Teachable Moments

Midweek Meditation: Call Your Children To Be Disciples, Not Just Christians

As we approach the weekend, I would encourage you to take a minute to stop. It is so easy to get caught up in the busy pace of our world, but I want to encourage you to choose the gospel pace, the pace that puts the things of Christ before the things of this world. It is not an easy choice, but a deliberate day by day choosing. Take a minute or five today to meditate on the following quote from my last blog, Call Your Children to Become Disciples, Not Just Christians, and verses, then close your time with the Puritan prayer. 

May this time of meditation be sweet and refreshing to your soul, dear reader!
Blessings Abundant, 
Elizabeth

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.” 
   Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Romans 12:1 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Ephesians 5:1-2 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Matthew 16:24-26 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”
    *All verses are in ESV

Devotion – A Puritan Prayer

God of my end, it is my greatest, noblest pleasure to be acquainted with You and with my rational, immortal soul; it is sweet and entertaining to look into my being when all my powers and passions are united and engaged in pursuit of You, when my soul longs and passionately breathes after conformity to You and the full enjoyment of You; no hours pass away with so much pleasure as those spent in communion with You and with my heart.

O how desirable, how profitable to the Christian life is a spirit of holy watchfulness and godly jealousy over myself when my soul is afraid of nothing except grieving and offending You, the blessed God, my Father and friend, whom I then love and long to please, rather than be happy in myself! Knowing, as I do, that this is the pious temper, worthy of the highest ambition, and closest pursuit of intelligent creatures and holy Christians, may my joy derive from glorifying and delighting You. I long to fill all my time for You, whether at home or in the way; to place all my concerns in Your hands; to be entirely at Your disposal, having no will or interest of my own. Help me to live to You for ever, to make You my last and only end, so that I may never more in one instance love my sinful self.
Author and Date Unknown

Teachable Moments

Extroverted Parents

It may be assumed that an Extroverted Parent has it easier than an Introverted Parent.  After all, don’t extroverts enjoy having people around all the time, have more energy and emotional capacity that would help them manage a child’s boundless exuberance and are able to navigate more swiftly the ever changing schedules of daily childhood schedules? Let’s see what research has to say.

Professor Susan Whitbourne at the University of Massachusetts along with author, Sophia Dembling, propose a variety of pros and cons for the Extroverted Parents.  Along with other research insights, the following characteristics help us better understand the joys and challenges of Extroverted Parenting.

  1.  They don’t overthink.  Extroverts tend to handle conflicts or issues head on, not allowing anger to build up or dwell on things too long.  This is one of the “pros” as being able to go with the flow and not being too worked up over life’s challenges decreases the anxiety of parenting.  They don’t overthink issues, but tend to solve and resolve things fairly quickly and then move on with little stress.
  2. They’re ready to go.  Boundless energy and people engagement tends to make extroverted parents up for anything.  Want to go play ball?  Yes!  Want to watch a movie?  Yes.  Want to work on the local PTA?  Yes!  These are the Tiggers of the world who bounce around, going to all sorts of places and engaging in all sorts of activities.  They tend to play with their children rather than apart from them.  They value connection with others as they highly value relationships.
  3. Children’s emotions can get in the way.  Extroverted parents may have a hard time seeing life from a child’s point of view.  They don’t always want to slow down to hear what is going on behind the scenes for the child.  This can make them insensitive. Getting things done can be more important than how they get things done or why they get things done.
  4. Humor shouldn’t be the highest value.  Most Extroverts can appreciate a good joke. Humor is often an appropriate distraction or can create a happy moment within the family.  But, humor has a dark side and if not careful, humor and sarcasm can take the place of insight and sincerity.
  5. They’re loud.  Most Extroverted Parents make a bit of noise and aren’t embarrassed for it.  They love cheering on their kids and can handle noise with a “kids will be kids” attitude.  This makes the uproar of children and their friends a welcome environment for Extroverts and hospitality in childhood one of their strengths.
  6. Extroverts love being Extroverts.  While Introverts are known to apologize for their personality, Extroverts tend to embrace their personality and praise themselves for it.  While they didn’t do anything to get this type of personality, they need to remember with humility that God has made all people valuable, not just them.  They need to especially remember this if God has given them an Introverted child!

BEWARE: beware the pressure that we can inadvertently put on our Extrovert Parents.

