Teachable Moments

Everyday Celebrations

If you don’t have to choose, don’t.  Try and say “yes” to whatever you can, as long as it is not illegal, immoral, unethical or ungodly.  For example, one hot summer day many summers ago, my children and myself had just spent a day working in the yard.  We all deserved a treat after all that weed pulling, mulch laying, and flower planting, so off to our local ice cream parlor it was.  When we got there, it seemed like every other family in the area had the same idea so we had plenty of time to contemplate our choices. However, when we stepped up to the register, my daughter just could not make up her mind.  What a pleasure it was to say to her, “get both.” Why choose between Birthday Cake and Cookie Dough ice cream if you don’t have to? In fact, put them both in a bowl and pour on the hot fudge, with whipped cream and sprinkles.  Go big, or go home. This wasn’t an everyday occurrence, but occasionally, when choices did not have to be made, we didn’t. We exercised this privilege on trips to Florida when we stopped at gas stations or when we went to the $5 movie with $1 treats on a Wednesday matinee for children and one adult.  Special times deserve special choices.

These exceptional moments made our everyday lives exceptionally fun.  Sometimes they were planned, but more often than not, it was a moment that had crept up and just couldn’t be ignored or treated casually.  These extraordinary times allowed us as parents to exercise generosity and to let our children know that we not only noticed, but celebrated them.  The moment was not just about what had taken place, but with whom we had been with in the moment.  

I believe when I was aware of the moment, reflected on how best I could show my love and appreciation in the moment, and then acted on an immediate plan of celebration, I loved my children well.  It wasn’t just what had happened situationally, it truly was that I was getting the opportunity to enjoy that moment with them.

Biblically, there are many examples of people exercising extraordinary moments because of how they experienced God with them.  God was powerful and very present and the people responded in praise.

  • Genesis 12:7 – God appeared to Abram as he entered the promised land and spoke with Him.  Abram built an altar of praise, showing worship to God in the moment.
  • Luke 1:39-56 – The spontaneous praise of both Elizabeth and Mary filled Zechariah’s house as together, expectant Moms, they rejoiced, being with one another in the moment, glad and thankful for what God was doing.
  • 2 Chronicles 20:17 – When God announced to Israel at the time when King Jehosophat was on the throne that He would fight the battle and win on their behalf, Jehosophat and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem bowed down and fell to the ground in worship.  They stopped everything and physically, together, acknowledged God’s promise, power and promise through an immediate act of worship.

Beyond these biblical examples, God promises to be with us from the lips of Jesus (Matthew 28:20), “And, surely, I am with you always to the very end of the age.” This is the great joy of the Christian life – that our God is with us.  And it is what makes everyday moments exceptional in our families – taking the time to remember that being with one another can take an ordinary day and make it extraordinary.  What makes movies fun or runs to the ice cream parlors? Being with one another.  

Dear Reader, I hope you look around today and see the people God has put into your life that you are with, especially if you have the privilege of being with family.  Remember to celebrate the moments not just because of a situation, but because of these people with whom you get to share life.  What a privilege to live this life together!

May you enjoy both kinds of ice cream flavors today, and enjoy the blessing by being with those whom you love.  

Fondly yours, Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

The days are long; the years are short

I recently had a lovely day with my adult daughter, chatting over lunch and diving into some retail therapy.  As we engaged in the hunt for a new pair of workout clothes, I reminisced how different shopping was now compared to 22 years ago when my daughter was a toddler.  I watched the young Moms in the shopping center, pushing strollers and attempting to pacify children who were hungry or in a need of a nap. I, on the other hand, was thoroughly enjoying a quiet day, strolling through the shops, sipping a Vanilla Almond Latte, conversing about everything and nothing with my 20-something, newly-married daughter.  Wow – what a difference 22 years can make.

I remember those days back then. There were moments when I thought they would never end.   I would never sleep a full night, never take a shower without being interrupted, or never eat a warm meal again – ever.  The days were long. At times – never ending long.

