Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Are Target's Bathrooms Safe?

Pop quiz: 

Pretend you're a bathroom traffic cop in a busy mall. It's your job to direct each person who approaches you to the bathroom most appropriate for them to use. Let's test your skills right now.

To which bathroom would you direct this person?

How about this sweet kid?

And this guy?

How'd you do? Did you direct the first two people to the ladies' room and the third person to the mens' room? If so, your score is 0%

Wait, what? 

The first person is Laverne Cox, American actor and Emmy nominee. Born male.
The second person is 15 year old Jazz Jennings, reality TV star on TLC. Born male.
The third person is Ben Melzer, German spokesmodel. Born female.

The dividing line between the genders isn't as clear if you judge only by outward appearances, is it? But I've been hearing something a lot lately from conservatives, even public figures I usually agree with, like Matt Walsh who blogs over at The Blaze. They're proposing that the public bathroom gender issue is a simple one. There's the normally gendered and accordingly dressed people, and then there's the mentally ill and confused people who are forcing us all to accept them in OUR bathrooms. Either/or. If you were born with male genitalia, use the men's room. If you were born with female genitalia, use the women's room. Simple, right? This will prevent dangerous predators from exposing women and children to danger.

This logic has several problems, however. 

1.  The most basic problem is the fact that transgender people have been using public bathrooms all along. Gasp! They are already among us!! This issue is centuries old; it's just getting attention now. Just because you've had the illusion that you've only been sharing public bathrooms with people of your own gender (give or take a few babies and toddlers) doesn't mean it's the case. This means that the need to educate ourselves and our kids about personal safety and common courtesy has always been there. You don't need to suddenly boycott Target, as if that will fix it. Chances are, you and your kids have already used a bathroom with a transgender person and haven't been the wiser. 

2.  Another problem is the fact that it's not actually transgender people who pose a threat. It's sexual predators. It's the rape culture that we live in, where people's bodies are seen as objects to be sized up for their possible usefulness rather than vessels carrying tender human souls. Being transgendered doesn't equate to being a predator. Some would argue that all males, regardless of how they "identify," pose a threat to females, even if it's only in the form of voyeurism, and therefore shouldn't be in their bathrooms. But there's no possible way to substantiate that. Being born male and having a male brain doesn't always mean sexual attraction to females. And being female doesn't necessarily mean attraction to males. If the discomfort comes from using the restroom in close proximity to someone who finds you sexually attractive, then by that logic, lesbians shouldn't be in women's bathrooms either! Again, this issue is far beyond simple. How should we respond?

Relax your scrolling finger for a sec, OK?

Let's not start formulating rebuttal comments in our heads quite yet. I'm going to lovingly encourage you, especially if you're a conservative Christian, to pause for a moment and try to see this issue from an opposing viewpoint. You can show compassion and try to understand someone without having to agree with them. 

To be clear, I am NOT saying that I agree with what gay and transgender people stand for. I'm not even saying that transgenderism is a good thing. I don't believe it solves anything. I do believe that each person is fearfully and wonderfully made, and that each person's gender is part of who God made them from birth. I don't believe males and females are interchangeable. I believe they are different for important and beautiful reasons. I'm not here to debate that. My concern is for how we treat people who identify themselves as gay and transgendered, how we speak about them around others, and how we encourage others to treat them. Do we treat them with compassion and humility, or do we label them as inferior and speak about them with mockery and disdain?

We live in a twisted, messed up world where gender wires get crossed for a myriad of reasons. 

Just one example: a couple generations ago, a rash of horribly toxic drugs came into popularity, and many were prescribed to pregnant moms. One was called DES. Doctors prescribed it widely, and not just to high risk mothers, to prevent miscarriage. That one drug is still passing hormonal and sexual dysfunction into the third generation. If my mom had taken it, it would affect my grandkids!