Extroverted parents can feel a lot of pressure to be the “fun” parent and to make sure everyone is always having a good time.  Extroverts can be misunderstood as some will expect them to be ready to go and ready to volunteer all the time. It is easy to pigeon-hole them and see them as one-dimensional and think because of their energy and activity level they are intellectually shallow.  None of this is fair and we need to extend opportunities for our Extroverted Parents to express deep thoughts, connect emotionally at a slower pace and to say “no” when their schedules get too full.   

Dear Reader, may we take the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:11 seriously when it says, Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.  Appreciating the energy, vibrancy, and positivity of Extroverts means letting them know we are grateful for all they bring to a community while also allowing them to express their more vulnerable emotions and profound thoughts.  Extroverts can be natural givers, but they also need opportunities to receive. May we not grow weary in building up our Extroverted Parents!

Blessings to you whether Extrovert or Introvert!  

Your Extroverted Friend, Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

The ABCs of What Kids Believe

How do you know what a child believes about God?  If you want to know, just ask them!  When one Sunday School teacher who was teaching through the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22,23) asked their 5-8 year old students what they thought “peace” was, the responses were varied; here are some of my favorite answers.

  • My Mom says “it’s when everyone is asleep, but her”
  • Sharing one of your favorite toys and then, not hitting your friend even though they sat on it and broke it
  • When everyone gets exactly what they want to eat at dinner
  • When my Dad gets to sit in his chair and control the remote control
  • Grandpa said without quiet, there is no peace and since it’s never quiet in our house, peace doesn’t exist

These children’s God-knowledge brings a smile to our face; out-of-the-mouth-of-babes we discover what we have taught them.  Life observations that often occur in everyday conversations reveal our child’s everyday theology.  As they grow older, staying on top of these perceptions is key so we ensure our children are building a foundation of solid truth about God and who He is, how He works and how they can know and love Him.  To discover what our children are thinking and remain influential in their spiritual faith formation, consider the following A, B, C and D.

A.  Ask questions and listen well before you give advice.  No matter how old they are. Do you want them to respect you?  Then, model respect to them first by giving them an opportunity to explain themselves. Try not to jump in too soon so they have the time and space they need to make themselves heard.

B.  Be in consistent conversations. Theology is a process of learning and growing both in orthodoxy (beliefs) and orthopraxy (living out our beliefs).  This requires conversations every day whether we are walking, relaxing or driving to church (Deuteronomy 11:19 ). Hint: if a conversation isn’t going well, think about walking away and trying again another day; remember – faith formation is a marathon, not a sprint to the finish line.  Winning an argument could cost you future conversations and thus, your influence is diminished in their lives. 

C.  Communicate with them over dictating to them.  Fear can lead us to try and control our children (preschoolers and young adults alike).  To live by faith, not fear, be self-aware of your stress and worry, take a deep breath and seek to respond with calm wisdom, avoiding knee-jerk reactions.

D.  Depend on God in prayer.  We won’t be “quick to listen and slow to speak” unless we are depending on God’s Spirit to guide our thoughts, calm our hearts and produce the fruit needed for godly influence.  Ask God for His peace that passes understanding for in that stillness, we will sense God’s voice guiding and leading us.

What do our children believe?  Building a solid theology that informs our children’s everyday lives comes in all shapes and sizes, just like our children.  As children grow, it will come to mean different things to them and they’ll have different questions. Approaching our everyday conversations about their everyday theology can be as simple as A, B, C and D.

Here are some final thoughts on peace to encourage you as you parent:

  • Silence is usually associated with peace, unless they are yours and are upstairs playing – then silence is suspicious…
  • Peace is only one drive-through away when your child doesn’t need a sippy cup because they have finally reached the magical age of drinking through a straw.
  • I could get a medal for world peace and not feel as accomplished as potty training a child.
  • Peace is that glorious moment in the morning when no one is conscious but me!
  • Of course my children experience peace – ​I’m the one up most of the night overthinking their lives for them…

Blessings to you and the precious children in your life.  Fondly yours, Elizabeth

Teachable Moments, Uncategorized

Introverted Parents

Being an introverted parent is vastly different than being an extroverted parent.  They don’t think alike, dream alike, nor make the same parenting decisions. They definitely don’t have the same internal dialogues; many introverted parents think one response but wisely give another.  Here are a few examples.

