Thanks for the challenge, Kid President! Here is my son Tim's list of what the kids need to know:
1. Choose chocolate, not vanilla.
2. Do your homework.
3. Wait to get a phone, until you are 16 or 18.
4. Do something nice everyday.
6. Don't be afraid to ask someone to dance with you.
7. Don't tackle in basketball.
8. Eat stuffing!
9. Laugh! A lot.
10. Be respectful to others.
And here is mine:
1. You might be afraid to try something new, but don't let fear keep you from trying it anyway. Be brave!
2. Find ways to make boring things more fun. Turn the hard things into a game.
3. Don't be in a hurry to get to the next cool thing... make sure you've maxed out on all the coolness right where you are at first.
4. Take good care of your body and ask questions about how it works and what is best for it.
5. Being a friend is one of the best things ever. Get to know people really well... not just the basics, but the stuff other people don't know about them. Everyone needs to be known.
6. Read. A lot.
7. Be careful about what you let yourself see, hear, touch and do.
8. Pray. God is real and he loves you.
9. Always tell the truth.
10. Always say "sorry" and "I forgive you" when you need to. Quickly and out loud.
When our son was a toddler, we learned a nifty parenting trick. After suffering through meltdown after meltdown whenever it was time to transition from one activity to the next, we discovered that if we gave our son a 5 or 10 minute warning before the transition was about to happen, the meltdowns were a thing of the past. "Tim, it will be time to help clean up toys and say goodbye in ten minutes." "Tim, dinner will be in five minutes, so get ready to stop your video." As long as he knew what was coming and when, he could cope. When he had time to wrap things up or finish on his own terms, he was golden. If the meltdown wasn't completely averted, it was at least lessened in severity.
Don't you wish we had the luxury of those kinds of warnings in life as adults. "Carla, in six months you will not be living here any more and you'll have to start over." "Carla, within the year, that person that you are so attached to will pass away." "Carla, in the next week someone in your family will become ill." Just a little warning, wouldn't that be nice? Just a little heads up so we can wrap our minds around what is coming and finish or adjust on our own terms.
The thing is, these little advance warnings weren't the most valuable things we could offer our son. Yes, they made life a little more bearable in the moment, especially as he was making his way through those toddler years, but it was never meant to be a way of life. After all, we wouldn't always have a warning ourselves. Sometimes we would need to make a transition with little to no warning and we would need him to trust us and spring into action before his emotions could catch up. What we really wanted him to learn were things like - Your Mom and Dad love you and we are in charge. We know what is best and we are working with an agenda that includes more than your immediate happiness, things you just aren't prepared to understand yet. The more you trust us, the more you will see that we have your best interest at heart. We may ask you to do some things that you do not want to do, but it is never out of cruelty. At the end of the day, what we really wanted him to learn to do was to rest in our trustworthiness, and to respond based on our relationship not on an attachment to an established, predictable routine.
The same is true with our walk through life. The routine will inevitably vary, so putting our trust in things always being the way they have been in the past is foolish. Many times God will orchestrate situations in such a way as to soften the blows of painful change. Other times, however, we will be called upon to simply respond in faith-filled obedience, when there is no resemblance of the normal routine anywhere in sight, no promise of how things will be resolved or how long the transition to a new normal will take.
In the end, through the pages of scripture, I have been given three things that are of greater value than a glimpse into the immediate future:
At the end of the day, this is what has been offered to me and it is what I have to offer the world. It isn't a safe, predictable routine, it is a relationship with the One who created all of us and has a vested interest in our future. It isn't an advance warning system of difficult changes that lie ahead and it isn't a promise that life will be easy or pain-free. It is the message of the gospel and it is enough.
He walked in the door on Monday afternoon, fresh from a ride home on the school bus, dropped his things on the floor and started into his rant before he even had his jacket off... "They're on to me, Mom!" Well, that sure got my attention. He proceeded to tell us a story about a missing Agenda (aka: important middle school notebook that is a required tool for keeping track of assignments and info from teachers). The tale was lengthy and harrowing and passionately delivered and at its conclusion Tim stated emphatically that he was 99% certain it was not missing at all, but rather had been STOLEN. He then seemed perplexed that his father and I were not in a total state of outrage over this shocking revelation.
