Stuck Between Seasons

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This morning, as I was homeschooling the last daughter and simultaneous trying to work out details for a women's conference I am coordinating, I found myself very frustrated. I was disappointed in myself because I wasn't able to post a blog last week.

Later, I was fulfilling an order from our store when I happened to glance up at the schedule for #Intentional Parenting 2015. March is supposed to focus on grace. Ok. Got that. Maybe I can write something on Wednesday, I thought.

As I put the packages in my mailbox, I passed a very interesting perspective in my flower bed--a daffodil trying its best to bloom in the middle of snow that hadn't yet melted. It is as if spring is trying to make an entrance, but winter's finale still continues. (We've had ice and about 12 inches of snow in the past two weeks and there is a potential of more snow for us later this week!)

My heart was stirred that in some ways I'm like that flower; I am stuck between seasons. I can see so many things ahead in the future and I'm working to see things move forward, but now is not the right season. God was saying that it's ok that I didn't post a blog. It isn't priority in this season. I need to keep my priorities in line with His perspective and finish my assignments for one season before I fully embrace the next. 

As I typed this blog, it was an ah-ha moment: Grace. God was giving me grace, favor I didn't deserve.  He wasn't judging me or condemning me so neither do I condemn myself. My takeaway from today: giving grace must begin with receiving grace. That's a great topic for a blog...some day.

Purity Is about More Than a 3-Letter Word

Pure: without any extraneous and unnecessary elements, free of any contamination

In a culture saturated with sensuality, it is a gargantuan challenge to raise children who are pure yet are also “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). There are many scriptures that call all believers, no matter what age, to live a life of physical purity, but there are also scriptures that call believers to have a pure heart and to think about that things that are pure.* 

Nothing Ever Changes

You may feel that purity is an impossible goal in the current world we live in, but truly our culture is not so different from the culture New Testament describes. Galatians 5:19-21 provides a warning to the believers in Galatia who engage in certain behaviors, a list that sounds very much like the challenges for Christians in our 21st century. Satan’s schemes haven’t changed, but neither has God’s call for us to live free from the contamination of sin.

In the scriptures it is clear that God calls His children to be physically pure, but there are also many scriptures that call us to be pure in heart—in our thoughts, intentions, and attitudes. God’s idea of purity includes being free from contamination like jealousy, anger, rivalry, envy, and anything else that doesn’t reflect who He is. Raising pure children in a pleasure-driven culture isn’t easy; it requires intentional parenting. 

Set a Standard

When God entrusts us with His precious little ones, He is asking us to be His agent, one empowered to act for or represent another, to raise His child as He would. Since Satan masquerades as an angel of light and children are not born with the wisdom and experience to recognize evil, it is our responsibility as parents to establish boundaries that reflect God’s standards. 

Setting a standard is important, but it is equally important to explain why the standard is important and to connect it to God’s expectations so that someday they will be able to set their own wise guidelines. It is our responsibility to educate and maintain standards in areas such as  interactions with friends, management of money, and use of media, just to name a few, but it also means that we need to hold our children accountable for impure actions or attitudes by confronting the sin and bringing correction—an infinitely more challenging role than merely enforcing rules.

Set an Example

When I was studying to be a teacher, I learned the saying, “More is caught than taught.” I believe there is some truth to that. Our children are observing us every day and learning about acceptable behavior for adults. If we have one set of guidelines for our children and another set for ourselves, it makes us hypocrites but it also demonstrates to our children that standards of purity don’t matter as much or at all when you’re an adult.  

If we want our children to be adults who live pure lives, then we must show them the way. If we want our children to grow to be adults who love God, then they need to see us loving God. If we want them to speak respectfully to us, then we need to speak respectfully to them and our own parents. If we want our children to be free from anger, rivalry and envy; then we must lead the way. When we set an example of godly character, we are saying, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1). We need to be the kind of adult we want our children to become.

 

*For specific references, please see: http://www.openbible.info/topics/being_pure. Click on the scripture to change to a different version.

Prayer=Connecting with God

If you want to build a good relationship with someone, you need to regularly connect with them. Prayer is connecting with God, whether we speak or we listen. As our children learn to pray, it grows their connection to Christ. For the next two weeks, we’ll focus on some goals in the area of prayer. Let's start simple.

GOAL #1: Mealtime Prayers

One of the simplest ways to introduce prayer in your family’s routine is to consistently pray before each meal. If this is a new idea for your family, I have some ideas for you! If you’re already praying before meals, good for you! You may want to take a moment to consider a few things that may help your family continue to grow in this area: 

  1. Do your children know why you pray before meals or is it just a habit?
  2. Do each of your children take turns praying before meals?
  3. Are your children praying from their hearts or just from their heads?

Make Connections

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I try to find biblical reasons and references for what I ask my children to do. Jesus set an example for us in Matthew 14 when he gave thanks and blessed the food before he fed the five thousand. Later in Matthew 26, he blessed the food at the Last Supper in the same way. Consider reading those chapters together as a family to introduce mealtime prayers or to reinforce why you do what you do. Here are some other benefits of praying before a meal:

  1. Pausing to thank God before we eat shows that God is important to our family and that we value connecting with Him.
  2. It is an act of self-control when we choose to pray before we eat, overruling our growling stomachs and natural desire for food.
  3. Thanking God for our food acknowledges that He is our Provider, not our job or our paycheck. 
  4. A prayer of thankfulness also cultivates a heart of gratitude, even for food that may not be our favorite. 

Say the Word

There is no formula for what to say or special words you have to use at a mealtime prayer. Jesus thanked God for the food and then He blessed it. Many people also include a prayer to bless those who prepared it or a blessing that the food would “strengthen and nourish our bodies.” I once visited a church where every member prayed for their pastors during each mealtime prayer. Ask God what He wants your family to include. 