I'm not saying it's always the cause, but there are literally millions of people out there who were exposed to drugs like this. A good number of them might be feeling that they were born the wrong gender, simply because of a drug induced birth defect that is disrupting their hormones. Having such a physical issue is emotionally no different from being forcibly castrated, as people in many cultures throughout the world have been for centuries, and still are. This isn't a new issue. Jesus himself had great conversations with a eunuch (probably more than one). He didn't shun him; he treated him like any other person. Yet today, transgender people are being raised in a society that tells them, "Hey, if that's how you honestly feel, then you belong in this lifestyle over here." That's confusing!

And that's only one possibility among many, as to why some people spend their lives feeling like their body is a costume that doesn't fit. 

Without the grace of a loving God to help them sort through that, they must either live what they see as a lie, or change something. A relatively small number of brave ones attempt to live honestly by transitioning to the other gender. It's long, painful, expensive, complicated, and confusing. On top of that, it draws a ton of ridicule and labels like "deviant" and "pervert." 

With that in your mind, now imagine being a 15 year old transgendered child who looks like Jazz Jenner, and being forced to go into a restroom among grown men. Imagine the stares and whispers that might draw. Is Jazz a predator trying to leer at young girls? It sure doesn't seem that way. Imagine being Ben Melzer and being told that you are compelled by law to use the ladies' room. I guarantee it wouldn't go well 99% of the time, and there might even be vocal protests. Would you enjoy being glared at and told to leave? Neither would Ben, I imagine. Yet I've seen conservatives who vow to stand outside the women's bathrooms that their wives and kids are using, and chase away anyone who looks like Ben. Because only women should be in that bathroom. Wait, Ben IS a woman. Or... WAS. So you got what you wanted, but did you really want it? Is chasing Ben off the right and heroic thing to do, or did you just traumatize a woman? Gah. See what I mean?

Maybe you're even wondering at this point, why would God let someone be born gay or gender confused, even though he made us male and female, and forbids homosexual activity? I don't know. He lets people be born with rebellious hearts, too, even though he forbids sin. We're all desperately in need of his grace, no matter what our personal brand of temptation happens to be. And he says the world will know us by our love. I do know that!

"But these laws allow predators into our bathrooms," you might say. 

I hate to burst your bubble, but if you think that the stricter rules we used to have about gender assigned bathrooms were keeping out predators before, you're dreaming. If your only method of predator avoidance is reliance on posted signs, might I suggest you reconsider how you handle your personal safety anyway? A determined rapist or peeping tom will find an opportunity. Allowing transgendered people in doesn't make that any more or less likely. Yes, it is true that you're less likely to have a manager on your side nowadays if you take the time to complain that there's someone in the wrong bathroom. That is a sad side effect. But as I said above, a person wanting to use a different bathroom than the one assigned to them at birth doesn't automatically mean that their sole aim in life is to do things that make you uncomfortable. My goal isn't to write a commentary on the rightness or wrongness of the policy, but rather to challenge you to consider what your response will be.

"Well, some people choose this lifestyle...

...and they shouldn't be allowed the same rights as me," you say. How are you going to know who qualifies? Who chose to be transgendered and who didn't? Interview each one? Just be mean to all of them? 

Let's let our response to all this mayhem be gentleness and respect. 

If this dreaded scenario should happen while I'm out, and a perverted, predatory person exposes himself to me, it changes nothing. I would still have the same opinion as I do now. You know why? He's only one person, not every person; and he certainly doesn't represent transgender people. Not only that, but by choosing to make me his victim, he has set himself up as my enemy. As such, that automatically qualifies him for a special brand of prayers and blessing. Jesus said this, not me. 

To wrap up... Are transgender people confused? Are they mentally ill? Did they choose their lifestyle? Were they born that way? I don't know; and honestly, as always, it's none of my business what they believe or why they make the choices they do. I am free to agree or disagree. What I am NOT free to do is spread fearful, hateful rhetoric that makes transgender people feel ganged up on, or blankets them in an inferior light. They aren't inferior, and we don't need to be afraid of them.