Meanwhile, Jason and I were trying to figure out what in the world he meant by the statement, "They're on to me." Jason was the first to sort through it. "Son, I think what you meant to say is that 'They have it out for you,' or 'They're out to get you.'" "Oh," he said. We went on to talk about how middle school is middle school and no one escapes unscathed, and how it also isn't wise to make accusations or get emotionally caught up in things that you can't control, but the real lesson that came out of that moment was, BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY TO MOM AND DAD - THEY WILL USE IT TO MOCK YOU MERCILESSLY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Ever since Monday, "They're on to me," has become Jason and I's mantra. We use it frequently and with great delight on any given occasion, much to Timmy's chagrin. Give it a try sometime, it's fun! :)
On a serious note: The comparison of the two phrases is a great lesson for all of us. Are we tempted to assume the world is out to get us when things go wrong? Are we hiding anything that would cause us to be devastated to find out if someone was, in fact, on to us? Neither of these is any way to live! Honesty, integrity and perspective! May we all have them in abundance and strive to keep them all the days of our lives.
P.S. The agenda was located the next morning. All is well.
Bikes were made to ride! I knew this from a young age, but I also knew, that riding them could involve crashing and injury, and that knowledge kept me learning to ride a bike until I was almost 10 years old. I am a late-blooming bike rider, and this is my story.
My brother rode his bike like a speed demon from a very early age. My father, knowing my intense fear (and my stubborn nature), refused to buy me my own bicycle until I bit the bullet and learned to ride one of the bicycles the family already owned. He also refused my insistence on training wheels altogether. (Remind me to tell you someday about how he made me learn to drive in a stick-shift car on a hilly road, during the time of day when the sun was right in your eyes...he wasn't big on coddling, shall we say.) Well, in my mind, the bikes in our shed wouldn't do at all. They were too far off the ground! I could fall, I could get seriously injured! So, I dug my heels in and just refused to learn.
That was all fine and dandy until ALL of my friends had mastered the art of riding a bike and we all started to get old enough to be given a bit more freedom. Suddenly, my friends were out riding their bikes around the neighborhood and to each others' houses to visit and I was being left behind. One day a friend who was unaware of my non-bike-riding status, knocked on my front door and invited me to ride to the park. I panicked. Without thinking, I said, "Sure! Just let me get my bike." I purposefully went to the shed and pulled out a bike and then proceeded to WALK IT ALL THE WAY TO THE PARK while my friend rode beside me very slowly, totally perplexed. I kept insisting, "I just feel like walking today."
The truth was that I didn't at all feel like walking. I wanted nothing more than to hop on that bike and ride alongside my friend with my hair blowing in the breeze, but I was afraid I'd crash,fall, and bleed. The truth was, I probably would fall. Most people do when they learn to ride a bike, right? My fear wasn't irrational, it had just become too large in my mind.
Can I fess up right now? This still happens to me to this day. Oh, I learned to ride a bike alright (with minimal bloodshed, thank-you-very-much), but fears can still become inappropriately large in my mind if I let them. There are legitimately concerning things in this world, don't get me wrong! We are all bound to take a tumble or two (or 10) financially, with our health, in our relationships, at work, at church, in service to others, at school, the unknown is vast and the likelihood of coming through life unscathed is nonexistent. So what is a girl to do? Fake it? Pretend to take risks while always keeping one foot safely on the ground? Not an option - we aren't fooling anyone! Everyone can see when you are walking the bike and everyone knows it isn't because you "feel like walking." You are afraid. Admit it. Confess it. Ask God to help you through it.
As someone who is currently and has in the past navigated some pretty treacherous terrain in life, let me tell you - the ride is worth it.
Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you."
Today I had the opportunity to share with subscribers of Cedarville University's ParentPrep blog about the top fears Christian parents have when sending their children off to college. Check it out and pass it on to those who may be encouraged by the message. CLICK HERE
To My 20 Year Old Self,
Hi. Do you have any idea how much potential you have? No, you don’t; I know because I was you 17 years ago. Let me enlighten you a bit from this side of 35, sweet girl. God has wired you uniquely, hand-crafted your personality, your talents, your intelligence, and your creativity for a purpose. Please, don’t get hung up on what that purpose is right now or how it will play out throughout your lifetime. Please don’t let it paralyze you. Please don’t lie awake at night fretting over whether or not to change your major or whether or not you’ll be able to get a job when you graduate or whether or not you’ll ever get married.