“Mom, I know we’ve spent all day together but do you want to come play with me?”
INSIDE ANSWER:  “No – I don’t want to play with you.”
WHAT THEY SAY OUT LOUD:  “Yes, of course – but see what Dad is doing; I know he’d love to play with you too.”

“Dad, what are you going to ask Santa to get you for Christmas?”
INSIDE ANSWER:  “I want to have total peace and quiet that I KNOW will not be interrupted.”
WHAT THEY SAY OUT LOUD:  “I have everything I want, sweetheart; I have you.”

“Mommm!!!!!” “Daddddddd!!!”
INSIDE ANSWER:  “I SO want to change my name.”
WHAT THEY SAY OUT LOUD:  “Yes, honey?”

What is an Introvert?  Introverts are characterized with a personality that

  • Turns inward more than outward
  • Prefers low-key environments
  • Regains energy by spending time alone
  • Feels drained from social interactions
  • Prefers a few good friends more than many less-intimate friendships 
  • Focuses more on internal thoughts and moods than external situations

From a 2010 Psychology Today edition entitled, “Revenge of the Introverts”, we learn that scientists are discovering the brain of an introvert does not work like their extravert counterparts.  Introverts actually take in information from their environments and need alone-time to process what they are observing and experiencing. If they don’t have that quiet time or solitude, they will naturally feel overwhelmed.  Introvert brains tend to be very active and therefore, putting themselves in situations which add additional stimulation (i.e. crowds, high-energy, or high-sensory) are by necessity limited.

How does this God-created personality affect a parent’s relationship with their kids?  

  1.  You are not a mistake.  Realize that it is not a mistake how you are made.  Introverted parents will struggle with different things than extroverted parents do and that, my friends, is perfectly OK.
  2. Not their job.  Realize that it is not your child’s responsibility to create an environment that is comfortable to the introverted parent.  Work on not getting frustrated that the child is not meeting your personal needs – it’s not their job.
  3. Be nice.  Kids are naturally loud, inconvenient and exhausting.  Introverted parents are going to feel this more poignantly than extroverted parents; they have a higher chance of feeling anxious, depressed, and inadequate.  So, be careful. Don’t judge yourself too harshly when you really hate your lack of a schedule, the millions of interruptions to your time or the peace and quiet you so desperately need but aren’t going to get.  Bottom line, don’t expect yourself to be someone you’re not – be nice to yourself. If you can accept how God has made you, you have a chance of being a great parent just the way you are.
  4. Give yourself a break.  Figure out a way to create frequent breaks throughout the day.  If you are caring for a toddler, you may not have a long period of time to quietly sit or enjoy solitude, but if you can grab even 5 minutes here and there throughout the day, you’ll tend to do better.  Put in times to quietly think, appreciate and practice thankfulness.
  5. Measure happiness carefully.  Extraverts tend to be happy about everything, but introverts have the advantage of not worrying so much about actually being happy (they worry about other things).  While extroverts want to try everything on the buffet of life, introverts tend to savor meaningful moments. Embrace how you understand happiness and fulfillment, knowing no two parents measure it the same way.
  6. Know what you’re good at.  Introverted parents are good at assessing situations and knowing that change needs to take place.  Introverted parents are good at allowing their children to process life and tend to encourage a slower pace of life.  Introverted parents value relationship over activity and tend to accept their children how they are made more easily than an extroverted parent.  Introverted parents unite – and realize how good you are at this parenting thing.

Dear Friend, parenting is hard enough without us trying to be someone we’re not or we’re judging ourselves harshly for who we wish we were. The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. (Job 33:4)  We need to celebrate how God made us knowing that we are the parent our child needs as God is the architect of our families and builds our families by purposeful design.  Take comfort in His plan, lean on Him for wisdom and seek Him for the strength you need to endure. He is faithful to you.

May this day be a day you celebrate how God is working in you to be the person and parent He desires.  To all my introverted readers, here’s to you! Fondly yours, Elizabeth

And now…introverted thoughts that will make you smile (hopefully). 

Teachable Moments

My Best Advice on…Advice

“NOW, what do I do?” is every parent’s nightmare question that is a living reality.  I’m sure if I had a nickel for everytime I asked that while raising my children, I’d be a trizillionaire (or whatever word works for being mega-rich because as a parent, I often felt clueless).