Prayer is talking to God, so speak like you to do to a friend. If you are working so hard on making the prayer eloquent, then the focus is on you and not the prayer. Not only will a simple, heartfelt prayer help your young children understand what you’re saying, but it will show them that they are able to pray, too. 

We did try to keep the length of the prayer proportional to the age of the child. For the infants in a high chair, a lunch prayer might be, “Thank you, God, for our food. AMEN.” For toddlers, you may want to find a rote prayer, such as “God is great,” that helps them know what to pray. In time, they should become more comfortable with praying from their hearts. 

Lead the Way

If this is new to your family, there are a few things you may want to keep in mind. 

  1. Communicate with your family that you are beginning a new tradition and give an age-appropriate why. (ex. to help us connect with God, because the Bible asks us to pray, etc.)
  2. You may want to put something on your table, like a candle, to remind you to pray before each meal.
  3. Consider what posture your family will have when you pray. When my kids were little, I had them fold their hands and bow their heads. Some families hold hands to make a circle. When I was growing up, we just rested our hands in our lap so we didn’t sample the food during prayers. 
  4. It may be easiest for parents pray for a week or so to set an example. Eventually, you’ll want to rotate among family members so everyone has a chance to lead in prayer. 
  5. Under no circumstances should you force a child to pray. If you are facing opposition, address them in private after the meal. Pray with your spouse that your child will have a change of heart.

If your family already prays at meal time I’d love to hear about your traditions, and if this is new to you, tell us about what you are doing for your family!

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far

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The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

It’s funny how true that is. Many days I walk past a mirror and think, “I have become my mother.”  It’s true for our physical appearance, but it is even more true of who we are on the inside. The things I value like God, church, family, cleanliness, organization, and creativity are all things that my parent’s valued. No one ever said, “This is what we value.” Their behavior showed me every day what was important and what was not accepted or tolerated.

Our children will most likely become who we are.  

This is a sobering thought for some of us. We can so easily see our weaknesses and hope that our children don’t fall into the same patterns. But if those are the patterns our children see day after day and year after year, they are the easiest for our children to replicate. 

Do what I say, not what I do.

That doesn’t work. If we want our children to value prayer, we need to make it a regular part of our family life. If we want them to value serving, they need to see us serving others. If we want our children to guard their hearts and minds when it comes to entertainment, we need to guard ourselves and set an example. Kids, especially teens, quickly lose respect for parents who have one standard for the children and another for themselves.

Yeah, team! Hallelujah!

We are all on the same team. We are all learning what it means to love and follow Christ in every area of life. My husband and I may be a little ahead of our children in the process, but we certainly don’t have it all figured out. As a tangible sign to our kids that our family was a team, we changed our bedtime prayers. Each prayer begins with the leader: “Thank you, God, for our team.” Family: “Yeah, team! Hallelujah!” It was just a small way to say, “We’re in this together.” The tradition continues to this day. 

THE PLAN isn’t just about kids; it’s about families who are choosing to focus on becoming a reflection of Christ as they come in contact with the world and as they interact with each other. It isn’t easy, but I’ll be cheering for you. Go, team, go!

Tomorrow we begin with the first trait--Prayer.

The Perspective that Changed My Parenting

   A water-damaged picture beside my kitchen sink, taken Mother's Day 1999   

A water-damaged picture beside my kitchen sink, taken Mother's Day 1999 

Once upon a time, I was a mom of four girls, ages six and under. My life goal had been to be a mom, and I wanted to be the best one ever. But no one told my girls that. They argued and fought and screamed and cried and complained to go to church and said unkind things to our adult friends—all things that normal children do to embarrass their parents. I read parenting books, prayed, cried, and disciplined—sometimes for the same repeated disobedience many times in one day. Their character wasn’t growing, but my anger sure was. I considered myself a failure before the oldest was even 10.

Man looks on the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart. (I Sam. 16:7)

God showed me one day that I was trying to raise “trophy children” so everyone would see that I was a good mom. Truly, my primary goal was that their outward behavior would be socially acceptable and make me look successful. (That sounds so selfish and ugly, but it's the truth.) I repented, and God changed my perspective. This time my goal was not a temporary behavior change for a particular situation, but a forever heart change that would cause them to make godly choices for a lifetime.  

When I asked my girls to do something or to change their behavior, I tried to connect my request to a Bible verse which helped them understand that it was God’s request, not just mine. This perspective had some unexpected benefits. First, it caused me to carefully consider each request and align it with God’s Word. I also tried not to ask the girls to do something that I could do myself, like retrieving an item. I also realized that when the girls chose not to obey, I didn’t take it personally or get bent out of shape about it, because I realized that they were choosing not to obey God. That perspective disarmed my emotions of failure because their obedience was not about me personally.

Doing the right thing for the wrong reason doesn’t make it right.

God calls us to “Train up a child in the way he should go…” (Prov. 22:6), but it isn’t so that we’ll look like successful parents. That would be all about us. He wants our children to have pure hearts so that they will “shine among them like stars in the sky.” (Phil. 2:15) Our goal is to train our children to love God and to make wise choices that honor Him when no immediate reward is involved and no one is watching, to be bright lights that lead the way for others to encounter Christ. That change in perspective of parenting has made all the difference in the world for me and my family. Tomorrow we PREPARE.

THE PLAN

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Do the next thing.

Elisabeth Elliot introduced me to this phrase that continues to give me direction in chaos and confusion. I don’t need to formulate a complete plan. I just need to do the next thing. One thing. And then, do the next thing.

This is not an easy concept for a slightly OCD person like myself who really wants to start EVERYTHING new in January. The idea of starting a new habit or routine in April just seems wrong to me. But I have found that I can only change so many things at the same time and maintain those changes over time. For me, small changes over time produce big results in the future. After all, raising children isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. 