Stick with what your prayers and your gut are telling you for now, for today and trust God with the future. Concentrate on your character right now more than your path. “The second half of a man’s life is made up of nothing but the habits he has acquired during the first half,” (Dostoevsky). In the meantime, don’t pretend that you have got it all figured out, even if people expect you to. Yes, your future may very well include things like a successful career, marriage, motherhood, influence, ministry and more; but it may not look anything like what you imagine those things to be right now – and that is a good thing.
A successful career might be that position at the law office downtown or a low paying job that pays the rent and finds you doing something that you never knew you were made to do. Marriage might mean a white wedding dress followed by 50+ years with a godly man or perhaps remaining loyal to God and God alone for the rest of your days. Motherhood may include bringing up sons and daughters who come into your life through childbirth or adoption, or it could look more like mentoring girls and boys younger than you or foster-parenting for a season. Influence may involve writing that book that everyone reads and raves about or it could be displayed more quietly as you devote time and attention to the handful of special people God puts under your care. Ministry may involve travel and large crowds and the salvation of many, or it may be quietly holding the hands of those who no one else notices and introducing them to a Savior you’ll never be sure this side of heaven if they completely accept.
Whatever lies ahead for you, rest assured, IT IS GOOD. It is so good, that you can’t imagine something better, no matter how hard you try. You can’t make it better by worrying about it now either, so don’t bother. God is the one who makes it good and His work in your life isn’t dependent on your planning or fretting or manipulating your situation. It is only dependent on your obedience. Walk with Him. Trust Him. He knows the way.
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV. Believe Him that this is true, even when things are hard.
“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 ESV. Trust that He knows your heart better than you know it yourself.
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105 KJV. Learn to love God through relying on His word, the Bible. It is relevant and it is breathtaking.
“The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?” Proverbs 20:24 NLT. Don’t be afraid to ask God “Why?” when you don’t understand the detours, but be willing to accept and keep moving forward when he answers with “I’m not going to tell you right now.”
Above all, commit to laying all of your plans and hopes and dreams at His feet on a regular basis. Some of them He may one day give back to you, wrapped in his beautiful grace. Others he will discard, because of His infinite mercy, replacing them with something that He desires you to have even more. Either way, you will have your treasure – a life of meaning and purpose, and a relationship with the God who planned it that way from the beginning.
Tonight we had the blessing of sitting on a panel for a young adult small group at our church discussing the topic of marriage. There were three couples on the panel - one couple had been married for 52 years, another couple had been married for 22 years and Jason and I were the youngest having been married for 14 years. A combined total of 88 years of experience at this thing called: "til death do us part." I enjoyed participating and I really enjoyed hearing the responses from the other panelists to the great questions the young adults had come up with for us to answer. Questions like, "How do you establish good communication?" "How do you turn your heart back to your spouse when you feel distant?" "How do you maintain joy in your relationship?" Good stuff! One response in particular from the most veteran of the couples really made me think. When asked about red flags in dating, they responded that things were different when they were younger. You didn't have all the resources or even think to have certain discussions while you were dating... "You just got married!" "It's funny," he said. "We didn't have half of what you have today to guide you, but the divorce rate today is so much greater than it was when we were young."
It is so wonderful to have the perspective of an older generation - things WERE different then. Things ARE different now. We will not learn from our elders and their unique perspective unless they show up to the table when these discussions are had, and they won't show up unless we invite them.
"The greatest asset a church can have is mature saints. We shouldn't alienate ourselves from these dear people. They have grown in their knowledge of God and in His likeness and have learned things that only experience can teach. On the other hand, the greatest liability a church can have are saints who got old and didn't mature. All they want to do is censor and control. They are no more loving, kind or patient now than they were 20 years ago." - The Common Made Holy by Neil T. Anderson
This is one of the great challenges of the Christian life: To remain teachable throughout our lifespan and to be willing to teach as well. We do not have the luxury of remaining stuck in our own generational rut, declaring our way to be the only way. We must expose ourselves to those who have grown up or who are growing up in a different culture and context from our own. True unity and true growth depend on our refusal to settle for ignorance when it comes to the ways of those older/younger than us.
