

Sister to Sister: Mama’s K.I.S.S. #42– Dropping Opportunities

Fiestas_Patrias_Parade,_South_Park,_Seattle,_2015_-_090_-_child_picking_up_candy_(21574028625)-1As you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been presenting installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” This is number 42 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to have servant hearts. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

There are so many of these “dropping opportunities” if moms just look around. It helps to start this one way before your kids are big enough to participate. It’s just courtesy, kindness and deference to others and it will come naturally to teach this to your children if you begin practicing this on your own before it’s time to teach them. Just watch for people, especially older people who drop something. Sometimes she knocks items off of a  grocery shelf. Sometimes she inadvertently leaves a coin purse unzipped and coins roll all over the parking lot as she unlocks her car. Sometimes it’s someone younger and her baby drops a sippy cup or a pacifier from the stroller or grocery cart. A grocery list, a walking cane, a pencil, a kleenex, a pair of sunglasses…even a communion cup from a shaky hand—someone is always dropping something and dropping times are stopping times for moms who want to put service in the hearts of their kids. When your kids get big enough, make it a contest to see who can calmly and safely be first to pick up a dropped item for someone while you are out today. Kids who smile and speak (without a reminder) to the person who dropped the item as it’s returned get an extra point. If the returned “stuff” requires “catching and/or gathering” from the ground, that’s another point.

I know. This is common sense. But common sense about courtesy is becoming less and less common as we incorporate our families into an ever busier and isolated world. This is a simple way to help us preserve the vestiges of courtesy in the places where they are precious to Christian families; most especially our homes. 

Finally, all of you, have… a tender heart, and a humble mind. (I Peter 3:8)

Sister to Sister: Lads to Leaders–Not the Convention, but the Conviction

 

12524410_10153354725341384_2141875503953047451_nWe’re on our way to the Lads to Leaders convention in Nashville today, where we will witness boys and girls from pre-K through twelfth grade participating in Bible bowl, displaying artwork and scrapbooks, reading scripture, leading songs and speaking (girls to girls’ audiences only), debating, being awarded for memorizing a hundred of verses from God’s Word—and so much more. Boys will be awarded for learning how to be protectors and providers for their future homes and girls will be awarded for several categories in which they are learning to be keepers at home. One young man I know who participates has been raised in a home where his mom lives with her lesbian partner, but he plans to be a gospel preacher, thanks to faithful people who have taken an interest in him. He is faithful and will attend a Christian university this fall to get the training needed. But he is already preaching on many Sundays. Two young siblings I know lost their father this year. He was a missionary and now that they have moved almost around the world, they are carrying on his tradition of being in the Word and working to promote the church for a whole new generation. I heard them Sunday as they practiced and prepared. At least six that I know have lost grandparents this year and another young man I know has been working to be a good example to his father who is not a Christian. I know one young man from a single-parent home who’s been working pretty hard this year to help his mom regroup after a big life transition. They are all just kids, but they are adapting and making the most of some pretty challenging times as they grow in the Lord.

I recall one incident in which a young person was practicing his Lads speech, in which he boldly explained what the Lord would have us do to be saved. At the end of that particular practice round, a “mentor” from his small audience said “I need to be baptized for the remission of sins. I  have become aware and convicted by what this child has taught me today.”

I praise God for these young people. We are taking 115 people to this amazing and encouraging event. But I remind myself constantly that it is not the convention that makes the difference for the Lord’s church. It is is the conviction. The preparation, practice and the whole process puts conviction in their young hearts.

There are three children, now adults, who grew up in the program who are very important to me. They all spoke convicting messages to groups of adults this last weekend. Two of them do this  every weekend, and lots of times in between.They are all mentors in the Lads program now and two  of them are raising my grandson to use his talents for the greatest cause on earth. Let me tell you: I would not trade our time spent using the valuable Lads to Leaders tool for anything in the world. I’m praying for every child who participates this weekend—for safety, for boldness as he/she participates. Most of all, I’m praying for their futures and the seeds planted this year for the harvest in eternity.

Sister to Sister: Mama’s K.I.S.S. #40–Attention to Cleaning Detail

child-cleaning-roomAs you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been presenting installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” This is number 40 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to have servant hearts. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

I know you’ve already noticed it’s a lot easier to do the vacuuming yourself than to take the time to be sure your  child does it correctly. You’ve probably had a curtain sucked into the vacuum cleaner, a breakable destroyed while a child dusted the desk, and multiple streaks have always remained all over the curio cabinet glass or the deck door.  Little helpers are rarely ever really that. It’s important, though, to remember that keeping a pristine house is a distant second priority to keeping clean little hearts devoted to service and submission.
So let them clean. But don’t overwhelm them. A big job like “Go clean your room” may be just too big for a four-year-old, while “Let’s clean off this shelf” may be a lot more reasonable. Thus, a cleaning rotation for little ones sometimes works better. Once you’ve picked out a doable job, then show your child, in detail, giving step-by-step directions and checking each step before proceeding to the next step.
For instance, actually cleaning a shelf might involve these steps.
1. “Carefully lay everything that is on this shelf on the floor and come get me when you’re done with that.”
2. Brag on the completion of number one. Then say, “Go through all of this stuff on the floor and pick out what you think we need to throw away.” Then show me that pile.
3. Make sure that pile has been reasonably assessed and then instruct him to get a bag, put the stuff to discard in it, and take it to the trash.
4. Give your child a dusting glove or rag and instruct him to wipe every spot on that empty shelf. “When you are done, come get me.”
5. Then instruct him to dust each item that’s going back on the shelf. Check each one of these steps behind the child.
6. Then have him make piles of like items before placing them back on the shelf. For instance, a pile each of books, action figures and money.
7. Give the child appropriate containers in which to place the action figures and the money.
8. Give the child praise each time you check his work.
9. Ask him to line up the books on the shelf. Then check those and help him, finally, to arrange the containers on the shelf.
10. Talk about how good it feels to finish a job.
I know that this post seems very elementary and that I have insulted your parental intelligence. But, because I have recently been involved in talking with a good family whose house has a very hard time functioning due to an extreme lack of organization and common sense about cleaning, I wanted to put these suggestions out there for servant development. I was one of those unwise moms who would ask my very young children to go and clean their rooms.  (Translate that “rearrange                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           the clutter, the dust and the random old snack foods.”) Because I learned the hard way, I want to be sure to say that servanthood best grows in an arena of self-confidence. Thus, assigning tiny phases of bigger jobs and paying attention to the details of their completion helps kids learn to organize tasks, categorize belongings,  and assess progress (all of which, as a bonus, by the way, are preparing them to use the scientific method in doing research later on.)
Again, I know you’re exhausted by the time you get that one shelf cleaned off. But you are preparing your child to serve others in the very most selfless and thorough way possible. You are teaching him or her the concept of Colossians 3:23: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men…”  You’re also teaching a big chunk of Titus 2 and Proverbs 31. And, one day, when they are teens, this laborious kind of teaching will pay off. They will actually know how to help you keep your house ready for service and hospitality.