You need a bite-sized plan for a God-sized goal. 

As Harold and I were setting goals for our young children many years ago, I ran across I Thessalonians 5:23-24: “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. the One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.” This one verse helped us to categorize the goals we set for our daughters’ lives: Spirit—how they related to God, Soul—how they related to others, and Body—how they guarded themselves. My husband and I talked about the behaviors and heart attitudes that we believed were critical in the godly character formation of the girls and then created a list of goals for each category. 

Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. ~Tony Robbins 

Achieving a goal begins with putting it in writing and breaking it down into smaller action steps. THE PLAN outlines the character trait goals that we chose for our family. I wish I could say that the girls mastered every one in the span of a year. The truth is that we’re all still a work in progress, but we look more like Jesus that we did when we began this journey. 

There is more than one way to raise a godly child.

There is no perfect, one-size-fits-all solution to raising children who love and honor God. THE PLAN is only one tool in the sea of many options that helps parents to be intentional about raising godly children. (Click here for a printable copy.) It is a simple chart that suggests one or two character traits to focus on throughout the month. I’ll be posting scriptures, activities and ideas from our family that focus on that particular trait. You may choose to focus on one or both of the traits for the month, or you may focus on one trait for several months. You’re the parent and God will give you wisdom about what is best for your family. The goal is not a number completed; the goal is a changed heart. 

The first change starts tomorrow—PERSPECTIVE.

A Private Message That Forever Changed Our Family

I never intended to homeschool high school. As a high school student, I did well in English, history and foreign language; but I had needed a tutor to make it through Algebra 2, and I never took a science course beyond Biology. (I didn’t need to for my degree in music.) I hadn’t been successful when I TOOK those classes and I couldn’t imagine that I would be remotely successful TEACHING them. I was sure that it wasn’t God’s plan for me to homeschool high school. 

In June, just three months before high school was to begin, I was attending a women’s conference and the speaker said, “God can give you wisdom beyond your experiences.” I knew that God was sending me a message; He wanted me to homeschool high school. Part of me was angry. “God, when I had agreed to homeschool, I didn’t think that high school was part of the deal!” The insecure side of me felt too inadequate. The selfish side of me was looking forward to only having three to homeschool and didn’t want to be responsible to teach those challenging subjects. But after talking with Harold, we said, “Yes.” In return for our obedience, God poured out abundant blessings I could never have imagined.

Our family has grown in unity. Each of us has grown in character and grown closer to each other. We have learned how to serve each other, and we have learned how to work together to serve others. Our girls are more than sisters or classmates; they are truly each other’s best friends. As parents, these years have allowed us to grow strong relationships with our daughters that will stand the test of time.

Each daughter received a customized education that best prepared her to achieve her future goals. All of my graduates took college courses during high school, which prepared them to excel in their college studies and gave them space in their college schedules to pursue a minor or other field of interest. The flexibility of homeschooling allowed our girls to use their time to explore and pursue their God-given callings through life experiences, travel, education, and extra-curricular activities.

Most importantly, our girls flourished spiritually. Homeschooling allowed us to mentor and disciple our daughters through the critical teen years. We were able to read the Bible and discuss it together, to talk about the consequences of choices made in various situations, to memorize scripture together, and to guide them as they learned to make wise choices. Though we used carefully chosen textbooks and materials with a God-centered worldview, we also educated our daughters in other world views and religions so they could think critically about the influences in their lives. As a result of intentional spiritual discipleship, each daughter has established her own vibrant relationship with God and is positioning herself for continued growth.

I’m not saying that you have to homeschool high school if you want your child to be a Christian, because truly there is more than one way to raise a godly child. I am saying that homeschooling was God’s choice for our family and the experience has been an incredible blessing that has forever changed our family. I am grateful that God loved our family so much that He sent me a private message.

   

Leading from Legacy

The Gift of Music
Musical ability runs deep in our family.  Family history on my mother’s side says that around the turn of the century my great-grandfather, a music teacher by trade, courted my great grandmother with an autoharp.  I vividly remember my maternal grandmother using that same instrument to play hymns, though she could’ve also played on the piano, the organ and the guitar.  She and her husband passed on that love of music to their eight children, of which my mother was one.  Each of them learned to play an instrument for the family radio program which included hymns and gospel music followed by a sermon by my grandfather.  Six of the eight grew up to use their talents regularly for Sunday morning worship and one even graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education.  Many of the 28 grandchildren, including myself, studied music and still play.  Our family reunions seemed more like mini-recitals for the grandchildren followed by a hymn sing for the adults.

Whether it was practicing piano, singing with my mom, or studying music education in college, music was a big part of my life.  The day I met Harold, he was leading worship at my grandmother’s church.  Even before our children were born, we envisioned music to be important to our family.  It was only natural that we pass on our passion and heritage to our four daughters.  While we gave them opportunities, we did not force their participation.  Their musical gifts and talent led them to include music as a part of their lives.  All four play piano, three play a second instrument, two have sung on the worship team at church, and one has recorded a CD (Read more…) and is now studying worship full time.  Music still continues to play a major role in my life.

A Family Call
I believe that family lines often have a common destiny and that God gives gifts to achieve that call.  In the Old Testament, God set the precedent and called the family of Levi to a common destiny—to care for and serve in the tabernacle.   Throughout history, businesses and trades have been (and continue to be) passed down to the next generation in the family.  History is replete with examples of families who governed—dynasties in China, monarchies throughout Europe and Russia.  Although we in the United States have the privilege of voting for our leaders, there is often a pattern of generations of families who serve in governmental leadership.  Generation influence is also strong in the area of acting, Olympic participation, professional sports, military service, missionary work, and even pastoral ministry.

