Teachable Moments

How To Help Your Child Grow Up To Be A Successful Adult

Our children are “future adults” and we want to parent them for “future success”.   How can we influence their ability to be successful in their relationships and chosen careers as they grow up?  Research says out of all the things our children need to know as they grow that contributes directly to their career competence are their relationship skills. 

Relationship skills are both traits and behaviors that enable someone to interact well with others.  They inspire good communication and conflict resolution. They enhance positive teamwork and can predict sustainability in a job.  Relationship skills make both the one who has them and the one who receives them happier to be doing what they are doing.

  •  Relationship skills aren’t just important to career success, they are important to our faith formation. 
    • The godly way of looking at relationship skills is to see them through the lens of the “one another” verses we find in Scripture; a relationship that values “one another” is a relationship that honors God.  
    • The term “one another” is found 100 times in the New Testament and 59 times refers to how we treat one another within God’s Kingdom.
    • How we care for one another not only allows our relationships in our careers and homes to flourish, but enables us to be a witness to the world of our transforming faith. 
    • God does not suggest “one another” conduct, but demands it.  They are imperative verbs – commands, not suggestions.
    • Just a few examples of “One Another” verses that personify good relationship skills are:
      1. Be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10) 
      2. Honor one another above yourselves (Romans 12:10) 
      3. Live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16) 
      4. Build up one another (Romans 14:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:11) 
      5. Accept one another (Romans 15:7) 
      6. Admonish one another (Romans 15:14; Colossians 3:16) 
      7.  Care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25) 
      8. Serve one another (Galatians 5:13) 
      9. Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) 
      10. Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:2, 32; Colossians 3:13) 
      11. Be patient with one another (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13)

Dear Reader – consider looking up all the “One Anothers” in Scripture and put them on your refrigerator, in your car, or on the mirror in the bathroom – anywhere you and your children will see them on a regular basis.  How do we teach our children to walk by faith AND help prepare them for the future?  “One Another” living! (also known as relationship skills)

  • Relationship skills are personified  in good communication.  In John Maxwell’s book, “Everyone Communicates, Not Everyone Connects”, John proposes that we need to do more than just talk to one another, we need to connect.  Career experts would agree – many companies will look for those who can relate well with others over a college graduate who has a high GPA but doesn’t have strong relationship skills.

    What are some of the points John Maxwell makes in his book that we can pass on to our children?  Here are 5 of his principles to get you started in thinking connection, not just communication.
    • Think “One Another” always.  (Maturity is the ability to see and act on behalf of others.)
    • Connecting with others requires effort.  Connecting requires initiative (go first); clarity (prepared); patience (slow down); selflessness (give); and stamina (recharge). 
    • Work hard with enthusiasm. (Vision without passion is a picture without possibilities.)
    • Be a person of integrity. (People ask three questions about their leaders: Do they care for me? Can they help me? Can I trust them?)
    • Prepare and don’t give up.  (Preparation yields confidence and passion yields conviction.​)

Dear Reader, I have heard it said, “The days are long, the years are short” and I believe it’s true.  In the midst of parenting, it can feel exhausting and all-consuming.  But before we know it, we are sending them out into the world. Remember to keep the end goals in mind as you parent today.  Work toward who your child is becoming and invest in their ability to relate well with others.

Blessings to you this week as you parent with a purpose to equip your child for their future adult life.  

Always yours truly, Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

What Traveling Can Teach You

I just got back from traveling overseas.  I enjoy the chaos of travel – its unexpected trials, my new best friends that I sit next to on the plane, and the airport food that is twice as expensive but just as satisfying.  I like looking at possible souvenirs I won’t buy and rifling through magazines I would never have time to read in my “everyday” life. I even enjoy the waiting for delayed flights.

When our children were younger, we traveled with them.  We loved showing them new places and teaching them to navigate the airports, unique travel challenges and meeting people who spoke different languages, wore unique clothing and had traditions that had little to do with their “everyday” life.  They even enjoyed waiting for delayed flights with us.

We all learned a lot about ourselves and who we were as family during our travels.  Our trips’ Teachable Moments are our souvenirs that we still enjoy remembering and using today in our “everyday” lives.  These souvenirs bring a wisdom that only comes through travel.