Those who either heard or saw my confusion and consternation loved to give unasked-for advice.  Their advice usually started with something like, “when that happened to me….”, as if they knew all about my life because they had already lived it.  OR, “what I did that worked..”, as if they had the magic answer to any parenting situation, or my favorite, “what you should do…”, which means there is a universal code of parenting that I should know and must obey if I want to raise children that aren’t enemy #1 to society as adults.

Most of the time, unasked-for advice works the same as asked-for advice; the key isn’t the advice, it’s the person who is listening to the advice.  I was the one who made the difference. There were times I learned from advice, and times I didn’t.  There were a few significant points of consideration that all had to work together in order for me to be counted among those “who have ears to hear”.

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived (1 Kings 4:30), has some wise words of advice about advice.  So – he’s our go-to guy on this matter and here are 3 things he has to say and my tidbits of commentary to enliven them for you.

Resolution to Receive

Listen to and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.  (Prov. 19:20, NIV).   The New Living Translation puts it this way, “Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life.”  Seeking wisdom from a variety of sources is the path to wisdom.  How can I do this?

  • Keeping a look out for those persons God puts in my path, so I can ask and listen to their opinions is a consistent and intentional goal.
  • Seeking advice which leads to wisdom is my responsibility (it isn’t someone else’s job to make me see reason – hopefully).  
  • Great advice won’t just drop in my lap; I need to seek it out.  
  • Living in our virtual realities with Alexa or Siri as my all-wise advice givers isn’t going to cut it.  Some good ideas and information from these techno wizards is expected, but no matter what algorithm Facebook comes up with, I can’t replace advice from people I respect, who love me, and will take time investing in me personally.  I am just one in many billion to Google, Alexa, or Siri but to the people around me, I am one in a million that they actually care about. Who better to seek advice from than those who know and love me best?

Facing Your Fears

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.  Prov. 12:15, NIV)  The Contemporary English Version says, “Fools think they know what is best, but a sensible person listens to advice.”  Even though most of us would like to see ourselves as teachable and open to the opinions of others, what would stop us from listening to advice?  Our fears – we need to face them and then, face them down.

  • “I’m afraid of what you would think of me if I ask for help.”  This person believes asking for help is a weakness, not a strength.  The opinions of others are more important than the opinion they have of themselves.  This needs to change.
  • “I have to pretend to know what I’m doing so you’ll still believe in me; I’m afraid if I don’t act like I have it all together, you won’t respect me.”  This person believes that the only reason someone respects them is because they can do something well without anyone else’s input.  This takes independence way too far and actually weakens the position of the person.
  • I’m afraid you won’t like me if I ask for help; I’m sure I’m a bother.”  This person believes that if asked, others believe that giving help is a pain, not a privilege.  This is actually not the case. Most people love being a help when they can be. Bonus verse:  Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend. (Prov. 27:9, NIV)  Part of friendship is being there for one another; don’t push your friends away when you need advice, draw them closer.

Self-Protection is really Self-defeat

Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory. (Prov. 11:14, NIV)  Trying to live a godly life in which we flourish daily is tough.  How does advice get me what I need and what I want out of life?

  • Be Open and Open-Minded.  Ditch the self-protection and be vulnerable in sharing what is really going on in your life.  Tell the truth to the counselors you trust and seek out their honest opinion.
  • Be a Systematic Theologian.  Look at the WHOLE of Scripture and how it puts together a bigger picture of our life and who God is in it.  An “abundance of counselors” would indicate that we shouldn’t just take one verse and run with it; instead, take the time to study a topic or idea thoroughly from a full-biblical perspective to make sure it is well-informed.
  • Be Patient. Whatever goal we have set for ourselves, we need to remember that it may take a while to get there.  Getting advice from a number of different counselors takes time and patience in order to persevere to the right answer.

Dear Reader, “Once a parent, always a parent!”  And no matter how old my kids get or how long I am at this parenting-thing, I still need encouragement and advice.  If you will take one piece of advice from me, face your fears, defeat your self-protection and seek advice from an abundance of counselors you trust and who want to invest in you personally so you can receive their advice and flourish in the life God has given you.  Seek wisdom and you will find it.

Blessings to you – and thanks for taking the time to read my advice…on advice.  Fondly yours always – Elizabeth