Both my maternal grandfather and my father were ordained ministers; Harold’s maternal grandmother was an ordained minister and evangelist.  The day Harold was ordained, his mother came into his office and began to pray fervently for him with tears streaming down her face. She later explained to us that she felt compelled to pass on the anointing of her mother.  It was an incredibly powerful moment.

Leading from Legacy
At some point, every child struggles to find their place.  What am I good at?  Where can I excel?  What should I major in?  What job should I get?  What is God’s plan for my life and my future?  Here are some ways to lead from the legacy God has given your family:

Consider your family tree.  When guiding children of any age, study past generations.  Do you see a common passion or gift throughout the generations?  Is there something that God has called your family to accomplish?  Ask God if your child is part of that legacy and listen to your child’s areas of interest.  Our girls are inspired when they hear of how God has used their grandparents and honored when they think about following in their footsteps.

Broaden your focus. For instance, though our family has a legacy of music, the gift of teaching has also been passed down from my great-grandfather.  Two of my aunts and several of my cousins are professional teachers.  I combined the two and became a music teacher.

Think outside the box. God doesn't always follow the same path; sometimes he does something new.  In our family, two of our four are passionately pursuing music as part of their daily life.  One daughter is pursuing education and another is pursing medicine.  To my knowledge there is no gift of medicine in our family, that doesn't mean she can’t or shouldn't pursue medicine.  God sometimes skips a generation or even establishes a new stream.

Be intentional. Before filling the schedule with more activities, be intentional.  Strengthen the strengths of your child and help him or her choose activities that grow skills or talents.  At twelve Victoria gave up ballet so that she could spend more time on the music she loved.  Her time was well spent.  Ask questions and help your child focus on what is important for today and for the future.

Redeem the gift. Maybe your family isn’t full of great examples of Christian life or ministry.  God’s gives gifts, but it’s up to us how we use them.  You can still discover hidden treasures in your family line, but God may call you to use them differently.  For instance your may be from a family of successful but unethical businessmen, but God is calling you to use that same business acumen to multiply wealth for missions or ministries.  Redeem the gift.

Search out the legacy of your family and walk in the blessing that God intended it to be.

The Family Orchestra

More than twenty years ago, I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education.  Today my musical teaching is limited to helping my daughters with their private lessons, but my mind still thinks in musical terms.  Recently I’ve been thinking about the similarities between a parent and a music teacher or an orchestra conductor. Music teachers, the first instructors for beginning instrumentalists, teach the basics and endure hours of repetitious and often out-of-tune practice.  Parenting young children is often like being a beginning music teacher—you build the foundation and repeat the same instructions though the process is sometimes tiring and you may see little progress.

On the other hand, orchestra conductors direct instrumentalists who have mastered the basics and are ready to perform with other accomplished musicians.  It is quite similar to the role of parenting during the teen years.  If we parents do our job in the early years, our children won’t need the same level of instruction during their teen years.  Instead of being music teachers, we become more like an orchestra conductors.

We make sure everyone is on the same page.  You can imagine the cacophony of sound that would emerge from a symphony if only one  player was reading music from the wrong page.  Similarly, the beautiful melody of a family can only be achieved if we are on the same page.  When the girls were very young, we tried hard to communicate what was important and why.  We talked about what it means to follow God.  We explained why we chose certain activities and didn’t choose others.  Today, Harold and I try hard to communicate our goals and expectations not only for the girls personally, but also in regard to our schedule—what family commitments we have (We keep a master calendar.) and how each person can best serve our family during a certain period of time.  Our children can’t read our minds.  If I don’t communicate, I can’t expect that we’ll be on the same page.

We set the tempo of our home. As the girls have grown, so have the number of activities and opportunities they have opportunity to be involved in.  When the girls were young, Harold and I discussed which activities were beneficial for the girls and for our family.  Today, the girls come to us with requests and together we discuss the commitment and all of the ramifications to our family life and to our schedule.  As a pastor, my husband has many responsibilities and commitments so we try to look at the calendar and set a reasonable pace for our schedule.  We live in a fast-paced world that seems only to speed up with each passing year.  We try to set a reasonable family pace, balancing busy days and busy weeks with times of Sabbath and refreshing.  Some Saturdays we declare a family day—we disconnect our home phone and Harold turns off his cell phone.   The world has much to offer to fill our days, but it’s our job as parents to set the tempo.

We direct entrances and exits. With two drivers who are very committed to church and attending college, I sometimes feel like we have a revolving front door.  Our culture tends to accept the division of children and their families—children of all ages are involved in sports, music lessons, school activities, church activities, youth group, part time jobs, etc.  None of these activities are bad in and of themselves; however when activities become a “drop and shop”—drop the kids off so you can do what you want—it can divide families.  Give thought to the “entrances and exits” in your home.  All too soon your precious ones will be exiting the front door to start their own home.

We control the volume. In a house of four girls, this one is pretty tough.  Those who know our family well know that there is a certain level of excited chit-chat that accompanies our daughters.  (Some call it noise; I call it happy sounds.)  It is sometimes easier to live a life full of noise and activity than to take time to be silent and alone.  It is important that we teach our children to choose moments of solitude so they can think, process, create, and most importantly, hear the voice of God.  If the volume is turned up too loud, we may miss the still small voice of our Father.

We encourage each one to listen to the other. In an orchestra no one instrument should stand out louder than another, unless they are playing a solo.  Each player needs to carefully listen to those around them.  Listening can be a challenge in our home.  It seems there is never a lack of response to any comment made by one member of our family.  Most certainly at least one other member has an opinion or suggestion about the topic at hand.  More often than not, I hear overlapping layers of conversation interspersed with laughter.  I believe that all individuals, no matter their age, have a desire to be heard and understood.  I sometimes feel that my job is to be the “conversation traffic police”—stopping conversations that don’t build each other up, encouraging one speaker at a time, and reminding speakers to slow down so I can understand.  Monologues are like solos, but dialogues allow the beauty of each individual to shine through so that each one feels heard and understood.

