Monday, April 18, 2016

Ending the Cycle of Entertainment Central

Not long ago you, dear readers, indulged me while I dove into my ruminations concerning the fact that many parents have gone a little nutty when it comes to our efforts in making our homes a haven.  Some of us have somehow filtered that through a "bigger is better" attitude. Certainly, these are all things that our culture has greatly encouraged.  But we are still responsible.  We cannot take the easy way and shift blame and claim, "that's just the way it is."

So, what do we do to combat this overindulgence and make sure our children are well grounded with heads that are screwed on straight?  While it would be nearly impossible to cover everything, please allow me to share some things that I am learning.  And remember, I am working on this too. I have in no way perfected these methods.  We can agree that we are all works in-progress -- and there is no shame in that.

Firm Foundation

The foundation, of course is a firm faith in the One, True God of the Bible. This should go without saying. Alas, I have said it anyway.  Romans 2:15 states that we were created with God's law written on our hearts and that our conscience bears witness of God's law.  Whether we acknowledge that or not is a different matter.  We are without excuse (Romans 1:19, 20) when it comes to knowing that God exists (He does) and if we have a right in whether or not to obey (we do not). We have do a choice; which is different than a right. Food for thought.

Diligence in teaching our children to love Jesus, when we rise, when we sit, when we go places (Deut. 6:7 and Deut 11:19) helps our children to not depart from the faith (Prov 22:6). As an aside, dear reader, don't get caught up in the misunderstanding that that verse is talking about the prodigal child coming back to the faith.  Not departing means never leaving the faith in the first place. Another discussion for another time, perhaps.

Without this firm foundation, our efforts (and the suggestions below) will be in vain.  The world is teaching your child their version of the truth, you can count on it.  Teaching them who God is will lead to an unwavering faith that will shore them up when the world is against them.  And, more importantly, it will point them to a right relationship with God.

Practical Application

Besides teaching a firm foundation there are things we can put into practice that will help counteract the chaos if you find yourself caught up in the cycle of making your home "entertainment central."  These suggestions may be painful to hear and more painful to follow through with, but it will be worth it.

Delayed Gratification. This is a tough one since so much is geared toward having what we want when we want it.  Fast food, express lanes, intimate relationships without the benefit of marriage, two day shipping, 140 characters or less . . . the list goes on. 


No one ever died from delayed gratification. 

My opinion?  The anticipation of something amazing increases the pleasure of finally receiving that amazing thing.  There are many instances in my life where that has proven to be the case.  A hard fought victory is much sweeter than a quick and easy one.

I'm just sayin'.

Smaller parties.  Not every party has to be a blowout.  Have a friend or two join you for your child's birthday dinner and cake.  Take one or two children to the local pool or bounce house instead of the entire neighborhood.  Watch home movies instead of going out.  Play minute-to-win-it type games where the props are easily gathered and the laughs are sure to be plentiful. 

Growing up,  I rolled my eyes at the suggestion of  any activity that only involved my parents and my brother.  Yet some of my most poignant memories are of just the four of us.  One of my most cherished memories is one of my brother and I laying on the floor with the upper halves of our bodies in a huge cardboard box, legs and slipper-ed feet hanging out and gazing at a beautifully it Christmas tree.  My parents were sitting on the couch behind us.  Dad has his arm draped around Mom's shoulders and they were probably sneaking in a kiss or two.  Pure contentment bathed those moments.  Excited anticipation and the security of a loving family were the overriding emotions.  I have no idea what I got that particular Christmas -- and my point is that it wasn't about the presents.

Cutting down on screen time.  It never ceases to amaze me that when the electricity goes out, people exclaim over the great memories they made when they were forced to interact with their family members face to face -- even if it was with a flashlight between them! 
We have a saying in our house: Too much tv is bad.  Too much reading is good.  My children love to talk over their books with me.
At length.
In great detail.
Sometimes until my eyes glaze over.
But I love it when they talk books and not tv.  Their imaginations have taken off and expanded all because they read instead of watched. Playing a board game with the family is so much more fun than holing up inside your own little world.  Spending time together is where we learn about ourselves and our children and they learn about us.

Not making sports an idol.  And this is where I lose some of you.  Our culture is obsessed with sports and the athletes that play them.  There is something seriously wrong with a society that is willing to pay athletes obscene amounts of money, but not pay soldiers a decent wage and then take away health care on top of that. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Luke 12:34). Sports should be an extra curricular activity, not the goal in life.  That's all I am saying.

Limiting social media. My children (and I for that matter) are so much more content when we aren't regularly involved with social media.  There are fewer chances for falling short of an unrealistic ideal when we aren't constantly comparing ourselves to someone else. There are other benefits to limiting social media, of course: another post for another time.