So I'm going to go on educating my kids about common sense bathroom safety, and using family restrooms where possible. I'll keep teaching them how to lovingly give the right of way to others, even if that means waiting until a male-looking person exits the restroom before we go in. I'm going to go on assuming that people are much more complicated than they appear, and that I can't pretend to understand what it's like to be them. I'm going to remember that they are human beings, made in God's image. He treasures them SO much, and I'm supposed to treat them as I would want to be treated. As I. would want. to be treated. So if I meet one, I'm going to smile and say hello. 

For my part, I don't think this bathroom thing is healthy or right for our society. But beyond that, I think transgendered people are PEOPLE. My message to them would be that they are SO cherished by God. I'd put my arm around them and say I don't know how or why their minds and bodies decided their gender didn't fit them, but the truth is they are fearfully and wonderfully made. The blood of Christ gives grace for all of this, and being in his family is a strong enough identity to help them work through all that. No it's not physically possible to change your DNA, but it is physically possible to have your hormones out of whack and then have society tell you to celebrate it and create an identity from it, and then have conservatives yell at you for it. I'm not going to be a yeller. I'm going to be a truth teller, but in a way that leads to HOPE.

I'm off to Target. I'll probably have to pee while I'm there. I'm good with that.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

4 Reasons I Still Say "Happy Holidays"

I'm about to show you something super controversial... Ready? Here it is:

Red Starbucks cups? Yes. If you find them both attractive and useful for hot beverages, and you're mystified as to why everyone's got their panties in a bunch about them, then you don't need to read this post. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you. If you find these cups offensive, or questionable, or sad, because they are void of Christmas imagery, kindly read on.

It's that time of year again. I don't mean football. I mean that time of year when people start grouching about the stores putting out their Christmas displays too soon, fighting over which is the right day to start playing Christmas music, and my personal favorite... firing up their "Merry Christmas" campaigns. As in, "Merry Christmas" is the only correct way to greet someone at Christmastime. You might have guessed that I could do without everything I just listed. But for this post, I'm going to focus on just the last one. For some reason, it seems like a number of Christians are willing to be quite bristly about the phrase, "Happy Holidays." But I still love to hear it and say it. Here's why:

1. Not all holidays are Christmas. 

And Happy Holidays to you, sir. :)
It's certainly appropriate to wish someone a "Merry Christmas" around Christmas time. But you have a very narrow view indeed if you believe that everyone else is putting the same level of emphasis on December 25th as you are. You have neighbors celebrating Winter Solstice, Festivus, Channukah, and Kwanzaa. And guess what? They care about those days… a LOT. I'm not insisting you celebrate everyone else's traditions, or even agree with them. However, I am suggesting that you extend an olive branch. Do what you can to let others know you care, acknowledge that they are different, and don't reject them as people because of those differences. Treat others the way you want to be treated… haven't I heard that somewhere before? Oh yes, from the Christ of Christmas.

I personally plan to celebrate many holidays (and say "Happy Holidays!" to many people) in the upcoming months. Here's the short list:

Nov. 8th—Aid and Abet Punsters Day (Yesss! "Abet" you'll celebrate it now, too. Nyuk nyuk.)
Nov. 13th—World Kindness Day
Nov. 14th—Lighten Up Day
Nov. 21st—World Hello Day
Nov. 28th—National Flossing Day
Nov. 30—Stay Home Because You're Well Day
Dec. 1—Eat A Red Apple Day
Dec. 5—Bathtub Party Day
Dec. 7—Pearl Harbor Day
Dec. 9—National Pastry Day
Dec. 13—International Children's Day
Dec. 16—National Chocolate Covered Anything Day
Dec. 18—Bake Cookies Day
Dec. 19—Look For An Evergreen Day
Dec. 21—Look on the Bright Side Day

Coincidentally, Humbug Day is on Dec. 21st as well, but I won't be celebrating it. If you plan to, we can still be friends. 

