Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Self-Discipline: A Mother's Prayer

Learning a musical instrument takes discipline

Discipline. Ugh. Since the day I received my college diploma, I have studiously avoided anything that smacks of self discipline. A dozen years later, I still get flashes of Sunday night guilt, followed by a surge of relief that I have no homework due tomorrow!

Over the years I have managed to drop things that require too much of me, on the grounds that I don't want to be too busy. That has worked, and I do manage to keep respectably un-busy most of the time. But unfortunately, I still often take my celebration of un-discipline a little too far. I tend to be late everywhere I go. I usually pay the bills on the day or even the day after they're due. And just this morning my husband had to lovingly request that I wash up a clean pair of socks for him today. Trust me, I have paid my share of consequences for undisciplined behavior.

Since Maren started school last year, I have had to force myself back into the disciplined lifestyle. Up at the same early hour five days a week, in line to pick her up from school each day, activities, lunches, school clothes (as in, making sure the laundry is done so she has something respectable to wear each day). Not only do I want her to learn this skill in her own life, but I need it so I can get her where she needs to be on time each day. It's sometimes funny to me how important being on time is to me, while at the same time I seem to go out of my way to avoid preparing myself in order that I am able to be on time. Crazy, I don't even understand myself.

Now my need for personal discipline is becoming even more critical, as I am embarking on a journey of writing a book and attempting to get published. I have lots of time, but have to use it wisely in order to juggle menus, activities, MOPS leadership, small group leadership, bills, housework, a preschooler, and now intelligent writing time (did I mention we also have a baby on the way). Means not only declaring work time, but also planning ahead (more ugh!) to make sure I get to bed on time and am also emotionally available in the afternoons and evenings when the family is together. Talk about reorientation of my time management!

Today's Mother Prayer is something I desire for my kids, but also desperately need for myself. The opening verses of Proverbs declare that Solomon wrote his proverbs down for a few specific purposes: "for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair" (vv 2,3) as well as for giving prudence and understanding. The purposes are summed up with this explanation: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline" (v 7).

UGH! So not only am I going to have to give up wallowing in celebration of un-disciplined behavior, but I have to acknowledge that I am a fool until I do so!

But there is no time like the present for starting a new habit. So I pray this for my children, and ask that the Creator would shape and remake my heart as well.
May my children acquire a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair.
Guess I'll be spending a little more time in Proverbs this week. Maybe it will rub off on me.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Passion for God: A Mother's Prayer

Psalm 63:8 says "My soul follows hard after you: your right hand upholds me."
We have been working with Maren a lot this school year to use kind words and actions toward peers, and practice her listening skills toward teachers. I think she is starting to get the hang of it, but I can still see her willful nature beneath the surface, resenting every time she is asked to respond at someone else's initiative besides her own.

I get it that this is part of human nature. And I also see transparently the same resistance I have always had to operating on someone else's schedule. But that doesn't change the need of her heart to become moldable to God's direction. I can encourage this, but can't force it to happen until she is ready to take hold of it for herself. In the meantime, I can pray, knowing the Spirit moves people from the inside.

Today I pray that the Lord gives my children a soul that follows hard after him, one that clings passionately to him. I know as much as I know anything in this world, that God will give her the power to do this.

Friday, October 24, 2008

MOPS: Fall Fun House

Trick or Treat! We are in that time of the year where tricks and illusion come to the front of everyone's minds. There seems to be something in the human psyche that is forever drawn to masks and costumes, and to the thrill of surprise inherent in things mysterious and hidden. As a child, I remember dressing up as Princess Tiger Lily for several years running. Oh, the adventure of putting on that costume and pretending I was about to be rescued by Peter Pan!

While games of pretend and imagination can be fun and entertaining, they can also wear us down when we try to make the illusion become reality. Almost three decades removed from those Tiger Lily days, I sometimes find myself still pretending I am someone else: these days, it's the PTO-involved, fresh-cookies-after-school, never-yells-at-the-kids, folded-laundry-clean-house Perfect Mommy. The only problem is, I lack the sophistication or energy to pull off that kind of illusion. And being a mommy has clearly exposed some aspects of my self that I would actually prefer to be completely changed, not just masked.

The truth is, an even greater adventure awaits us in our journey with God. In Romans 12:2, the apostle Paul exhorts believers to “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” I have a choice to make: I can work hard to present an image that I am that Perfect Mommy, or I can allow God to transform me into His idea of the mommy He intends me to be.

Transformation is defined as a change in form, appearance, or character. Boy, could I use some of that! Paul tells us that transformation comes from the renewing of our minds. This renewal is the result of the Holy Spirit at work within us, which is facilitated by spending time reading and meditating on God's message in the Bible. The transformation that comes from allowing God's Word to percolate through our minds is so much more satisfying than trying to present an illusion. We learn to identify ourselves as uniquely created children of God. We become comfortable in our own skin, and can release the pressure of pretending to be someone we are not.

Why not take time during this “tricky” season to allow yourself to be transformed by the truth of God's Word? Psalm 139 talks about the wonder of being uniquely made by God, just the way you are—no illusion. I suggest you try this out for the next couple of weeks: if you can find even a few moments each morning to read a verse or two of this amazing chapter and ponder it, you will find that the truths you read bring the ultimate “treat” of real and lasting change in your heart. This thrill is something every mommy needs, and is the greatest adventure of all!

This article was first published in the newsletter of my local MOPS chapter, targeted at mothers of preschoolers. This year's theme is "Adventures in Mothering."

Friday, October 10, 2008

MOPS: Adventures in Reading

This lovely piece was painted by Joyce Abbie Fox
Title Unknown

Chances are good that if you are a mother of preschoolers, you have one or more pre-readers in your home. Do you realize that although many children do not read well until first grade or later, you have the ability to give your children tools to make the transition to reading very easy? Reading out loud to your children from an early age develops listening skills, page-tracking skills, letter recognition and more. Playing word and letter recognition games at home and while driving in the car also develops these skills.

In the same way we equip our children with reading tools and skills, we can be equipping our children with knowledge of the written word of God. In Deuteronomy, God commands His people, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7) God knows that children learn new information through repetition, so He instructed His people to incorporate His words into the very fabric of their everyday lives.

To impress God's Word on the hearts of your children, start by bringing bits of Scripture into the beginning of their day, and again at the end. Consider establishing a structured devotional time with your family; but also look for the teachable moments that pop up in the car, while walking through the neighborhood, even while playing with siblings.

In the mornings I try to build 15 extra minutes into our routine so I can sit and read from the Children's Bible with my daughter before breakfast, then her dad prays with her on the way to school. In addition, every time we see a soaring hawk or a vibrant sunset, we say, “Look what a neat thing God made!” Sometimes I think we may have taken this too far in our house, as my children have been heard around the house calling, “God? Where did you hide my airplane?” But I am encouraged that they see a connection between their little world and God's invisible one.

An added bonus of using the Bible as a text so many times a day, is that kids grow familiar with it as a reading source, and begin to develop a love for it. Keep your Bible out to build recognition, and let your children see you reading it. You can play textual games, looking through its pages for repeating letters and words. Together you can search for the shortest chapter (Psalm 117) and the longest chapter (Psalm 119). Stories of the Patriarchs (Genesis), David (1 & 2 Samuel), and Daniel (the book of Daniel) are especially interesting to pre-readers, and easy to narrate.

Today we invite you, if you have not already done so, to pull out a Bible and begin to use it with your pre-reader. The adventure you begin will last forever.

This article was first published in the newsletter of my local MOPS chapter, targeted at mothers of preschoolers. This year's theme is "Adventures in Mothering."