Teaching our children a good work ethic. We have to teach our children how to become indispensable to the company they work for. My kids are learning that you show up early, work your tooshie off, don't complain and then you get paid a fair wage.  Not an inflated one to suit your ego.  And then when you own a company yourself, you treat your employees the way you want to be treated.
Which leads me to . . .
We have elevated certain types of jobs over others.  Sometimes there is disdain associated with jobs that aren't computer related or jobs that don't require a college degree. What the heck?  We aren't all created with the same talents and gifts.  There is nothing wrong with honest work in whatever form it takes.  There is no person who is 'less-than' because he or she holds a job that you personally wouldn't want to do.  Doesn't make you better or them worse. 

This is what it comes down to:  We all eat, sleep, poop, and have to fill our fuel tank.  The jobs that allow us to do those essential things are the most important jobs as far as I am concerned.

Sanctity of life. It is quite evident that we do not value the lives of the unborn, the homeless, the abused, the sick, the aged, the widows and the fatherless. They are the first to be forgotten because their voices do not ring loudly in our ears. We must teach our children and retrain ourselves to be aware and compassionate toward our fellow man.  We need to give of ourselves to others.  Not because it will enrich our lives, though that is often the case, but because it's the right thing to do. 

We are, in fact, told that caring for the widows and fatherless (and keeping ourselves unspotted from the world) is what pure religion is all about (James 1:27). Notice: not man-made religion, but pure religion.  How we implement pure religion in our families may look differently from the family next door, of course.  Sponsor a child, visit the sick and the aged, volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate goods to a battered women's shelter, or answer phones at a crisis pregnancy center. But do something, anything -- or even better, all these things.

I hope this post encourages you to re-examine your family goals. A peek into what it can be like when we step off of the crazy cycle of making sure we are entertained every moment of every day.  Perhaps developing a family mission statement gives you something to aim for and follow through with as you grow your family in faith.

Counting it all joy,

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Dear Woman Who Had my Cell Number Before I Did

I understand that there are times when we forget to give our updated info to everyone who needs it.  But, after three years, I am still getting calls and voicemails for Crystal.  Three years, dear reader.  You would think that after a year or so a person would have made the rounds to doctor's offices, family members, and the like to have updated your info.

You would think.  Apparently Crystal isn't as courteous or thoughtful  as most people. I believe she is still giving out her old cell number to people.  I say that because I recently received a voice mail that asked Crystal to finish filling out her new patient info and I also received a voice mail from someone thanking Crystal for the "great time last night." What a treat to hear that at 3am!

So, I decided to write a letter to Crystal, the less than honest pre-owner of my cell phone number.

Dear Woman who had my cell number before me (aka, "Crystal"),

I have been receiving calls and voice mails for you for three years now. Please have the courtesy to update your info with the following people:

*Your GYN. By the way, your appointment (for July 2015) has been canceled due to an emergency.

*Your Pharmacy. You have three prescriptions due to be picked up and your insurance has refused to cover the fourth.

*Your YMCA. It's that time of year again! Renew your membership online or pay the new, higher rate.

*Your Psychiatrist. Time to get that new patient info packet into the office (by the end of Feb 2016) and set up a payment schedule. She's thinking Wednesdays will work better for her also.

*Your childhood best friend. She can't wait to see you in Oct 2014.

* Your fellow partier. I am giving you the benefit of the doubt by calling him that. But he wanted to thank you for a great time last night (March 2016).

*Your Dad. Please call him. He is worried sick that he hasn't heard from you in a year. Although, he was relieved to hear that you changed your cell phone number and haven't been just ignoring him all this time. Except not giving your dad your new cell number and not speaking to him for a year seems to indicate that you may, in fact, be ignoring him.

Just sayin'

Not Crystal.

You may ask why I don't just get a new number. Fair question. I have considered it. But I don't want to end up like Crystal and miss all the great voice mails from all the important people in my life.  Surely, the calls and voice messages will let up soon.  Maybe? 

At least that is what I keep telling myself as I count it all joy,

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Is Your Home a Haven or Entertainment Central?

I have always loved the piece of advice that was given to me as a newlywed:
Make your home a haven.

I totally agree.  I agree with the letter and the spirit of the sentiment.

What I am having trouble with is the way many Christians are putting "Making Your Home A Haven" into practice.  At least, what I have seen as a trend in the last, oh, eight or ten years.  Perhaps it has been a trend far longer and I have only been paying attention these last ten years.
amusement parks are fun, but you wouldn't want to live there

Instead of a peaceful home, a home that is filled with emotional support and contentment, we have instead interpreted a haven as entertainment central. In many ways, I believe that being filled to capacity with entertainment is the exact opposite of making our homes a haven.  And as a result, we have set our children up for massive disappointments.

Indulge me while I give a few examples of how we have become addicted to the entertainment of spectacle.