SOUVENIR #1 – Plans Always Go Awry

You can plan; you can obsess; you can detail every second, but I guarantee you, something will go awry.  There is no perfect plan and there are no guarantees. The only one who is perfect and knows the plan is God Himself, “I make known the end from the beginning…” (Isaiah 46:10).  

T.M.:  Having the expectation that the journey of life as well as any travel routes will never end up being what we initially expect is a wise truth to remember, especially when the unexpected arises.  Get ready to be surprised, uncomfortable and interrupted and remember – all of these build character.

SOUVENIR #2 – Picking Your Travel Partners

Not everyone is built for travel.  Some do it much better than others.  Some struggle with the confinement that is inevitable when you are negotiating how to get from point A to point B.  Some hate the amount of time it takes to reach one’s destination, no matter the mode of travel. Some feel edgy thinking of all the other things they could be doing until they reach their destination.  And some HATE figuring out out of all the stuff they own what stuff they need to take with them. These types of worried, anxious individuals who usually expect the worst-case scenario and have no hope that they will enjoy life as they travel make the journey more difficult than it needs to be.  Proverbs is correct when it says “anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down” and Proverbs is also correct when it says, “a merry heart makes for a merry countenance”.

T.M.:  Besides packing a toothbrush, pack a good attitude that is hopeful and leans upon God for contentment!

SOUVENIR #3 – Perspective Matters

My husband has said as long as I’ve known him (over 30 years now) that it is not perfection, but the direction of our lives that count.  Focusing too much on having the “perfect” trip or focusing too much on where we are going and not where we are currently at are both perspectives that will kill any decent travel plan.  Focusing too much on any moment of time other than the moment we are currently in is a great waste of time.  I can’t change either the past or future, but I can influence this moment – and since a trip is just a series of moments – it’s wise to make every moment count.  As for considering just “getting there” as the very definition of success, that is a misguided idea that process is inferior to results. It’s just not true – how we get somewhere, what we learn and enjoy as we get there, the relationships we build as we get there – these are all significant in their own right.  

T.M.: Realize the current way being made for you (Isaiah 43:18-19) and celebrate the moment you are in (Romans 14:17).

Dear Reader, if you travel, you have a whole bunch of Teachable Moments that direct your life.  Recognizing what God has taught you and how it informs your life is an invaluable collection of souvenirs. Have you shared with your children what you have learned from life’s journey and specifically, your own travel experiences?  What has God taught you? What Teachable Moments are your souvenirs? Next time you come home from even a day trip, start a conversation with your family that begins with, “On my trip, God taught me….” and let them see how God had been at work within you as you had been away from them.  

May you enjoy picking through your collection of Teachable Moments and giving testimony and thanks to God for each one.

Blessings to you as we travel this life together.  Fondly yours, Elizabeth

 

Teachable Moments

Parenting and the Holocaust Part 1

As I write this blog, I am in Jerusalem.  I’d suggest that whenever you travel to Israel, you make Yad Vashem a “must-see” site.  I have wandered its halls a number of times and every time I observe the stories that tell of the Holocaust atrocities, I walk away inspired by how those captured into inhumane living and dying conditions found extraordinary ways to survive and thrive.  Today, I want to ask one question from my experience at Yad Vashem.

What can we learn from the men and women who raised children amidst such pain and grief while they survived in camps, ghettos, while hiding away or who joined the Jewish Partisans to fight against the enemy?

No matter what life throws at you, if you are a parent, you know that parents don’t get to quit.  This is true now and it was true for parents in the Holocaust. These parents protected, cared and fiercely loved their children.  Their children grew up to tell their stories and we can learn from 3 primary types of emotional memories that they shared. Their emotional memories can help us teach our children wisely today.

1) Conflicting emotions accompany memories

Children’s memories will contain conflicting emotions under normal situations, let alone situations rifled with crisis and trauma.  One story told regarding a daughter and mother relationship from one of the ghettos explains,

When we examine Anat’s (the daughter’s) narrative, for example, we see that in spite of the fact she was alone for long periods in the ghetto, witnessed the severe beating of her mother and had several other traumatic experiences as a very young child, Anat also had the positive experience of her mother always returning to her. In fact, her mother remained with her until the last day of her life. While there are signs in Anat’s interview that she also feels anger toward her mother, due to feelings of fear and desertion, these are interwoven with a deep admiration and a strong sense of protection by her mother.