If you are a parent, you are like a music teacher or orchestra conductor.  You may not be capable of teaching piano lessons or conducting a large group, but God has given you, and your family, the ability to create beautiful music that will bring honor and glory to Him.  Soli Deo Gloria.

The Cleaning Game

When I was growing up, spring was the signal for an all-out war on dust and dirt at our house.  Mom removed and cleaned the curtains and drapes, got on her hands and knees to strip and wax the kitchen and dining room floors, and cleaned out every inch of the kitchen cabinets and every closet.  Taking care of her family was her full time job—and she did it well.  Most days we could’ve eaten off the kitchen floor because it was so clean.  (Some days you can eat off my kitchen floor because there are enough crumbs to feed a small country.)  When my brothers and sisters and I were at school, my mom had many uninterrupted hours to order her home. As a homeschool mom, my time is divided between home and school so I had to find an alternative. “Many hands make light work.” (John Heywood) When daughter #4 arrived, I knew I could no longer do everything around the house on my own.  The oldest was only 6 and the next was 4, but I immediately enlisted their help.  My solution was based in three principles:  1.The girls couldn’t do everything I did, but they could certainly do some things.  2. If their hands were busy working with me, it would be more difficult for them to undo what I was trying to do.  3. Working together as a family, no matter what the project, would build teamwork.  And so I invented The Cleaning Game--a fun way for our family to work as a team to clean our home.  When the house is clean, everyone wins!

How to eat an elephant You’ve probably heard the saying, “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.”  The same principle works for the overwhelming task of cleaning a home—take one bite at a time.  The Cleaning Game (TCG) is played with 100+ task cards that each list one bite-sized task, brief instructions for how to accomplish the task and a list of supplies needed.  Cards include chores for two vehicles and houses with 6 bedrooms and four baths.  Blank cards are included so you can customize the game to meet the needs of your family.  Three diligent, expert players over the age of 6 are able to clean a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home in under 3 hours—not including floors.

“You can expect what you inspect.” (Anonymous) Remove any cards from the deck that don’t apply to your family.  Begin by dealing the cards to each player.  (TCG comes with instruction cards explaining several different ways to play with the same deck of cards, but our family plays once a week.)  I recommend that you introduce a few tasks each week, instructing and demonstrating how the task would be completed to your satisfaction.  Add tasks each week until all cards have been introduced.  Ideally, players who can read can work independently, however it is critical that work is inspected and that players receive both positive and negative feedback—especially in the start-up phase.  Parents can choose cards, remain only an “Inspector”, or complete the jobs that children are unable to do.  Players seem to be best motivated when a parent is involved in some part of the process.

“A family that plays together, stays together.” (Joy Moore) If you are interested in playing with your family, you have two options:  purchase a CD with the pdf file of The Cleaning Game for $7.99 and free shipping OR purchase and download the pdf file of The Cleaning Game for the introductory rate of $3.99 during the month of March.  Both forms of The Cleaning Game are available only at the Daughters 4 God Shoppe.

She May Have Alzheimer's but She's Still My Mom

My mom and I celebrated her 69th birthday on Sunday, but today she probably doesn’t remember.  Dementia has been slowly stealing my mother.  Just four days before her birthday my dad moved her to a full time nursing facility in a town near his PA home.  I had already planned to make the five-hour trip from VA to celebrate Mom’s birthday, and her change of residence didn’t change my plans. On Saturday night, I got my first glimpse of mom since Christmas.   Her eyes were still vacant, her mobility nearly gone, yet she still wore a smile.  Dad, one of my brothers, both of my sisters, and I sat around the table exchanging conversation and trying to piece together a conversation from her short, sometimes nonsense responses.  She stayed awake the entire time and enjoyed the cake we brought.  It was an unusual but sweet birthday celebration.

On Sunday, I returned to have some alone time with Mom and “to have church”.  She never missed a Sunday and most were spent serving the body of Christ with her exceptional musical gifts.  Her face showed surprise and a big smile when I found her sitting in the dining area with the other residents.  I greeted her with a hug and a kiss and then pulled up a chair to sit beside her.

Words cannot adequately communicate the reality of our time together.  On paper, her words are neatly strung together, one after the other.  In reality, there were many stops and starts and pauses.  Though the paragraphs here flow together swiftly, there was actually much silence and hand-holding during the course of my 45-minute visit, with little more conversation than what I recorded.  This woman was surely not the intelligent, vivacious, creative mother who raised me, but I saw glimpses of her.

I made some small talk with Mom about her birthday, how old she was, and what she had for breakfast. (She couldn’t answer, but the nurse had told me).  We sat quietly together observing the surroundings—a TV blared in the corner, a nurse was taking a resident’s blood pressure, and several residents walked aimlessly through the room.  It was hardly a setting for church, but I opened the service with some hymns.  I started with, “Heavenly Sunlight,” her favorite hymn and one she and her sisters had recorded on a CD about a decade earlier.  I repeated the chorus very slowly.  She knew many of the words, but she watched my mouth intently to help her keep up. She still loves to praise her Lord.

Next, I read from Psalm 34:  "I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.  I will glory in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together."  Then I read the first few verses from Isaiah 61, her life chapter.  All the while I read, she nodded her head and said “uh-huh” at appropriate She still loves the Word of the Lord.

Next, I gave her the updates of my girls.  When I told her that Victoria’s graphic design work had won a contest and that she was excited, mom replied, “That makes me happy, too.” She still rejoices with those who rejoice.

When I told her that Elisabeth had her own piano studio and was giving lessons to young children, she remarked, “I know she’s good at that.” She’s still an encourager.