At the same time, the years are short.  It went so quickly. I remember the dance recitals with tiny pink tutus and itty-bitty ballet shoes.  I remember the play dates, Bible times, and early Saturday morning pancakes. I remember as the years went by trying to figure out schedules and which sports, lessons, and activities should or should not be signed up for.  Figuring it all out was stressful, time-consuming and when it all went right, a joy. I loved cheering from the sidelines, commiserating over an unfair call, or offering a hug when defeat was hard to swallow. I loved being my daughter’s Mom.

Time is hard for parents to put in perspective.  At the time when newborns and toddlers fill the house, the days seem long, but after they are done, indeed – the years are short.  It seems time is a game we can never win. Time is not so much an ally, but an adversary. Understanding this and gaining God’s view on time is the key to making the most of the time we have.

When did time start to go wrong?  I would suggest we find the answer at the beginning of Genesis.  When death as a consequence for sin entered the world, time went wrong.  Prior to death, we were created with an intention of living forever with God in a state of peace.  But with rebellion, man no longer walked with God, but ran from Him and instead of enjoying endless days, knew that the days of one’s life would come to an end.  Death creates a tension in our relationship with time that heaven will, thankfully, erase.

Eternal life is the state in which time is no longer a Christian’s enemy.  As immortal souls, we are freed from this body of death and finite experience, and enter into the infinitude our soul longs for.  CS Lewis said, Though we cannot experience our life as an endless present, we are eternal in God’s eyes; that is, in our deepest reality” (Letters to Malcolm).

I as a Mom have lived most days by schedules, appointments and deadlines.  I have felt time move too slowly and too quickly; I have had too much time on my hands and more often than not, I have not had nearly enough of it.  Time is not comfortable for me and yet, I find myself mucking about in it every day. I have found that if I stop and consider life through God’s eternal eyes, I remember that this day isn’t so much a moment in time, but a moment that is part of God’s infinitude.  It is part of a bigger picture. If I remember that my life and its teachable moments are part of God’s bigger plan for me, then long, endless days seem less long because the purpose of even having this life grabs my attention. In addition, perhaps the years that seem too short seem more precious because of the path they created to where I am today.  An eternal perspective on the many years of parenting that are now behind me leads me to gratitude for the faithfulness of God as I navigated those years. How grateful I am for Him and His ever-present provision.

Dear Reader, may this week we look at our days and our years through the lens of eternity.  May we find strength in the days that are long by remembering we are a part of a bigger, eternal plan.  And for the years that are short, may we find ourselves able to give God thanks for the many ways He provided and for the many precious moments we enjoyed.

For this week, I pray God grants you an eye that looks at life through eternity.  Knowing as believers in Christ, we get to enjoy eternity together with our King, I rejoice in sharing my thoughts with you in this moment in time.  I hope they bless your days as you live out your years in light of the bigger reality of immortality.

As always – fondly yours, Elizabeth

Other CS Lewis Quotes on Eternity:

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. (Mere Christianity)

The difference God’s timelessness makes is that this now (which slips away from you even as you say the word now) is for Him infinite. (Letters, August 1949)

If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. (Mere Christianity)

 

Teachable Moments

Danger: Cumulative Screen Time for Little Ones

I tried to avoid it; I really did.  I didn’t like it and I didn’t want to deal with it.  Yet, I knew that if I didn’t deal with it now I’d regret it for years to come. So I faced it. I engaged. I chose to enter into conflict….with my preschooler.

I remember the years in which trying to set rules and boundaries with my little ones was more challenging than any other challenge I ever tackled.  I really didn’t look forward to saying things like, “Bedtime is in 5 minutes”, or “No, you may not eat that bag of cookies”, let alone – “Stop painting the dog white with the house paint!” and my favorite, “You will not spoon feed your little brother a bag of powdered sugar and spill it all over the carpet!