When was the last time you purposely sat across the table from someone from a different generation as yours, either to humbly teach or to humbly be taught? When was the last time you read a book about the nuances of a different generation in an effort to better understand? (Such as: The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw, or Generation iY by Tim Elmore, or You Lost Me by David Kinnaman) When did you last go out of your way to seek someone out from a different generation to ask advice on a specific topic or just to hear their story?
Proverbs 3:13-18 (NIV)
Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.
She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
those who hold her fast will be blessed.
May we never stop learning and growing. May we never stop seeing the value in those older or the promise in those younger. May we learn to spur one another on toward love and good deeds and refuse to let walls of ignorance be built between generations.
Today during the discussion we had in the Sunday School class that we attended, I was reminded of a habit that we have gotten into as a family. A good habit! Every time Timothy has a birthday, Jason and I give him a new privilege and a new responsibility based on his age and ability level. Hmmm, what does that have to do with Sunday School...? I'm glad you asked.
We were discussing how grateful we are that God doesn't confront us with every single sinful attitude and action in our lives all at once. We were comforted with the fact that sanctification is a lifelong process and that His grace is sufficient through it all. That made me think of Timmy's birthday privilege and responsibility, because as Christians one of the worst things that we can do is compare ourselves with other believers. That comparison either leaves us gloating in our privileges and mastery of our responsibilities or leaves us feeling like dirt... neither attitude is godly.
Here is a practical example: On Tim's 10th birthday, his new responsibility was to make his bed daily. He was finally tall enough and his arms were finally long enough to do the job right.
- Does this mean that Tim's bed had gone unmade for the previous 10 years? No. We took care of it until we were convinced he was able.
- Does that mean that we were secretly harboring anger toward Tim for the previous 10 years because beds need to be made and he wasn't making his? No. We hadn't asked him to do that yet, nor did we feel like he was ready for that responsibility. There were other things we had him working on in the meantime (setting the table, picking up dog poop in the yard, vacuuming, putting away dishes, etc.).
- Does that mean that the 7, 8, and 9 year old friends that Tim had who had already been making their beds themselves were better than Tim? No. They had been given different responsibilities by their parents that had nothing to do with what was between Tim and his parents.
If that makes perfect sense to us, why do we not always carry that principle with us into the spiritual realm. Why do we look down our noses at people who "call themselves Christians" but still sin in ways we don't? Or, on the other side of that coin, why do we look at others who have mastery over something and declare ourselves worthless because we aren't there yet. God convicts us all and equips us all as He sees fit as we grow up and mature in Him. He doesn't expect everything from us all at once and we shouldn't expect it of each other.
The moral of this story?
1. You may be making your bed daily, but don't gloat over your brother or sister with the unmade bed... chances are he/she has been busy picking up dog poop. Want to trade?
2. Thank God for His grace that is sufficient for every task and every mistake we make along the way. He knows what we are capable of and He never asks more of us than we can accomplish with His strength and support. What a loving Father!
2 Peter 3:18 (NASB): "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen."
Ephesians 4:15 (NIV) "...speaking the truth in love we will all grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ."
This is a genuine Guess watch. Well, most of one anyway. Are you impressed?
When I was in junior high school, Guess jeans were all the rage. They were also very expensive. I longed for a pair of Guess jeans with all the longing a pre-teen girl can long with (and that's a lot of longing). If only I could have even one pair of Guess jeans with the upside down triangle on the back pocket, I knew that I would have arrived.
There were times during those years of desperation when I actually had enough cash in my pocket to buy a pair of Guess jeans, but I was raised frugally, and I just couldn't bring myself to spend that much money on a pair of pants, even though I longed for them! I knew I could buy an entire outfit for the cost of one pair of those jeans, maybe even two outfits if I caught a good sale, and that knowledge kept me from fulfilling my longing. I knew the price was impractical, even if the pants were appealing.