I mentioned that Anna still wants to be a nurse and go to Africa.  Africa holds a special place in her heart since her sister had been a missionary there for 15 years and mom had traveled there on a mission trip in 2000.  She responded, “Oh, I hope she can make that happen.” She still has a heart for the nations.

Lastly, I told Mom that my musically gifted Abigail was still playing violin and that her talent must’ve come from her (Mom).  Mom played piano by ear with only 3 months of lessons and had a beautiful singing voice.  Mom’s response was that she got it from me.  (I have a degree in Music Education.)  When I disagreed, she said, “She got it from both of us.” She’s still humble.

There was a lot of activity in the community room where we were sitting.  When someone walked close to the stool where her swollen feet were propped, she moved her feet.  “Every time they walk this way I have to move my feet,” and she flexed her foot slightly to demonstrate. She still thinks of others.

Later, one of the patients knocked over a chair and she remarked, “Some of them don’t know how to act.”  When I mentioned that the staff thought she was pleasant, she said, “I’m glad you told me that.” She still brings peace in chaos.

Before I left, I asked her if she wanted me to pray for anything.  She said, “No, I try not to hold onto anything,” and proceeded to hand me the wet washcloth she had been holding in her hands.  Maybe she was talking about the washcloth, but it really is how she has lived her life. She’s still teaching me how to grow in Christ.

I prayed with her and she agreed throughout the prayer at appropriate moments.  She was clearly in her element with her Savior.  For years her days began around 4 am as she spent time with her Savior in my old bedroom turned prayer room. She’s still in love with her Jesus.

After the prayer, I leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.  Through tears I told her how special she is, how I glad I am to be her daughter, and how much I love her.  She responded, “I love you, too—well, you oughtta know that.”  As I stood to go, she kept repeating, “I love you. I love you so much.” She’s still my mom.

 My mom and I before she was diagnosed.

My mom and I before she was diagnosed.

Technology: Guarding Hearts and Minds

The speed of changing technology is mind boggling.  In the 80’s, my first computer experience included a boot up disc.  In the 90’s our girls played with an outdated Apple computer (Yes, I mean Apple.) and we bought our first family computer with 5 gigabytes of memory for Harold’s start up business.  In the 2000’s, internet and cell phones became necessities for doing business.  Today, I am typing this post on a laptop and some of you will be reading it on your smartphone that is significantly smaller and holds 10 times the memory of my first computer.  What an incredible evolution!  What an incredible responsibility… Though technology has changed at nearly the speed of light, I believe that it’s difficult for us parents to follow at the same pace.  Yes, I own a laptop, I communicate to friends through email (but that’s not my only form of communication), I navigate the web with little difficulty (especially when it comes to shopping =D) and I do text my daughters--but somehow I’m still not as skilled as my girls.  I once read an article that explained my lack, suggesting that the language of technology is a primary language for our children.  They’ve grown up with it.  Most parents have had to learn along the way and some of us are better than others at learning languages.  It totally made sense to me and explained why my then 6-year-old knew how to change my desktop and screen saver and I hadn’t a clue and why my 19-year-old had to help me learn how to subscribe to itunes podcasts and import my digital pictures.  I’m learning and progressing, mind you, but no matter how much I know about my computer it is certain that one of the girls knows more.

Computers can do some amazing things.  In the past month, the girls and I have used our computers to shop for gifts, research fibromyalia and identify blue delphinium, create a powerpoint presentation,email missionary friends in Spain, listen to a podcast from a church in California, Skype a friend in China, listen to music, get directions, design advertising pieces that will be printed in a local woman’s magazine, and of course, type and send this newsletter to hundreds of subscribers.

However, computers are a tool that can be used for good or for evil.  There are a lot of sites on the internet that are dangerous to my children’s lives and souls.  A few years back, one grieving mother came to me at a homeschool convention asked for prayer for her then 11-year-old who had inadvertently accessed pornography while visiting grandma. (She gave me permission to share her story.)  With the click of a mouse, not only can you access pornography, but I’m told you can find out how to build a bomb, how to commit suicide, why the Bible isn’t true, and so many more facts and opinions that fly in the face of our faith.  As parents, it is our responsibility to protect our children as they learn to use technology responsibly.  Sure, we can choose not to incorporate technology into our lives because it’s too dangerous, but using an oven or stove is dangerous, too.  Instead of relegating our cooking to the microwave, we teach our children about safety, supervise them, and give them opportunities to use the oven or stove within safe boundaries.  The same process works for the internet.

As parents, it is our responsibility to set boundaries and protect our children as they learn how to use technology so that they will learn to make wise choices when given that opportunity.  When our girls were very young, they had very limited access to computer games and no access to internet unless they were watching me or their dad.  Toward the end of elementary school, we still used computer games but we also began to incorporate the computer and typing skills into school assignments.  They still had no access to internet, email or Facebook.  Somewhere around middle school, we began to make use of computers as a research tool.  Instead of purchasing some security suite, I used the Windows program to change security

settings that limited their internet sites to only those that I had unlocked with a password.  (How to change internet security settings in Windows )  It can be annoying to repeatedly enter your password on certain sites, but the alternative of having my child wander the web alone is just not an option.

When Harold and I agree that a daughter has moral character, is responsible, obedient and is making wise choices more than foolish ones, we consider expanding the boundaries.  For instance, she may get an email address if there is a need.  (Anna got one last year when she was fourteen so she could communicate about her ministry, Blessing Wells.  Abigail still doesn’t have one, but has 5 or 6 penpals that she communicates with by snail mail.)  Our computers have a high security filter and are subscribed to Covenant Eyes, which doesn’t block sites but compiles all web usage and sends a bi-weekly report to accountability partners you choose.  A daughter must always ask permission to use the family computer.  If she needs to do research for school, I may allow her to use my laptop alone while I’m in the room occasionally walking behind her.  She and I both know that all of her activity will be logged and the report will be sent to our very good friend and to one of our pastors.  When she has proven herself faithful, I may extend her time on the internet—for destinations, not just for wandering.  If at any time we see a negative change in character and behavior, the privilege of using the computer is revoked.

