Be a September 12th American

When I think of an American I don’t think of the exceptions, I think of the rules. The media loves to find the outliers in any situation because typical doesn’t sell. “One dies from eating lettuce!!!” is going to get way more attention than “Millions of people don’t die from eating lettuce.” Sadly, the same is true in their coverage of the American people. Who leads the coverage? Racists, anarchists, looters, mobs, gangs, and criminals, these people don’t really represent America anymore than a death from a salad represents the typical risks of eating healthy.

I want to talk about REAL America. The America most of us experience every single day. Real America has a lot of hard working folks. Salt of the earth people who will quietly do what needs to be done and ask for no recognition in return. I’m looking at you first responders, farmers, factory workers, teachers, nurses and more. I’m talking about the kind of people who dug through the rubble on September 11th, 2001 or jumped in their boats to rescue strangers after a hurricane. These are the hands and feet of America doing what needs to be done.

Real America has a heart too, it is easy to find strangers helping strangers, rescuing animals, donating to those in need, giving their time to charities and just being kind to their fellow humans. These acts occur by the thousands in every city, every day, you’ve probably been the giver or recipient of one yourself. I refuse to let the identity of REAL America be stolen by a hateful minority simply because they get all the attention.

If you are old enough just think back to one clear September morning where we all remembered what it meant to be American, to grieve with those who grieve, to help those in need, and to recognize the good in our fellow man. We reached out and held hands across pews, across religions, across genders and races and financial divides and we were a stronger people for it. September 11th will live on vividly in my mind as a somber day but September 12th? That will forever remind me what it means to be an American.

Advertisements

Broken is Beautiful

“You’re a 30 year old mom of two who teaches elementary school; college students don’t want to hang out with you.” That’s what the mean girl in my head told me as I looked at the info for my church’s international student ministry. Not old enough to be motherly, not young enough to be hip. I am at a stage in life that can feel awkward, but I knew the mean girl was wrong, in fact God had called me to this church for this exact purpose. Knowing the mean girl is wrong and silencing her can be different things though.

Socializing is not something that comes naturally to me. I am a very confident person…until i’m not. Put me in a professional setting and I am self-assured and collected, certain of my God gifted abilities. Ask me to dig into a deep philosophical question or summarize a complex idea and I’ll jump at the opportunity, thankful to utilize my God given intelligence. Give me a practical need and I will strive to meet it assured of God’s calling for me as a servant. But ask me to interact with people I don’t know well in a social setting? Suddenly i’m in fifth grade again and the mean girls are watching for me to do the wrong thing so they can laugh. I have to fight the urge to withdraw and force myself to engage.

I am comfortable with who I am but I am not always confident in my value to a world I increasingly don’t understand…. It is only by recognizing I was not made for this world that I am able to embrace my deeply flawed person as a vessel of a holy and perfect God’s will. My brokenness is the very attribute which allowed me to be shaped into a new creation and so it is only in my brokenness that I can find beauty. When I reach out in spite of my inabilities and insecurities it is in that act of self-denial that I see Christ (because it is certainly not me). Each time I push against what the world has told me I am I find strength in the action and rest in the obedience.

I am very thankful I silenced the mean girl. I spent this afternoon hanging out with one of our lovely international friends and watching my children begin to understand another culture in a meaningful way. We would have missed a blessing God had for us.

Assessing Walt’s Worldview

Everyone has a worldview, a way of thinking about or perceiving the world through the lens of their own experiences, ideologies and misconceptions. I am a follower of Christ, as such I attempt to perceive life through a biblical worldview. I do not always succeed. I am, however, able with mindful examination to discern the way I *should* view things when I stop and try to run things through the filter of Scripture. Spoiler alert, I often get it pretty wrong before doing this and still likely get it wrong after but with each pass through I am hopefully getting closer to the truth.

Accepting that everyone has a worldview that changes the way they see reality & therefore the way they present reality makes it strange that I rarely stop to consider the worldview presented in my entertainment. Maybe it’s because in our culture entertainment is often prided as being “mindless” so of course thinking to heavily about it would be silly right?

I also happen to be a huge Disney fan, a Disney Nerd if you will, who loves that shining beacon of capitalism and wholesome family fun; from the parks to the movies and everything in between. But what if the worldview of my favorite mouse creator is at odds with my own? What if, by sharing my favorite films and stories without deeper discussion, I am slowly indoctrinating my children to see the world in a way I believe is false?

I was reading an article in the current issue of “The Classical Difference” called “The Jungle Book Unearths Cultural Treasure” that used Kipling’s Jungle Book & the 1967 and 2016 Disney movie versions to highlight the underlying worldview shifts that subtly change the message of each retelling when it hit me that good ole Walt Disney and I don’t see eye to eye!

****I am using Walt Disney as a figurehead for the Disney corporation, obviously he did not write each movie and he himself was purported to be a Christian but the Disney corporation is made of members of society and therefore reflect the worldview of the time and place around them in their work.****

As I started thinking through many of my favorite Disney films I found big ideas I just can’t get behind when taken out of a cartoon context…so why I am I cool with them as long as they are voiced by a colorful, non-existent character?