2. Taking the time to wish ANYbody a happy ANYthing is an act of kindness that should not go unheeded. 

People can't tell by looking at you what your beliefs are (unless you're cutting them off in traffic with a Jesus fish on the back of your car). They don't know which of the various holidays you plan to celebrate. So insisting they pick the word "Christmas" when they greet you is a bit passive-aggressive in this culture, don'tcha think? Imagine getting a dramatic eye roll after saying "Merry Christmas" to an atheist. Awkward, right? Don't make other people feel like that. The phrase "Happy Holidays" is right up there with, "Have a nice day" and "Enjoy your weekend." Wouldn't you normally smile and say "thank you"? You wouldn't raise an eyebrow and pass some kind of mental judgment on someone who wished you a nice day. So… don't do it to people who wish you a nice November/December/January time of gladness, in whatever form it takes! This is Basic Kindness 101. Besides, holidays (all of them) are supposed to be about remembering something. Christmas is about Love Incarnate. Be a reflection of that by at least showing some friggin' flexibility about greetings.

3. People in general need to get some historical perspective.

If you really want to insist that people follow "ye olde" Christmas traditions to the letter, then you should probably be aware of several things…  

First, the original sense of the word "merry" used to mean "drunken frivolity." So you're actually wishing them a day of frat-style boozing and gluttony. But hey, let's be traditional.

Second, the word "holiday" comes from the Old English for "holy days" so it's not exactly less Christian to use it. Similarly, the word "Xmas" hasn't really taken any liberties, because it comes from the Greek letter "X" (or chi), which was the first letter used to spell Christ. 

But what about the word "Christmas"? That's in the Bible, right? Actually, no. It comes from the Old English words Cristes moesse or "Christ Mass." Like "celebration for Christ." But people didn't even start using it, or institute the official celebration we recognize today, until 300+ years after Christ was born. I can imagine He is quite annoyed about all those birthday parties the early Christians forgot to throw for Him. (Not really.) The story of His birth is in Scripture as a matter of historical record, as proof that He fulfilled multiple prophecies made centuries beforehand. This is a gift to us, to build our faith, not a celebration requirement to get into heaven, or even a word we're required to say. So relax!  

Third, historically speaking, it's more likely that Jesus was born sometime in late summer or early autumn. The early Church actually hijacked December 25th to celebrate Christ's birth because it was already the date of a pagan festival celebrating the birth of the sun. There's nothing like having to choose which party to attend to make a social statement for Christ! In modern times, this implies that you should be throwing Jesus a birthday barbecue in September. You haven't been? How careless of you. I'm sure He's annoyed. (Not really.) 

"Set up the holiday tree right over there, guys!"

4. To people who don't have Christ to begin with, saying, "Keep Christ in Christmas" makes you sound like a paranoid jackass. 

The exact verbiage with which you greet a total stranger in a grocery store has no bearing on whether Christ will be part of their Christmas. That's because they have not submitted themselves in faith to His authority. Their world view has nothing to do with His kingdom. He doesn't slide off his throne one millimeter for every person who says "Happy Holidays," but you're making it sound like He does. His kingdom would be a flimsy thing indeed if a "Merry Christmas" button campaign was all it took to make the world right again. His miraculous birth, sinless life, innocent death, and conquering resurrection are what make the world right again. And someday, everyone will acknowledge that. The Holy Spirit will make that happen. Not Christmas greeting nitpickers.

M e R r Y  C h R i S t M a S


Y  ! ;)

References for further reading:

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

You Know He Loves You If He Puts Away Your Curling Iron

The man I married loves me, and I have definitive proof.

Is it this lovely diamond ring he gave me?
I've worn it for 14 years, and it cost him roughly two months' pay at the time. It IS fabulous and meaningful. You probably thought that's what I was going to say. But as much as I love the ring, he did buy it while he was seriously twitterpated. Now it's more of a symbol of commitment and a sign to others that I'm very, very off the market. And I assure you, if I were ever abducted by thieves, I'd eat it. But no, it's not that.

Is it the kisses and hugs?
Those are important. No, I'll be honest, those are like crack. I'm addicted! But it's not that, because kisses and hugs are fun all around and don't really require sacrifice (unless one of us forgot to shower).