This daughter’s memories evoked strong emotions that ranged from the very positive to the very negative.  This wide range of emotions allowed her to build an independent life as a woman, even informing her own role as a mother.

OUR APPLICATION:  Conflicting emotions accompany memories

Understand that two very different emotions can exist at the same time and those contrasting emotions then crop up in our memories.   Our children will have both good and bad feelings about their childhood and we shouldn’t be discouraged that they express both the good and the bad as they grow older.  Listening and working through the memories is what counts more than trying to hold onto a false remembrance of perfection.

2) Emotions interpret memories

For some Holocaust survivors, the emotions that accompanied childhood memories dictated the interpretation of events as an adult.  For example, some children who had one Jewish parent and one Christian parent survived because the Christian parent was able to rescue the child.  In some cases, the Jewish parent was taken away to be housed in a ghetto or deported to be gassed in a concentration camp. As adult children remembered the separation from the Jewish parent and that parent’s subsequent death, these adult children often resented the surviving Christian parent, even though the Christian parent saved their life.  Children remembered the division of the family and the horrible anguish of that moment of separation; that anguish later turned into anger and sometimes, even hatred toward the surviving parent.

OUR APPLICATION:  Emotions interpret memories

We need to be aware of how our own emotions get in the way of our recall of past life events

and inform our children how emotions can skew our perspectives.  Being aware of this will help us see life in a more balanced and true-to-life way; we need to make sure our emotions help inform our life, but we are not lead nor dictated by our emotions.  Emotions can lead us to wrong conclusions. What a great lesson to teach our children!

3) Emotions reflect the relationships within the memories

Some survivors explained emotional memories that while very painful, reflected the physical and emotional safety their parents provided.  Researchers who reflected upon one such survivor’s story said,

Even though most of his memories express negative emotions, the intensity with which he speaks leads us to believe that the ability to recall and willingness to openly express negative emotions connected to one’s parent during the Holocaust reflects closeness, even if the parent-child relationship was a problematic one.

OUR APPLICATION:  Emotions reflect the relationships within the memories

Even turbulent emotions show a parent-child relationship in which parents are engaged and caring about the child.  Even if parents are not always right, showing up and emotionally engaging with our children makes a big difference both when times are distressing and when the adult child looks back.  Let’s show up and engage and not worry so much about always having to be “the perfect parent”.

DEAR READER,  

We as families will experience painful times and while most of us will not experience anything close to what the survivors of the Holocaust did, we have the opportunity to learn from the rich emotional memories that survive; even the worst of history can teach us.  These brave parents who taught, protected and fiercely loved their children throughout the Holocaust can remind us of some significant truths.  May we honor their memories by learning from their lives.

Fondly yours from Israel, Elizabeth

 

Teachable Moments

Luther Said What?

Consciously or not, we will come to imitate what we have learned.  This is especially true, I believe, when it comes to how we conduct our relationships, specifically marriage. We can see marriages and families lived out in front of us in first person today, but we can also glean from those who have gone before us.  Take for example, the marriage of Martin and Katie Luther who lived 5 centuries ago. Watching their marriage play out from today’s perspective enables us to learn some key biblical and pragmatic principles that work in today’s family as much as it did then.

Before we begin examining the Luther’s marriage, be warned.  You may be shocked to read what Martin said to and about Katie.  One thing I suggest we all take away is be careful what we say to and about our spouses.  It could be recorded throughout history. For example, when asked about Katie’s looks, Martin said Katie wasn’t much to look at.  I really wouldn’t want that to be my husband’s quote about me that lasts for 500+ years

Marriage was not always seen as a virtue of a Christian ministry leader.  Martin Luther, the great protestant reformer of the 1500s, was encouraged to take a wife as an example to other protesters in support of a gospel of grace alone, by faith alone, through Christ alone, according to scripture alone, for the glory of God alone.  In opposition to the religious tradition of the time in which singleness was venerated, Martin finally followed the call to be married and married a woman of strong character to whom he once said as she herself struggled with whom to marry, “You can ill afford to be fussy.”  Not the most romantic conversation, but they did indeed wed.