Big bashes that grow to outlandish proportions
Remember the shows that featured sweet sixteen parties and weddings each bigger than the one in the last episode?  Bridezillas and snobby mid-teeners became the norm, even expected and carefully coddled. While those shows may not have revolved around the average American, it gave the average American an appetite for it. And I have seen it in the lives of those I know IRL.  When swimming in the backyard pool is blase, then off to the water park we go. When that becomes the new normal, we look for someplace bigger and better and the upward swing continues.  Whatever happened to leaving the bashes for the big milestones?  There is nothing wrong with a family party on a way smaller scale for the in-between birthdays.

Infinite numbers of tv channels
Do you realize that in the US, a person can have 40 + sports channels alone?  Sports channels!  And of course we can't forget the music channels, movie channels and network channels.  We are inundated with tv viewing choices.  And if we aren't watching, we are made to feel as though we've missed out on something spectacular.  Didn't see the Grammy's?  You must not appreciate music.  Didn't watch the Superbowl? You must be unAmerican!

Binge watching TV
Okay, so maybe you aren't into a lot of channels.  But maybe you are like me.  And it's time for transparency here:  I love my Netflix subscription.  Love as in luuuuurve. Currently in my rotation are "The Assets," "When Calls the Heart" and "Fixer Upper."  My kids have seen every episode of "Good Luck Charlie," but if The Affectionate One turns it on, even the boys migrate from the other parts of the house to watch.

Celebrity and Awards Shows
The public's obsession with the plethora of award shows (especially for truly unremarkable achievements -- Kid's Choice Awards, anyone?) right on down to participation ribbons for showing up to jr high tennis practice has created what I like to call the "what about me?" syndrome.  If every somersault, every goal, every A+ isn't celebrated by ice cream, streamers and a photo on Facebook, then we are lead to believe it hasn't been properly recognized.  What ever happened to "Good job" and a slap on the back or a hug around the neck?  There is nothing wrong with "mere" verbal recognition on the everyday accomplishments.  Not everything has to include dramatic fanfare.

A week filled with "events" 
From teen nights, band concerts, going to the movies, play practice and town carnivals to the endless trips to the store to "dabble" in our latest hobby obsession.  Not to mention multiple sports practices and games for each child. Certainly, these things are good in moderation. But my goodness. We run around like our children's lives are a second and third career. We gear ourselves up and wear ourselves out running to and fro.

We seem to live for them.  We dream about them, save for them, devote lots of camera space to them and talk endlessly about them once they are over.  Nothing wrong with vacations.  It's important to recharge and every family has their own way of doing that.  But do they always have to get bigger and better? Seriously, once you have visited Disney, what do you do to top that for the next year?  Yet we try, don't we?

Whether it's on our phones or with a game console on our large screen tv, gaming has been both a babysitter and an escape starting with my generation. Gen Xers were the first latchkey kids and when the cat's away, the mice will play.  Gaming grew to be such a phenomenon that living in your parents' basement became the norm.  And if you ever got out on your own, moving back in with them was just a matter of course. Jobs in the gaming field exploded and are seen, to some, as more desirable than tradesmen and run of the mill IT jobs.

Social Media
There is much to be said on this topic, most of which has been addressed in various ways by others who are more clever than I.  I'm just gonna say this: not only do we strive to cram everything we possibly can into our lives, but then we put it on display for others to witness on Social Media. In and of itself, not such a bad thing when done in moderation.

Americans, generally speaking aren't know for their moderation. I'm just sayin'.

The Result

We see what others have done on social media sites that we haven't done and the danger is that we either become judgmental or jealous.  Perhaps we have a handle on this and can be happy for others when they post about their ninth Caribbean Cruise in as many years.

But what about our children?
-- Can they avoid comparing their friends' highlight reels to their own blooper reel?  We adults are so great at it, how can we expect our children to be any good at it? We generally look at our faults and compare them to another person's virtues. The same is true, to a greater degree, for our kids. Comparison leads to discontent and yet we claim that contentment is what we truly seek.

-- Have we taught them to refrain from thinking themselves better than someone else when they've done something they think is bigger and better? Pride is a dangerous, slippery slope.

-- Do they expect more and more from us and better and better for themselves every year? Ambition is fine. But couple that with a lack of moderation and a faulty world view and nothing is good enough. We are always thinking the next goal, the next job, the next house must be obtained to achieve happiness.

-- Are they let down when they aren't constantly stimulated with electronics? Our children have come to expect a frenetically paced lifestyle.

-- Do they look with disdain upon perfectly honorable jobs that involve manual labor?  These jobs are often left empty and yet the money to be earned spends the same way as the money from the more hoity-toity job titles.

It's quite sobering, I must say.

Next time we will explore some ways to combat the challenges and reverse the negative effects of these concerns. Hope you will find it worth while to check back.