Some of these ideas include:

Aladdin: The End Justifies the Means, I mean we are cool with Aladdin stealing to eat because he’s poor but then we are cool with him lying and creating a fake identity because… well i’m not sure why?

The Jungle Book: Life is about having fun and a friend you can trust, we can all get along if we just ignore the parts of each other’s lives we don’t like.  Not “bad” stuff but from a Christian perspective pretty false.

The Little Mermaid: You can make deals with the devil, run away from home, turn your back on your family, marry strange men and it will all work out! It’s about love right? You know love between a teenage runaway and the 1st random sailor she sees usually is a great idea! True love conquers all, also true love can be found simply by looking at someone!

I could definitely keep going but you get the idea. See the fact that I am looking at the world as a place with very clearly defined good & evil means I am going to have different ideas about what is right and wrong than someone who thinks it’s open for interpretation.  We can’t see eye to eye because we are starting from totally different places.

This doesn’t mean I can not enjoy a Disney movie or even find good messages in them! (There are many messages that can be reconciled with a Christian worldview) What it does mean is that I absolutely MUST examine the worldview and the messages and even more importantly I have to discuss them with my children. I have to model critically thinking about even “harmless” entertainment. I have a responsibility to show them that even if something is enjoyable it can be false and truth must weigh more than pleasure in our valuations.

I will continue to enjoy Disney, and other types of entertainment, with my children but hopefully with a bit more intentional discussion and calling out of wrong thinking when I see it. I look forward to building bridges between the stories they enjoy and the Word!

 

 

 

 

 

Shoebox Packing

One of my favorite charity activities every year has long been packing shoeboxes! I LOVED the advice I got last year from this blog “Unsolicited Advice About Shoeboxes” and it changed WHAT I pack but not so much HOW I pack.

If you have tips share them in the comments!

Here is a diagram of my box for a 5-9 year old boy:

The bottom layer: pack of 8 colorful ink pens, box of colored pencils, unsharpened neon pencils, blue bandana, comb, bar of soap, fat 4X6ish notebook & turned against the side of the box a pouch with a toothbrush, toothbrush cover & toothpaste in it. 20161029_185810

Top Layer: Melamine bowl with cars on it (least weird design I could find) and a matching sturdy cup turned sideways to fit in bowl. Inside the cup is a blue led flashlight with batteries in it and a three pack of new extra batteries, a pencil sharpener and 3 large erasers. Next to the bowl is a green string backpack folded up, a 3 pack of green washcloths folded, a squishy ball that looks like Earth, a pair of sunglasses with a 3 pack of decorative striped and polka dot socks folded through the middle and finally hard candy and bubble gum sprinkled everywhere it can fit.

Tucked in between the backpack & washcloths (so hard to see): a small squishy soccer ball, plastic gold coins, 2 self inking stampers.

20161029_185849

Lid can close securely but will still be rubber banded for extra closure. To be added is a personal note from my son & our prepaid shipping form.

20161029_185947

 

How Attachment Parenting Found Me

 

I had always planned to parent similarly to the way I was raised but with more structure, like the southern baptist families that populated most of my schools growing up. I would have strict curfews, rules, dinner at the table, yes sir and no sir and my children would do as they were told. I saw plenty of children around me raised this way…then I saw them grow up. I wasn’t so sold by the time we were late teens and college age, many of them had rebelled and were left to face difficult consequences.

Over my first few years in the north I began utilizing another system in my role as a nanny, it was very popular in the area, I call it the rewards and reinforcements method. This style focuses on sticker charts, marble jars, chore sheets and other behavior incentives to train children to respond appropriately to expected tasks so you don’t have to punish them and when you do you typically do so by withholding a reward. I would soon see both in childcare and soon in my classrooms that this can breed a dependency on external motivators and in the worst cases students/children who know where the line is and will tiptoe until touching it as many times as possible, knowing they are invinceable if they stay just this side of the carefully outlined rule.

By the time I stepped into my first developmental pyschology class I was pretty sure neither of these two very common systems worked and I wanted something more for my future students and children but wasn’t sure what. When we reached attachment theory a lightbulb clicked and while I wouldn’t really think to label it such for years, my journey with attachment parenting began.

Attachment parenting is an oft abused and misused term. It is frequently misapplied to what is, in reality, permissive parenting. In some circles it is synonomous with hippie/granola/crunchy parenting and in others with certain choices like breastfeeding, babywearing or cosleeping. All of these things miss the mark of attachment parenting though. Attachment parenting is parenting with the goal of creating a secure attachment for your child and it can be achieved in many different ways but one thing is consistent throughout: Responsiveness. Attachment parenting might better be termed responsive parenting.

The eight principles of AP are:

  • Prepare for pregnancy, birth, and parenting.
  • Feed with love and respect.
  • Respond with sensitivity.
  • Use nurturing touch.
  • Engage in nighttime parenting.
  • Provide constant, loving care.
  • Practice positive discipline.
  • Strive for balance in personal and family life.