What if a child owns their own computer?  Two of our daughters have made such an investment when they were about sixteen.  They may own their own laptops, but they must still abide by the boundaries we’ve set.  I still have permission to hold them accountable to the amount of time they spend on the computer.  I know all passwords for their computers.  Their computers are subscribed to Covenant Eyes. If they aren’t sure about the name of the website, they don’t enter it in the address line; they Google search it instead.  The girls give out their email only to good friends and don’t email or instant message or Skype guys without permission.  At any time, Harold and I have the right to read any of their email—not because we’re nosey or distrust our daughters but this would be necessary if we observed them making choices that cause us concern.

Today we continue to protect our family by setting boundaries, using the security suite that comes with our internet provider and by subscribing to Covenant Eyes.  My husband also has an app for his phone that reports web usage.  We are doing our best to set an example of being responsible and accountable in our use of technology, because you’re never too old to be responsible or accountable.  Let this be the year you make a plan, set some boundaries, and choose to guard the hearts and minds of your family.

Four Ways to Help Daughters Dream Big Dreams

Anna isn’t afraid to dream big dreams; dreams that will only become reality through the supernatural power of our magnificent God.  What seems to be impossible is a challenge she readily accepts; her faith is keeping me on my toes. D4G:  Tell me about Blessing Wells International.

Anna:  It is an organization I started to raise money to provide clean water for the people of Africa.  I first thought of Blessing Wells about two months before my thirteenth birthday.  I didn’t want to be selfish so I decided that I didn’t want to receive any birthday presents.  I wanted to give back to the people of Africa.  I wanted to make a difference and help the people of Africa survive and live without diseases and to have clean water.

I also wanted to give other people the opportunity to help build a well on a more personal level.  Even though they give in a small way, it makes a big difference.  Without other people I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today.

D4G:  What was your first goal?

Anna:  My first goal was to build a family well in one year.  I achieved that goal and raised $750 in about 11 months.  I partnered with Samaritan’s Purse to be a part of a well project in the mountains of Sudan.

D4G:  How do you raise money?

Anna:  I take donations, I’ve sold candy, but mostly I design and make sterling silver and gold-filled jewelry.  I started with simple earrings and now I’m doing single strand necklaces and bracelets.  At first my mom helped me, but now I do all the work myself.  I’m learning wirework and hoping to make rings in the near future.

D4G:  How do you choose your designs?

Anna:  God.  I go to the bead shop and God shows me.  God definitely helps me choose the beads and things.

D4G:  Where do you sell your jewelry?

Anna:  I sell my jewelry at flea markets and personally to people at my church.  I’m hoping to set up an online store soon.

D4G:  What message do you have for other girls your age?

Anna:  Do hard things and make difference.  You’re never too young to do something important.  You don’t have to wait until you’re a certain age to do something important.  After I started Blessing Wells, I read the book, Do Hard Things (by:  Alex and Brett and Harris) and it really encouraged me that I’m not the only one who is working hard to make a difference.

D4G:  What is your current goal and how long do you think it will take to achieve it?

Anna:  My current goal is to raise $6,000 to fund a community well by the time I graduate from high school in June, 2014.  I am still in the process of looking at different organizations to partner with, but my goal is to find one where I remain anonymous.  I would love to help build the well, but I don’t want my name on it or any other special treatment.  It’s God working through me and not just me.  We’re just God’s vessels anyway.

A Note to Parents:

If your daughter has a dream that seems bigger than life:

  1. Resist the temptation to shoot it down. It may seem completely illogical and impossible, but pray about whether it is a dream from God.  If it is something on His heart, look for opportunities to partner with her.
  2. Be creative and look for connections.  The flea market at our church has been a great way for Anna to market her products.  Consider partnering with people or organizations that are already doing what your daughter wants to do.  It’s a safe way to find out how invested she is in the dream.
  3. Use the network you have. You don’t have to do everything; find some friends who are experts in what she needs to know or to do.  One of my friends designed a brochure, a business card, and a website for Blessing Wells so Anna could advertise.
  4. Look for teachable moments. I allowed her to host a jewelry party in our home so that she could start launch her collection.  It was a great opportunity for her to practice her public speaking skills. Helping make the jewelry was one way I could support her, but as soon as she was old enough, we took a jewelry class together so she could improve her skills and work independently.

While Blessing Wells International has required thought, planning, time, and investment on Anna’s part and some encouragement and work on my part, I am certain that the blessings for God’s children in Africa far exceed the little we have given.  I am grateful to have the privilege to partner with God and with my daughter to dream big dreams and to bless His Kingdom.

 

Reflections on Purity Weekend

It’s over and I survived.   All of my girls know about “the birds and the bees” and I lived to tell the tale.  A few weeks ago, I took my youngest daughter on “Purity Weekend”--my fourth and last.  You’d think I’d have felt relieved, but I found my feelings to be different. When we started the tradition of Purity Weekend with our oldest daughter, I was insecure, uncertain, and fearful.  How will I know when she’s ready?  How will I know when I’m ready?  What if I say something wrong?  What if I forget something?  I recognized the need to inform my daughter about the creation of new life, but I felt completely unprepared.  Since I was raised in a very modest home, this topic wasn’t discussed and the thought of having such personal discussions made me quite uncomfortable.  After much research, I collected some resources and planned the special event.  It was a great success.