Counting it all joy,

Friday, March 4, 2016

You Can't Please Everyone . . .

Know what I've been learning lately?

You can't please everyone. 

You can't even please some people all the time. You can't please some of the people nearly all the time. Doggone, but you can't even please some people at all.


This is a tough thing for a gal who is a people pleaser by nature.  Lemme rephrase that: This is a tough thing for a gal who has a desire to please people.

This people pleasing business has gotten me into more fixes than I care to admit.   

I recently had a situation where a person knew exactly what was expected and when I did it, they went off the handle.  Just because they could. Because they didn't really care about me or what I was doing.  They took an opportunity to criticize even though they did not really have a stake in the situation.

I would have liked to have pointed out to the person that they overstepped, except everyone in the room (but the criticizer) was already uncomfortable and I did not want to add to that.


Shortly after the above incident, I made a request of another person, making sure they knew that to refuse was fine, no explanation from them was needed.  My request would put them out, but only a very little bit. I did not feel my request was extraordinary, nor out of the realm of what they could do or have done in the past.  The person to whom I made the request gladly helped.  A family member of that person hastened to reprimand me for the request.  Not only did they reprimand me, but they made it very clear I was taking advantage of the good nature of the person to whom I made the request.

I was flabbergasted.  I was hurt.  I was angry and confused.  Why did they step into a situation that did not pertain to them?  Why did the outside person (who did not know the details of the situation to even be able to comment, let alone criticize) make the assumption that I was taking advantage of someone else?  They were not trying to hold me accountable.  Yes, certainly, they thought they were looking out for the other person, but that was all.

I could not hold back --  forget the people pleasing.  I geared myself up and went to that outside person and, after explaining the situation to them so that they were fully informed, told them that it was hurtful for them to act as though I had taken advantage. They let me talk, watched as I trembled slightly (and got choked up) and did nothing. They remained self righteously indignant that they were in the right and I was in the wrong. Which, as you can imagine, made me even more angry and hurt.  All my attempts to smooth things over were in vain.  All my explaining didn't make a difference in their mind. I walked away feeling more defeated than before.  And I still have trouble not feeling the residual effects of their erroneous beliefs.  The worst part is that I see this person on a fairly regular basis. Forgiveness is a process even when the slights are, well, slight.

And there we are.

I know this is a vague post, but I am mostly posting to remind myself that it is not necessary to please everyone.  It's even dangerous TO THINK I have to please everyone. It cannot be done.  Mostly because we all have different ideas at to what is pleasing.  And at different times, what pleases us (or another person) may change.

I know there are many of my dear readers who are not people pleasers. You aren't hampered by what others think of you or what you have done in a particular situation.  This is a lovely, freeing quality.

Can I have some of that? 

Any advice as to how to grow a thicker skin?  Share in the comments.

Counting it all joy,

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Up Coming "God's Not Dead 2" - And Why My Family Will Be Seeing It

One thing that has been on my mind lately is religious freedom. In fact, I have been trying to prepare my children for the time that expressing themselves and worshiping the One, True God will not be tolerated. There may even be a time where they are censored for their beliefs.

Heaven forbid, I can easily see a future where Christians will be mercilessly persecuted and killed.  We have evidence in the news of that very thing happening already.  You may believe that it's not happening here in the US, but it is.  It's just not being reported as such. For some reason, the media is loathe to attribute the atrocities perpetrated on Christians to whom it is due.  Actually, I know the reasons and I think you, dear reader, are smart enough to figure it out too.

At any rate, I am always encouraged by God's Word, our church family and others who are willing to take a bold stand for Christ.  And that's why I am looking forward to the upcoming movie "GOD'S NOT DEAD 2."  We all enjoyed the first movie "God's Not Dead" and I have no doubt the sequel will live up to the first.

From Grace Hill Media:

"God’s Not Dead 2 is about taking a stand. It’s about courage and faith. And it will ask each and every one of us to reflect – would we have the strength to fight for our right to share and express our beliefs no matter the cost? God’s Not Dead 2 is the sequel to the highest-grossing independent faith film of 2014. The film stars Melissa Joan Hart, Jesse Metcalfe, Sadie Robertson and veteran actors Ray Wise, Jon Lindstrom, and Ernie Hudson. The movie also includes special guest star Pat Boone and cameo performances from The Newsboys and Gov. Mike Huckabee."

Perhaps seeing this film will bolster someone's faith.  Perhaps it will spur some on to investigate their need for a Savior.  Perhaps it will encourage those who have already been mocked and shunned for their faith.  Sure, it's a lot to ask from a film.  It certainly is way too much to ask from any, ordinary Hollywood movie.  But it's not too much to expect from Pure Flix entertainment.

Here's a featurette where the all-star cast talks about how it is important to have courage, strength and standing up for what you believe in. Enjoy!


Counting it all joy,