NOWHERE does it say that you must breastfeed, extended cosleep, cloth diaper, etc, etc, in fact that wouldn’t be AP if it was wrong for your child because AP is about RESPONDING to YOUR child.  Don’t get me wrong these things can be part of the journey for some families, I have nursed each of our children to 2+ years old and we had a family bed until our preschooler was old enough to feel comfortable in his own but that was what was right for us and it might not be for you.

The first few years of my oldest’s life I could feel the hesitancy from those around us about our choices, were we babying him or spoiling him? Wouldn’t nursing him that long hurt his growth or something? When was he going to sleep in his own bed? Why won’t you make him interact with people he doesn’t know, that’s what is normal. Then my child passed the attaching phase (typically from 6 months – 2 years) and the seeds we had been toiling diligently to plant in his life began to sprout. Those same people began to see that indeed he was more independent and capable than his peers in many areas and the questions changed in tone from judgment to advice, how can I get my daughter in law to try X, would my child benefit from Y. I responded to where he was and waited patiently for him to be ready for each skill and as such prevented the typical cycles of regression so many struggle with.

I’m not saying there is only one right way to parent but I do think that responsive parenting would be beneficial to every child. What it looks like varies widely based on the child’s needs though, even in the same family, because it is responsive! For example I would have never put my oldest child in a “time out” it was not necessary and would not have been effective, instead he and I cuddled and talked over the situation and it worked everytime. If I tried that with my daughter it would only escalate the situation as she does not like touch or affection when upset, so with her I simply remove her to comfy place, usually her room and tell her I will see her when she’s done crying and ready to talk.

Our journey is still in progress and I assume there will be many bumps in the road to come but I have no doubt that responding to my children’s needs and meeting them where they are will always be a positive choice.  As a Christian I have a Father who is always available, always willing to listen and guides my life through prayer, scripture and the Holy Spirit and I think that being a constant, loving, stable place for my child is one of the many ways I can model that relationship.

If you want to learn more about attachment theory there is a helpful summary here on Attach from Scratch and if you would like to know more about Attachment Parenting you can check out the AP International site.

Thank You

 

Every day you work hard to provide for our family but that’s not what makes you amazing.

You get down on the floor to wrestle, change the princess dresses, play hockey in the drive and run around the playground but that’s not what makes you a terrific father.

You help me demonstrate every single day what a loving, healthy marriage looks like, that fun and love, apologies and respect are all part of the daily give and take but that’s not the thing that makes you such a titan among dads.

What makes you the example I thank the Lord daily for is the bible verses in your email, it’s the passion for understanding God’s will, it’s the desire to do what he calls even when it’s not what you “want”.

Our children are so blessed to have you, science can show the impact of a father on almost every area of a person’s life from self esteem to education and earning potential but it can not quantify the impact a Christ following father has on eternity. The seeds you are sowing in our family will sow seeds in their families and so on through the generations. I am thankful for the quanitifable impact you have on our kids but more so for the things that can’t be seen, those are the true treasures.

 

Stop Wasting Valentine’s Day

Screenshot 2016-02-12 at 8.10.37 AM

Memes and blogs have been choking my newsfeed from women who claim THEY aren’t buying into traditional Valentine’s day hype because they are ok with just a card and chocolates (or taco bell according to one meme) or just a regular date, nothing fancy.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but ….you are still buying into it. Just because you aren’t settings your expectations high does not change that you have them.

I actually don’t buy into Valentine’s Day. I never really have. I looked at it from a historical perspective and thought it seemed a really strange day to celebrate romance so as a teen I dutifully received the roses and chocolates and jewelry from boys each year but the joke was on them because I wouldn’t have cared if I didn’t.

By college I told gentlemen I dated that Valentine’s Day really wasn’t my thing and I don’t like fresh flowers or wear much jewelry and chocolate should really be an anytime/ all the time gift but it tastes better when I pay half price after a holiday. When I found my husband he thankfully shared my views on the day and it passed without recognition most years except once when we decided other people spend money on Vday so we could totally go buy a Costco membership and call it a gift to ourselves.

A few years ago though I realized I was wasting Valentine’s Day, thanks to our pastor who really emphasizes that our lives need to be about service, starting with random acts of kindness expecting nothing in return. Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to show love to strangers without making them worry you are crazy!

We still don’t go on a date, buy each other stuff or even do cards but my husband and I totally celebrate Valentine’s Day now! We use it as a day to be mindful and go out into the community sharing Christ’s love and expecting nothing in return. I buy chocolates and roses and ribbons and make a few dozen Valentine’s “gifts” complete with scriptures of love then we head to places like malls with lots of people and let ourselves (and our kids!) be led to those who need some extra love that day.

If you feel loved every other day of the year try using Valentine’s Day as a day to show love to OTHER people, people you don’t normally show love to, maybe even people you don’t know! I promise you will not feel like you wasted Valentine’s Day!

 “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” I John 4:9-10

IMG_20150214_162355

*Somehow women choosing not to celebrate is ok but men get painted as awful if they allow it so before my poor husband catches any heat, our decision not to celebrate Valentine’s day was mindful, deliberate and led by me, he even tried some small gestures in our early years of marriage but he knows me well enough to see I meant it and that stuff was wasted on me .*