Is it the long talks, Facetime conversations and texts?
Those connections are vital to maintaining our friendship and that feeling of family that The Captain and I have with each other. They're also good for keeping each other updated… "Hey, the car needs gas before tomorrow morning." "Don't forget about Sweet Pea's concert tonight." "Did you realize Mr. Boy knows how to totally naked himself now?" But no, it's not that either.

Here's the proof—he puts my curling iron away for me. 

Maybe that sounds random to you, but it touches my heart in a deep place. We have a small bathroom with little room for appliances on the counter. I have a small attention span with little room for distraction. So between my getting distracted a lot while I'm waiting for my curling iron to cool down, and the outlet being on his side of the counter, that curling iron is in his way pretty often. He told me this one time. Only once. 

I know for a fact when he puts it away, because I do it like this:

And he does it like this:

Am I saying there's only one correct method of putting away a small appliance? 
Nope. I'm just saying that every time I get it out of the drawer, I can tell who put it in there. I'm sheepish to admit, I usually find it being strangled by its own cord, meaning he stepped in quietly and took care of it. For the umpteenth time. And that becomes a love note to me, letting me know that I am accepted, flaws and all.

Should I probably work on being more considerate in this area? 
Definitely. I do feel a tiny pang of guilt for putting him out of his way. But this post is more to celebrate those little moments when a spouse's love and humility can turn a potential source of irritation into a symbol of abiding faithfulness in action. Yes, it's just a curling iron. A small thing. But small things can have profound meaning. Just ask the couple on the verge of divorce, who claim the other person doesn't love them. Why? Because he stopped saying "I love you." Because she stopped encouraging him. Because the other person would never replace the toilet paper. Little things.

He has every reason to grow impatient over my forgetfulness, snap at me, or even retaliate by leaving whisker dust all over the sink. But he doesn't. Instead, he just puts the curling iron in the drawer and forgives me. Every time. And by doing that, he's changing my life. Every time.

The Captain

What are some ways your spouse or loved one shows you symbolic love in action?
Do you let them know you've noticed and appreciate it?
What can you do to show love to them?

Leave a comment! :D

Monday, March 24, 2014

5 Ways to Get Creative In Bed

I have been having trouble in bed for a while now. I'd love to take all the credit for that with my late-night blogging sessions, but I'd be remiss if I didn't give props to my kids for helping make me this way too. There are lots of hints and tips out there for overcoming the problems I'm having, but I can be a tough nut to crack. I get in bed, and things just don't go the way they should! So I've been researching some other, more inventive means to get there. Other means that don't involve vodka mixed with Ovaltine, that is. 

Here's how I get creative in bed:


That's right. If someone is trying to sleep next to you, stare at them. It's not only fascinating and creeptastic, it will finally afford you the time to count their eyelashes while making up a song to go with their nose whistle. If it's a good song, you can also hum quietly. After a while, you'll be so bored you won't know what hit you till morning.

If nobody's in bed with you, then focus on Jesus. Blow up this photo and stick it to your ceiling: 

If you stare at it until your eyes water, then when you close your eyes, you'll see an artistic rendering of Euro-Jesus (or possibly just some random hipster) floating across your retinas. Sweet.

Play footsie. 

Invite small children, a cat, or your neighbor's pet parrot to play at the foot of your bed for an hour. That night, attempt to identify all of the random objects that have been left there, using only your feet. 


Hey, it works for babies! Roll yourself up in a sheet until you're in an inescapable burrito straightjacket. You'll be so exhausted from trying to escape that you'll fall right to sleep. Plus you can skip your morning workout. Win-win.

Hit the brewsky store.

Not for brewskies. For an ingredient… hops! Put some green hops into a sachet next to your pillow. Drift away into very German-smelling dreams. For reals, this is actually a thing! Like yourself, hops only get better (and smellier) with age.

Weird dreams.

This is the best one of all. It's every bit as good as falling asleep during a sermon, but with an extra dose of awesome. Bust out your favorite music listening app and pair it with your audiobook app. You haven't really experienced Little Women until you've heard it with Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive" playing in the background. The story of Jonah gets a lot more fun when played with the Hawaii Five-O theme. 

But the best one I've tried yet… the resurrection of Jesus from Matthew 28 to the theme from Superman. 