While I was wrestling over house paint and powdered sugar (which, by the way, is impossible to get out of carpet after children and a 100-pound Golden Retriever walked all over it), today’s parent wrangles over a less-messy yet more potent problem. Cumulative screen time for children in early childhood (children under the age of 5) has potential harmful effects which negatively affect a child’s development.

In a recent study of 2,441 children*, too much screen time before the age of 2 affects the results of developmental testing in these same children when they are 3-years-old. Consistent with these findings, 3-year-olds who have experienced excessive screen time show decreased developmental outcomes at the age of 5.  Bottom line, research shows that young children should not engage in more than 1 hour of cumulative screen time in a day. So practically, the cartoon before the play date, the iPad in the grocery store, and the computer game after dinner all add up to cumulative screen time. When you add all the screen time together, you don’t want to exceed 60 minutes (1 hour) a day.

How difficult is it for parents to abide by these wise guidelines?  Extremely. Often when children are engaging with a device it provides them an instant gratification, and as such they are likely to have a strong pull toward playing or watching it again and again. Like us, children can easily get hooked on screen time.

How do parents deal with the inevitable conflict that will result if they set and enforce limits on their child’s screen time?

  • Conflict should not be avoided and should be handled with gentleness and patience.  Limiting screen time will be disappointing for the child and may result in conflict, but it is also an opportunity to engage in discussion, spend time together, and teach the qualities of patience and delayed gratification. Help the child identify their disappointment and give them the emotional and verbal skills needed to express their feelings constructively to find alternative activities.
  • Children learn best through movement; they are kinesthetic learners as much as visual ones. Playing with hands-on games, puzzles, and blocks engages their brain in ways a screen never could.  Parents and caregivers alike can work toward understanding the stages of cognitive development of a child and what it takes to maximize a child’s potential for cognitive functions (critical thinking, decision making, creative solutions, etc.) by playing with their children and providing toys that require small and large motor movement.
  • Effective social learning, which takes place when eye contact is made in person, cannot be replaced with screen time.  Parents are encouraged not to “underestimate the value of face-to-face time” in which children learn how to empathize, express emotion, read facial and other nonverbal clues, and learn vocal as well as verbal communication.  Quality time is any time that parents and children are paying attention, listening, talking, and engaging with one another. Every day moments matter!
  • Setting boundaries on screen time is best done early in the child’s development.  A habit of non-screen time is a habit best started when the child is young and kept consistently as they grow.  Not only will the child’s potential for development be maximized, a child is never too young to start a life-long pattern of self-discipline in regard to technology use.
  • Encourage children to explore and be curious. Screen time often makes problem-solving and entertainment too easily accessible. Challenging children to work to overcome boredom or solve their problems engages the child in critical thinking, delayed gratification, and innovative creativity.

Dear Reader, I have a hunch that research will continue to show us the dangers of cumulative screen time. How can we help parents realize the dangers of setting their child in front of the screen too often? Consider passing on this blog post to the parents of preschoolers you know; join them in thinking through what and when screen time could be used in their home. At the same time, this is a great opportunity for each of us to take a serious look at how much time we spend in front of a screen. We can’t influence the Next Generation if we are not self-aware of how we ourselves are using screens. We can also thoughtfully consider how much face-to-face time we may be inadvertently giving up by picking up our screens without thinking through what we are giving up by picking them up. How precious is the time we get to spend in each other’s company without the distraction of a screen!

Many blessings as you seek to uses screen time wisely for you and your children.  

Fondly yours, Elizabeth

**The research study referred to in this article is taken from Madigan, Sheri, et. al. “Associates between Screen Time and Children’s Performance on a Developmental Screening Test.” JAMA Pediatrics. Published online 28 Jan 19. JAMA Network, URL: jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/2722666 **

 

Teachable Moments

What do children 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.