As for romance, Martin described his emotional relationship with Katie by saying, “I’m not madly in love, but I cherish her.”  Their passion was most seen in their commitment to one another as they talked and fought their way through figuring out how to live life together.  Luther spoke about their conflict by putting it into perspective; “Think of all the squabbles Adam and Eve must have had in their 900 years together.”  All marriages must figure out romance and conflict, one may seem arbitrary and the other unavoidable, but both are key players in a successful marriage.  As Martin and Katie discovered, both need our attention and time to experience an enjoyable and effective relationship.

As Katie and Luther’s marriage progressed throughout the years, Luther reflected upon it: “Marriage is like the wine of Cana, the best is saved for last.”  Marriages that last the distance often figure out how to negotiate, compromise, serve and love more fully as they have learned to embrace self-denial and live together “as one.”  We can glean several key principles from the Luther’s marriage of 21 years that help us navigate toward “the best which is saved for last.”

  1.  Marriage is a good gift from God. Asceticism is to deny ourselves, to sacrifice ourselves harshly in order to attain a level of spiritual maturity.  It embraces the idea of “do not do” as a way to holiness. Marriage at the time of Luther for those called into ministry flew in the face of such an attitude.  Instead of celibacy, the call of the reformers was to embrace the goodness of marriage which Paul purports in 1 Corinthians 7:7, “I wish that all were as I myself am (single).  But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind (single) and one of another (married).” While the apostle Paul embraced the single life, he in no way espoused that singleness was the only choice for a godly person.  Both positions, married and singleness, are choices that are good and godly in their own right. To raise one over another is neither helpful nor Biblically informed.
  2.  Husbands and wives were made to complement one another. Genesis 2:18, “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ ”  Men and women are different in many ways let alone that each person comes with their own unique personality. Marital competency, like cultural competency, requires embracing that which makes us similar as well as that which makes us unique.  And instead of having our unique attributes clash, we should strive to see how they complement one another. Our differences do not need to lead to bitterness, but a betterment of each person; we are better together than apart.

How did Martin and Katie better one another?  Martin’s stellar theological and biblical passion fed the flame of faith in Katie; Katie indeed was Martin’s biggest fan and most ardent scholar and delighted in learning from him.  Katie provided for Martin a home which nurtured his physical and emotional stability, both which he sorely need. This can be seen in the practical everyday matters that any married couple needs to navigate.  For example,

  • “Martin didn’t make his bed for a year.”  Beds were made of straw and if not tended to regularly, the straw would rot; such was the case for Martin. Katie entered the home and quickly corrected this situation as well as supplying her husband with a pillow (he never took the time to get one for himself).
  • “She ruled both her household and her husband, a situation which the latter accepted resignedly, since he was totally incapable of organizing the affairs of even the smallest household.  She brought order into his life and not always to his satisfaction.” While Martin did not always enjoy being organized, he thrived under the implementation of it. He enjoyed hot meals, bills being paid and medical care for himself and anyone in his household and home.  He did not always enjoy having his time usurped by necessary marital conversations or engagement in the mundane duties of the pastorate and yet, Martin Luther also said, “In domestic affairs I defer to Katie. Otherwise, I am led by the Holy Spirit.”
  • Katie was an ex-nun who was created to lead; she naturally stepped into situations of chaos and need and brought order and resolution.  Overseeing a home and making sure that it not only ran well, but was financially viable, was the “dream” job for Katie. Martin allowed her God-given talents to rise to the forefront of her life and encouraged her to thrive under the mantle of responsibility she wore.  She was known for her work and work ethic and serves as an inspiration for women to embrace industry with godliness.

3. Marriage takes work. In today’s world, obsessed with entertainment, work is something we work hard to get rid of or over with as quickly as possible.  If my “free” time is so prized that I see work as an inconvenience and not my duty or calling, then laziness is in danger of becoming a covert value of the home.  We can learn from the work that both Martin and Katie accomplished which we all now benefit from in our understanding of faith and family.

Facts of the Luther household:

  • 6 children, 6 nieces and nephews, 4 children from a friend who lost his wife in the plague.
  • A large number of guests were often found in the home including tutors for the 16 children as well as student borders; Martin gave nearly-daily lectures and spent countless hours teaching and writing.
  • Katie managed the farms, gardens, cattle, the livestock, and the family brewery.  The household was self-supporting by growing peas, beans, turnips, melons, and lettuce in the garden and grew 8 different fruits in the orchard.  She caught fish in the brook, and oversaw the taking care of 8 pigs, 5 cows, 9 calves, chickens, pigeons, geese, and a dog named Tolpel (translated, “idiot”).
  • The Luthers inherited another farm which Katie oversaw; she was also always looking to expand her real-estate ventures.