So that's how I fix my insomnia... Wait, what did you THINK I was talking about?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

10 Ways to Stop Bad Behavior Before It Starts

This blog post is for myself, primarily. Feel free to eavesdrop if you wish! 
These are parenting lessons I've learned both from experience with my Short People and from people far wiser than I am. 
I tend to operate best when I live by these principles, but I often forget them until after a potentially awesome moment has passed with a sad trombone "wah-wah-wwaaahhhh" of mediocrity. So I've decided to collect them all in one place, for my own reference. Maybe they'll help you too! It's just extra awesome that they all somehow start with the same letter. *wink wink!*

Here's what happens. 
I get absorbed in a task that has me completely preoccupied. I'm making good progress, and then it occurs to me that my children are eerily quiet. I go into the next room, and there's the reason: a wayward child has procured a bag of Oreos and a box of Sharpies to create an original masterpiece on his bedroom wall! Uhhh… for example.

My best move at that point is to take pictures. Y'know, for… posterity. Then I suck it up and bust out the Magic Erasers. Because when stuff like this happens, I know that the blame rests squarely on my own shoulders. I was tuned out.

But this doesn't just happen with little kids. It happens in a more insidious way with my older ones who start to drift away from me emotionally or relationally. It doesn't happen overnight. Little by little, their moorings loosen until I realize their chores are in an awful state or they're trying to solve matters of the heart by watching My Little Pony. Where was I?

So here's the battle plan: 
10 big ideas to parent PROactively, rather than REactively… because so much poor behavior begins way before I see it.

1. Interact

I can interest myself in my child's world through interaction. 
Just like me, my child has an inner life, big feelings, opinions, perceptions, loves, and desires. He is building his world whether I'm ready or not—so we'll build a world together! My curiosity and enthusiasm for who he is will keep our hearts close. It will grant me precious influence and trust.

2. Invest

I must devote time to care for my child emotionally, spiritually, and physically. 
I find that a huge percentage of the cases when misbehavior is a result of "acting out," it's because I've got a hungry or sad child who needs investment and I've let them go too long without it. I know it sounds absurdly obvious, but I find it easy to forget even the simplest things sometimes, like a snack. Why is this child so cranky?? Oh yes, because he ate three hours ago and he's in a growth spurt. He's too little to say, "Mother dear, it would appear that my blood sugar is crashing and my brain is awash in stress hormones." Keeping an eye on the clock so I know when his last calories and decent romp in the dirt happened is something I can do. I just have to do it. 
Why is this girl so mopey? Oh yes, possibly because she got off the bus an hour ago and I have said nothing to her but "Do your homework," "Feed the dog," and "Put your backpack away." She needs to hear that I missed her. She needs to tell me that the class had to undergo group punishment for the offenses of some. She needs a hug! Taking time to look into her eyes and hear her is something I can do. I just have to do it. 

3. Include

I can involve my kids in my daily activities as much as possible. 
This is not new advice, but I need to heed it more often! All my kids, but particularly my littlest, start acting persnickety when they feel just plain left out!
My pastor just made a comment last weekend that God is a good dad who likes to take his kids to work with him. We don't make his job any easier; in fact, we often make it harder. But he lets us help because of how much we grow from it. That resonated with me because I tend to focus on how much longer a job will take if I have "helpers." I forget that I can be using those times as an opportunity to instill a love for hard work and camaraderie in my kids. Plus, if they're with me, then I can see what they're doing at all times!

4. Instruct

It's only fair that I train my child to do what is expected, step by step. 
This seems obvious too, but I can't count the number of times I've been frustrated that my kids didn't "know any better" about how to act. Why should they? How does this information get into their heads? I have to put it there. Of course they chew with their mouths open. Of course they leave their belongings everywhere. Of course they touch ALLOFTHETHINGS. It's human nature! If I want a different result, I'll have to teach them strategies for how to get there. I'll have to train their memories over time. 
How would I feel if I got a new job that required on-the-job training, and immediately got into trouble with my boss for not knowing what to do? I'd feel like I'd gotten the shaft! I would want to be trained and given feedback to improve, not learn by trial and error by being yelled at every time I made a mistake. 
In the same way, my tender kiddos learn best when I teach them what to do in a positive, low-pressure environment. I can have them restaurant ready a lot faster by mocking up a few candlelight dinners at home and letting them practice than I can by tossing them into a noisy, crowded dining room full of strangers and then yanking out my hair when they act like they've never been in a restaurant before! 

