Thursday, November 20, 2008

Heart Giving

Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. – Deuteronomy 15:10

Yesterday, I took Alyssa, my five-year-old, to visit my grandmother in a senior rehabilitation center. While we were there, a nurse came into my grandmother’s room and announced it was time for lunch. We decided to continue our visit in the cafeteria.

As soon as we came to the door of the dining room, Alyssa put on the brakes. A room full of elderly, wheelchair-bound strangers was just more than she could face. At my urging, she reluctantly entered the room, clinging to my leg.

Of course, the residents were entranced by the presence of a five-year-old in their midst. They all started whispering, “Oh look—a little girl!” “Isn’t she sweet?” “Isn’t her dress cute?” “Look at that hair!” They wanted her to come closer so they could get a good look and give her little pats on the head.

She was clearly terrified, but she politely greeted everyone who spoke to her and answered all of their questions with great poise and impeccable manners. The faces of the residents lit up as they sat starring at her, transfixed by her little voice. Her presence and her demeanor were gifts to the people struggling to recover from physical injuries. She was scared to be there and really had to work hard to give of herself to the residents, and this made her effort a true gift.

Her selflessness got me thinking about the way I give. I usually pick up simple material gifts that fit my budget and can be purchased at stores that are convenient for me and have hours that fit my schedule. What if, instead, I made an effort to give more of myself—more of my heart and more of my time? What if I gave sacrificially as Jesus taught us. What difference could I make in the lives of those around me?

This Thanksgiving, who can you bless with a gift from your heart?

In recognition of Thanksgiving, I will not post next week. Have a wonderful holiday!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Struggling To Reach The Goal

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. - Philippians 1:6

During the month of November, my writer’s group is having a challenge. Each member set goals at the beginning of the month, and we have thirty days to accomplish them.

I put serious thought into my goals. I wanted to set reasonable expectations while still stretching myself in meaningful ways.

Now, here we are, nearly halfway through the month, and I have made hardly a dent in accomplishing my objectives. My lack of forward momentum is frustrating, and as I cross off each day on the calendar, I feel the weight of a looming deadline pressing harder.

I am sure you’ve had a similar experience. In fact, our kids have them as well. One of my daughters is in the process of challenging herself to be more independent. We have always joked that her motto is, “Why do for yourself what others will do for you?” That is changing as we now hear, “Let me try it myself,” with increasing frequency (along with all of the tears that accompany her less successful efforts).

My other daughter is putting her energy into slowing down and doing nice, neat schoolwork. She is learning that often the correct answer is not enough, especially if the teacher can’t read it. She gets frustrated when her grades reflect her penmanship rather than her knowledge.

When I struggle with meeting my goals, it helps to have someone encourage me while also holding me accountable. We can be this “someone” for our children by cheering for each little step of progress they make and by not letting them give up when things get tricky, or when the thought of a different goal catches their fancy. For example, my messy writer knows that when she goes a whole week without needing to redo any of her homework, she will get a special outing with Mom.

Changing ourselves takes a great deal of self-discipline, but if we don’t take the challenge, we can’t grow. God tells us that He will see our work through to completion, but often that means we need to be open to learning new skills and developing in ways that allow Him to finish that work in us.

How is He stretching you today?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Book Meme

My friend Danica tagged me on her blog for a meme about reading. To check out the details, visit her blog at

So, here are seven things about the way I read...

1) I love a good mystery, especially crime novels.

2) Usually romance novels don't do it for me, but every now and then I find one I really like.

3) I am not a fan of profanity in books or movies. I generally figure authors make inappropriate word choices because they are not clever enough to come up with something better.

4) Because I typically only read for a few minutes before falling asleep at night, it takes me a LONG time to read a book.

5) Too often I find that the most critically acclaimed books are the ones in which I am most dissapointed.

6) I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be the father in the movie "Sabrina," who quit his job and became a chauffeur so he would have more time to read.

7) I like to have books around me, so I keep most of the ones I read. I should probably use the library more often, but item number 4 tells you why that doesn't work out too well for me.

Book Fair Economics

So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? - Luke 16:11

Are you glad the election is over? I sure am. I am thrilled to answer the phone and have a friend at the end of the line, rather than an automated drone telling me how to vote. Who ever thought toilet paper commercials would be a refreshing break from all of the political ads?

Interestingly, election season intersected with the annual book fair at my kids’ school. I think the constant chatter about the economy had me at a heightened state of alert when my kids asked for book fair money. Talk of recessions and bankruptcy rates had me looking for opportunities to teach my little spenders about money management. I told them I would supply five dollars for each of them, and if they wanted more, it would need to come from their own piggy banks.

Since they are kids, they immediately opened their banks, then began digging around for any spare change they could find. The first day of the fair, my oldest daughter came home reporting that she borrowed three dollars from a friend, therefore she had to do a little more searching in order to scrounge up the needed cash for a timely repayment.

I always enjoy the book fair because it offers such a great opportunity for kids to figure out the details of purchasing all on their own. The people working the fair are moms from the school, and they wait patiently while kids count out 100 pennies, or ask for the fifteenth time how much money to set aside for sales tax. I send my kids in with money, but don’t go with them to make their purchases. I figure these opportunities to explore their financial independence are few and far between for five and seven year olds, so I’d better make the most of them.

I also enjoy watching my kids contemplate over their decisions, wondering if they should have purchased something else instead, then reveling in enjoyment and pride over their choices. This year, five-year-old Alyssa painstakingly debated between a book called Pinkalicious and a stuffed lion. Limey the limeade-loving lion won out. Seven-year-old Lauren put a puppy-shaped pencil sharpener on hold, but forgot to ask when she needed to be back with the money. By the time she remembered to bring in the cash, the holding period had ended and the puppy had gone to another buyer. She bought two animal-shaped erasers instead.

Watching my kids learn lessons about borrowing, lay-away and making good choices is a delightful process.

My hope is that these early experiences with money management will lay a foundational understanding of how to be responsible consumers. Then, prayerfully, they may successfully weather life’s financial storms in a way that keeps them strong in times such as these.

What experiences have you found to help teach kids about money management?