From marriage to being a good gift from God, to gender complementation to work both within and outside the home, we have a marvelous opportunity to reflect on what we learn from observing the Luther household.  We can start by asking ourselves these questions:

  • How might I have bought into the unfair and unnecessary dichotomy of holding one position as more valuable than the other – singleness vs. marriage?
  • What areas of responsibility and giftedness do I need to appreciate more in my spouse?
  • If work is inherently required in marriage, where do I struggle in my attitude and action when it comes to fulfilling my responsibilities to the family (where am I selfish with my time and efforts)?

Dear Reader, I am always convicted as I learn from those around me, especially the saints of old like Martin and Katie Luther.  What an opportunity for us to learn from watching how they navigated the waters of marital bliss. May we always be learners and never miss a teachable moment that can lead to our own sanctification for ourselves and home.

Learning with you!  Fondly, Elizabeth

 

Teachable Moments

Do It Again

“Memory is the diary we all carry with us.” -Oscar Wilde

We are what we remember. Our memories are the framework in which we paint our current life. When we forget or we choose not to remember, we are similar to a sailboat who has lost its sail out in a stormy sea – no direction, no control, and you don’t know where you’re going to end up. You hope you’re going to land in a good spot, but there are no guarantees.

Memories serve to anchor us.  Memories should be harnessed; we should use them to learn from and move toward growth. This is true for us as individuals; it also applies to our love lives.  We fall more in love with one another as well as navigate conflict resolution, time management, financial decisions and even romance when we learn from what we have already done.

It’s no surprise that at the beginning of our love life, we intentionally do things to attract and enjoy our partner.  We put a great deal of focused energy and make choices to nurture the relationship, to flourish both in our behaviors and our emotions.  We do what we do so love can be grounded and grow. We want to make it work, usually at all costs.

This focus is exactly what Revelations 2 talks about in regard to the church of Ephesus.  The relationship between the church and God isn’t about their ability to do the necessary hard work that is required for all relationships to survive nor their ability to survive the hard times; it is that they forgot the winsome, adoring behaviors that were done in the beginning of their love life. “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Rev. 2:3-5

Reviving our love lives means we take a hard look at what we did in the very beginning. We learn from HOW we fell in love and repeat that which made our love thrive.

 

  1. Communication – “Lots, frequent, consistent about everything” are how we could honestly assess our conversations at the beginning of our romantic relationships.  I remember my husband and I spent hours in the middle of the night talking on the phone as we started seriously dating. We could not get enough “air time” as we wanted to know everything about the other person. And it wasn’t about bullet point facts – we wanted to know who the other person was in their being, in their heart, mind and soul.  
    • In our relationships today, do we put the same effort and attention into wanting to understand and explore the other person’s thinking and desires? Is my attitude one of “I still want to know you more?”
  2. Time investment – It takes time for relationships to become established.  It takes time to preserve our relationships and help them become healthy and strong.  Quality and quantity of time are not enemies, nor do we choose between one or the other. Both quality and quantity of time are required for relationships to prosper.
    • In our relationships today, do we invest the time both in quality and quantity that is required for our love to develop in a resilient and sustainable way?
  3. Focus on the “lovely” – When I was dating my husband, if you had asked me what I loved about him, I could have gone on and on for days. And honestly, I still could. Yet, like most relationships, it is easy to get into the habit of a critical viewpoint and notice the challenges more than the charms of the relationship. By nature, we as people can be very judgmental. Making sure that our negative judgments are not larger than our positive ones is a key to a thriving love life.
    • In our relationships today, do we practice the discipline of positive regard in which I build up the one that I love more than tear them down, both when I am speaking to them or when I am thinking about them?

Dear Reader, I encourage you to think back in time and to remember what you did in the beginning that caused you to fall in love in the first place.  Make your memories work for you both in your love life with people and with your God. Let us be doers of the word in Revelation 2, not just hearers. What wisdom we can glean from our memories if we but take the time to inventory what “we did at first” when love was new and awe-inspiring?

Praying this year’s Valentine’s Day brings joy to your soul. You certainly bring joy to mine!  

Blessings and Love Abundant, Elizabeth