5. Illustrate

I absolutely must model the behavior I'm asking from my child. 
This one sucks sometimes. It pokes my lazy bone a bit. I really shouldn't be eating cereal straight out of the box if I've just told my kids not to. I should keep my own room clean if I expect my kids to clean theirs. Ouch, right? I know. Yes, parents have authority and kids don't. Parents could technically get off the hook with some kind of philosophical argument here. But every time I make myself a hypocrite, I am courting rebellion. It's only a matter of time before intelligent kids ask why I don't live what I teach. So I'd better live what I teach. If I'm not prepared to do that, best not to draw a line. 

6. Inspect

Gotta make sure that what I've asked them to do is actually being done. 
This is where I often fall down. Just issuing orders is not enough when we're dealing with human beings. I have to follow up! I hate to say it, because I love my kids, but they will naturally tend toward ease and forgetfulness. Count on it. I can hand a child a carrot and tell her to eat it, but if I never check on her, I will find that same carrot shriveled up in a drawer six months later. Not that I've had this happen, mind you.
Kids need accountability. I need to check in respectfully and often. Get them understanding that nothing gets by me. They WILL be caught, because Mom has (loving) eyes everywhere.

7. Insulate

It's important I respect my kids' temptation limits, and bear them in mind. 
Remember that part of the Lord's Prayer where Jesus teaches us to request of God, "Lead us not into temptation"? After having kids, I'm starting to have a theory about why that is. I know I'm weak in certain areas. What if, on the way to an important meeting, I encounter a room full of Krispy Kreme donuts and screens playing Doctor Who reruns? I'd have a real fight on my hands getting to that freakin' meeting. What if I knew that if I called ahead, someone could lock that door so I don't even have to see all that irresistible, frosted, wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey goodness? What a relief that would be! 
God tells us he never gives us more temptation than we can bear, but with any temptation, he provides a way of escape. I need to be that same kind of parent. Resisting temptation is a skill that has to be developed over time. Put too much tantalizing stuff out there, and the poor kid will feel defeated. Child-proof the house TOO much, and they never get to practice. This is where planning and paying attention have to happen, and laziness on my part will absolutely kill my efforts. I'll have to watch carefully in order to know my child, know what they're ready to take on. Put some stuff away, leave some stuff out. Cheer when they succeed. Make them sit in one spot if they're not ready to roam the house with a PB&J sammy. Insulate them from taking on too much temptation so they can succeed. 

8. Influence

I have to remember that the things my kids take in will shape their behavior. 
Many people have studied and written on the effects of sugar, chemicals, poor nutrition, violent media, and a host of other factors on kids' behavior. So I'm not here to rehash that stuff. I need to educate myself in those areas and then act accordingly. That's what common sense is for. Kids will generally mimic what they see on TV, and many kids are sensitive to the foods they eat. Do these things determine their fates with absolute fatalistic certainty? Nope. But they don't leave them untouched either. 
If I want my kids sparring and busting ninja moves on each other, by all means, I'll turn on movies full of action sequences. If I want my daughter waiting for a prince to come kiss her and planning her wedding day like it's the grand finale of her life, then I'll break out the princess flicks. I've seen both of these happen within a predictable 15-minute window of the closing credits.
But influence isn't just about what to avoid. I can turn it to the positive, too.
I can influence creativity by providing toys and art supplies that require imagination. I can nurture gratitude by creating opportunities to serve and give to others. I can surround my kids with people who are worth emulating. Because they will emulate! 