Instead, I settled for a Guess watch - the cheapest one I could find that still had the logo prominently displayed. I cherished that watch. I wore it so much that the band eventually broke. I wore it anyway. I clung to this one item in my collection of clothing/accessories that at least resembled something that my peers had deemed valuable. As I was going through boxes and trunks of old mementos trying to prepare for another move, I smiled when i came across this watch. Then I asked myself WHY had I kept this broken watch for so many years? Through so many moves (California, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Ohio)?
I think it is because I was so proud of my little 11/12 year old self! Looking at that watch made me remember a little girl who had enough resolve to have restraint, enough conviction to satisfy a craving with a "taste" of something rather than a feast, enough sense to choose to be satisfied. With a few more years under my belt now, and a great deal more perspective, I can look back at those pre-teen years and realize that if I had owned a pair of Guess jeans, it wouldn't have improved my social standing one little bit. It might have made me feel differently about myself for a little while, but not very long. Something else would have come along that I "had to have," and the cycle would begin all over again.
At some point growing up I had known my parents' favor when I exhibited financial discernment, and it kept me from walking down a path in junior high and high school where fitting in would become increasingly more demanding and expensive. Today, my husband and I (by God's grace) are debt-free. What a life-long blessing reaped from an early lesson learned! Now I long to be faithful to pass on similar lessons and point out the inner beauty and potential in the young people I cross paths with.
Looking back at that watch makes me want to be more intentional about praising the young people in my life for the intangible things that make up their character. It is so easy to give compliments on the external things (beauty, style, athletic ability, talent, performance), but it takes more careful attention and care to compliment young adults on the inner strengths they possess; the intangibles that can help prevent externals from becoming all-important. Traits like kindness, spiritual insight, joy, compassion, frugality, generosity, and patience.
Some suggestions for focusing deeper in our compliments:
Instead of "Good game!" - "You are a great team player! I love how aware you were of your teammates and their strengths." or "You exhibited a lot of patience in that game. It was a long one and you never gave up or gave into frustration." or maybe "I can tell that you are a great leader on your team. The other players really seem to respect you as a teammate and I enjoyed watching you in action."
Instead of "You are so talented!" - "I could see the joy you have shine through while you were playing (singing, etc.). It made me enjoy the music even more." or "I know it must take a lot of practice and hard work to prepare for a performance like that. Keep up the good work, your discipline is paying off!"
Instead of "You are so nice." or "What a sweetheart you are!" - maybe we could be more specific like, "You just went out of your way to help me with that and you didn't have to. Your kindness is a blessing!" or "I have noticed that you are always looking out for others. I know it isn't always easy to be compassionate, but I know that God will use that kind of an attitude to bless many. Keep it up!"
What are your ideas? What inner strength were you encouraged to embrace as a young adult that has paid off later in life? Can you still remember a particular phrase or person that helped keep you from focusing on the wrong things?
A few days ago, my son and I went on an early morning walk to the local coffee shop. Well, I walked anyway. Timmy rode his scooter. To his credit he stayed with me most of the way, and when we reached a long stretch of smooth sidewalk, I gave him clearance to leave me behind and enjoy the ride. As I walked along by myself, I noticed that I kept passing these tiny little black insects on the sidewalk. They looked like miniature caterpillars. Every few steps I would pass one, slowly making its way across the path. I had to be careful not to step on them. In the half mile I walked, I probably passed 50 of them!
Eventually I caught up to Tim who was waiting for me at the street the coffee shop was on. We went inside and enjoyed some time together, sipping our drinks and chatting about the day ahead, and then we started the trek back home, hoping to make it back before it started to rain on us. As I walked and Tim rode his scooter, I asked him how many of those black caterpillar-y bugs he thought he had passed on the ride to the coffee shop. He had no idea what I was talking about. One by one, as we walked, I started pointing them out to him as we passed by them. "Look! There's one. And another! And Another!" He was shocked that he could have missed them. I explained to him that he was going so fast, that their movement was undetectable to him, so he probably just saw them as tiny black lines on the sidewalk, if he saw them at all. I was going slow enough that I could take notice of them, perceive their comings and goings and realize what they truly were.
Before I knew it, Timmy was off again scootering toward home. I was left thinking about how much of life I race by every single day, and what I am missing in the process.
Carla Ritz. Proof positive that God uses cracked pots!