Dear Reader, here at Teachable Moments we want to help you flourish in your relationships and godly influence.  No more important arena for any of us are those people we love and cherish. Consider participating in our 28 day challenge, Pursue Peace, to challenge your own understanding and practice of the peace that God gives which surpasses our everyday understanding.  Only by challenging ourselves and practicing what we learn, will we possess the faith needed to influence and encourage our children to think rightly and love joyfully the God of our salvation.

Blessings to you and the precious children in your life.  

Fondly yours, Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

New Year’s Resolution

Happy New Year everyone!  The stats are in according to a wide range of articles, twitter accounts and other blogs:

  • 40 – 45% of all Americans make at least 1 New Year’s resolution on Jan. 1
  • Within 7 days, 25% of those resolvers have abandoned their resolutions
  • Weight loss focusing on getting more exercise, quitting smoking and money management top the resolution lists in the US consistently
  • Finding love usually tops the resolution list in Japan and Australia while meeting career goals win in India
  • The ancient Babylonians made the first resolutions to keep their gods happy
  • Jan. 1st is a 1st century Roman tradition; resolutions were made to Janus, the god of endings, beginnings, and the New Year as a grand gesture to keep him happy
  • A popularized contemporary resolution crossing cultures around the globe is a quest for a life filled with peace; how that peace is achieved is reflected in the values of the individual or people group

What can we learn from this list? Happiness and peace are found in grand gestures of intended change and often these intentions throughout the centuries have had some kind of spiritual significance whether they are accomplished or not.

Great – now that we know that, let’s ask the most important question – DO RESOLUTIONS WORK?  Simply, YES…..well, maybe. Here’s the key – if you don’t keep certain things in mind, you are almost certain to be part of the large group of humans who quit within the first week of January.  For your convenience, here’s the best Top 5 “keep in mind” ideas in order to change intention into action.

  1. Personality

Any resolutions made that fit your personality and the personality of your family work best.  Introverts – don’t make Extrovert goals; Extroverts – don’t make introvert goals.  Go with how God made you to be. (Fun Fact: It is easier to change your personality than your IQ.)

  1. Time

The resolution has to fit in your current calendar of events.  Your schedule today will help you meet your resolution tomorrow.  Gradually change what you normally do – wade in from the shallow end; don’t dive in head first into the deep end.

  1. Team Work

You are more successful when you work within a team.  Your family, church small group, friends….you choose.  But you can’t make and keep your intended change alone. You need others to support you and give you feedback; and oh yes, they need you!

  1. Patience

Reaching a goal takes time; don’t get discouraged when your path to accomplishment looks more like a winding path than a straight shot to the top.  Work, sacrifice and risk all take time and are all required to be successful in making good on your New Year’s Resolution.

  1. Don’t start on Jan. 1 (and if you did, feel free to reboot the resolution if you fail within the first few days)

Pick a date farther afield.  Putting extra pressure on yourself to start Jan. 1 is too much for most people.  By delaying your start date, you also give yourself plenty of time to make a plan that will more than likely help you succeed.

Putting all 5 Tips Into Practice

Here at Teachable Moments, we want to practice what we preach.  We’re taking up the gauntlet to work toward the newest and most widely embraced New Year’s Resolution – pursuing a life characterized by peace.  Starting Jan. 14 (NOT Jan. 1), we will provide a 28-day challenge entitled “Pursuing Peace” and keep our top 5 list in mind. With an intentional 5-minutes a day, we’ll take time in unique and varied ways to “set our minds on things above” (Col. 3:2) in order to discover “a peace that passes understanding” (Phil. 4:7).

Dear Reader, “You are never too late to be what you might have been.”  This anonymous 1881 author is correct – we still have time to do or be what we have wanted to do or be; it’s never too late to have a life where peace is at the core and is also the result of a life well-lived in Christ.  CS Lewis in Mere Christianity said, “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”   Here’s to 2019 and finding our happiness and peace in all the Teachable Moments He provides.

Can’t wait to live this next year with you and take up the challenge of Pursuing Peace! Blessings Abundant dear T.M. Reader and much love to you and yours.

Always His and Yours, Elizabeth