9. Independentize 

Yes, that is a word. I looked it up. 
This means I'm gradually training my kids to handle being alone, while building my trust in them. "Character is who you are when nobody's watching." I can't always watch. Someday my kids will be on their own. I can't let that day sneak up on me. I have to plan for it now. Yes, this means giving them more and more responsibility and less and less supervision. But it doesn't just mean trying not to hover while (somewhat suspiciously) hoping they come through. It means that even now, before they're ready, I can ignite their imaginations with a vision of what gaining another's trust means. I can inspire them with the privileges that maturity brings. I don't have to force them into early adulthood, but I certainly don't have to neglect them into lingering adolescence either. Milestones are exciting, and I'm going to be a great tour guide. 

10. Intercede

I need to pray for my kiddos!

The easiest, the hardest, the most important one of all. All the mom mojo in the world isn't going to be enough without this important step. Nuff said.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Slow To Speak

I have had so little to say lately.  See the starfish?  Self portrait.

My last blog post was over two weeks ago, but each time I've attempted to put some thoughts down since then, I've found I really don't have anything that original to say. I imagine you, dear reader, skimming halfway through it and realizing you just wasted five minutes of your day reading something that numerous others have already said in some form.

I can't think of much to share on Facebook either. 

My status updates are half as numerous, and they're mostly about my kids. I change my mind and delete about 90% of the comments I'm about to post, because I'm not convinced that they'll actually make anybody's day better.  Someone in my friend list posted an emotional plea yesterday, trying to persuade others to agree with her about a hot-button parenting issue. I'm not one for arguing just for the sake of arguing, especially about issues like this one, but quite often I'll chime in and encourage people to look at facts and decide with their heads rather than out of fear. But last night, after crafting a reply and making it as diplomatic and tactful as I could, I just couldn't hit "Enter." The chance of being misinterpreted was too great. I pasted it into a private message instead. I tweaked it to be more personal and less general. I still couldn't send it. In my mind, it seemed far-fetched that my words would suddenly sway her, not even from her opinions, but just from her crusading battle tactics. Quite out of character, I decided that deleting the whole thing and letting it go seemed more like the loving thing to do.

This is all very weird for me.

I'm never at a loss for words. Refraining from having my thoughts like a rotating sprinkler head on full blast has really been more my problem in life. It's not like I've suddenly decided to stop talking. It's happening quite without my intervention. It seems to be step 2 in the process God is doing in my heart. The first step was beginning my education on pain (which you can read about by clicking HERE). Now it seems that He's literally taking away my ability to articulate a quick opinion about everything. I think this falls into the miracle category, seriously. If I can come up with one at all, I have doubts about expressing it. For the first time in my life, I'm experiencing what it's like to be truly slow to speak.

"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person
be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger..." —James 1:19

Is it okay to be this quiet?

I think so. :) Social media create the opposite environment, making it easy for me to be anything but quiet. I think that as a society, we're getting to the point where we expect to hear about every dessert people make and every pumpkin their kids sit on. I'm certainly not saying that's a bad thing, and I enjoy the convenience of being able to reach so many friends so quickly. But from where I'm sitting, it's also starting to look like another way to talk without thinking. I'm starting to question, is what I'm about to say going to benefit anyone? The majority of the time, no. Is this a sign that I'm depressed and having low self-esteem? I don't think so. 

But I looked it up, just to make sure...

"When words are many, transgression is not lacking, 
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent." —Proverbs 10:19

"A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, 
but only in expressing his opinion." —Proverbs 18:2

And my personal favorite:

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, 
but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, 
that it may give grace to those who hear." —Ephesians 4:29

I combed through the Bible just to make sure there wasn't a verse in there about being entitled to my opinions or speaking often so that people can really know me. I got nothing. It was very un-American. It kept saying in various ways that I am created to know God and help others know Him, not me. And it also seemed to indicate that the more I say, the more potential I have for getting myself into trouble. I can certainly attest to that. I keep waiting for the sprinkler head to come back on and spew out all those opinions I used to be so proud of. I have no guarantee that it won't ever happen.

But it seems like the more I understand of God, the quieter I get.

...Leave me a comment! :D