As I prepared for our third daughter’s Purity Weekend, God impressed me to write a collection of information and object lessons to help parents inform their daughter about purity, sexuality and courtship.  The Gift of Purity:  Letters to a Daughter About Guarding Her Heart was released in April, 2009.  For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this resource, here is a short diary of how we used The Gift of Purity for Abigail’s Purity Weekend.

The week before the event I made an invitation for Abigail, telling her of the dates of her Purity Weekend and time we would be leaving.  I kept the location, the topics, and my planned activities a surprise.  Although it would’ve been great to mail the invitation, I ended up sliding it under her door.  With tears running down her cheeks she ran down the stairs and hugged me, hardly believing that the day had finally come.

When the big day arrived, Abigail and I loaded the van, said our good-byes.  As we drove, I hinted around a bit and then asked her if she wanted to get her ears pierced—something she had been anxiously awaiting for several years.  She was ecstatic and a little nervous, but so excited when she saw the results.  After dinner we checked into our oceanfront hotel at the beach (a great deal on Expedia).  She was overwhelmed by the ocean view.  We got settled in and then sat outside on the balcony as we completed the first section entitled, “Purity,” defining purity using biblical standards.  Abigail enjoyed the “Purity Point” object lesson demonstrating that you can’t identify pure water by sight alone.  We closed in prayer as together we dedicated each part of our body to our Lord and Savior.

Our Father gave us the beautiful gift of a clear morning and a glorious sunrise.  We completed the second section of letters about God’s creation of intimacy in marriage and the object lesson demonstrating the power of sexual intimacy to tie two people together.  We finished with some warnings of how Satan tries to pervert God’s precious gift.  The sunny day beckoned us out of the hotel room and we walked several blocks to a little restaurant serving a great breakfast buffet and some gigantic chocolate chip pancakes.  As we walked back to the restaurant, we visited a few shops and crossed a few things off our Christmas shopping list.

Back at the hotel, we began the last section of The Gift of Purity, entitled "Courtship."  Abigail was sad when she realized it was the last section.  We talked about the difference between courtship and dating and why her dad and I had chosen courtship as the process to discover her spouse.  The "Purity Point" object lesson reminded her that giving away a kiss is giving away a little of her purity.  When we concluded, she joyfully agreed to abide by the process of courtship and signed the Commitment to Courtship.

Now it was time for some fun!  We drove to a local spa where I had scheduled an appointment for a manicure.  The spa was lovely and her technician made her feel like a pampered princess.  Her first professional manicure, it was a memorable experience for one who wants to study cosmetology.  We returned to our hotel just in time to change our clothes and freshen up before dinner.

Abigail and I decided to take pictures on the boardwalk before going to dinner.  Actually, I decided that because it was a set up for Abigail.  I told her we'd ask someone to take our picture together, so I called to a man nearby, "Sir, could you please take our picture?"  Abigail immediately recognized her father, the would-be photographer.  Surprise and joy in her heart brought tears to her eyes.  For several moments, she was completely still in her daddy’s embrace and then together we drove to our dinner destination.

Over dinner we talked of courtship and the commitment Abigail and I had just signed.  Harold reminded her of her preciousness and presented her with a lovely purity ring.  Again, tears swelled in her eyes as Dad slipped it on her finger.  The three of us continued our celebration.  Abigail repeatedly looked at her manicure and the lovely ring on her finger—I’m not sure which one she liked more!  Dad returned home after dinner while Abigail and I stayed at the hotel one more night.  Neither of us wanted it to end.  Following a relaxing night of sleep, we gathered our belongings, checked out of the hotel, and arrived at home in time for our Saturday morning pancake breakfast.

Purity Weekend is over, but every one of the girls has mentioned that they want to go again.  I’ve told them that there isn’t anything else I have to tell them, but they insist it doesn’t matter.  According to my four delightful daughters, the best part is just being together.  I enjoyed the time as much as they did.  Maybe I’ll start another tradition.

A Lesson Plan to Teach Time Management

Introduction for Parents

Since the girls were quite small, we have tried to teach them to be good stewards of their money.  A few years back, God showed me that He was just as concerned with how we steward another commodity—our time.  He has given us the precious gift of 24 hours to spend each day.  Truly our time is not our own.  When we choose to follow Christ as Lord, we also choose to surrender everything we have to our Savior—our time, talent, money, dreams, future.  As parents, it is our responsibility to help our children make wise, God-honoring choices about how to use their time.

This brief lesson is designed to be used with children ages 8-14 years old.  I believe it will be most effective when you make it your own by using personal examples or applications to your own family.

Budgeting Time

Many people use a budget to help them plan what to do with the money God has given them.  God wants us to be responsible with what He gives us.  People make budgets to determine how much money to tithe, give, spend, save, and invest based on their priorities.

In the same way, God wants us to be responsible with the 24 hours that He gives us each day.  A schedule helps us budget our time and determine how to use the minutes and hours of the day based on our priorities.  Neither a budget nor a schedule is a permanent law set in stone.  Both can be adjusted temporarily or revised, if necessary, so you may want to write in pencil so you can easily make changes.  Print this schedule worksheet and use it to make your own schedule.  Here are some ideas of what to include on your schedule:

Tithing Time

A tithe means, “tenth.”  In the book of Genesis, Abraham gave God a tenth of his possessions. The Bible doesn’t ask us to give a tithe of our time, but the same principle works.  All of our time belongs to God, but He asks us to spend it in certain ways.  God desires us to spend time in church with our Christian family celebrating our God.  God also desires that we have a “date” with him, spending time in His presence praying and hearing His voice.  Most of us aren’t spending a tithe of our hours with God, but God hasn’t required that of us.  He wants us to regularly spend time with Him and with His people.

On your schedule:  Label blocks when you are at church for worship service, Sunday School, or other activities, including travel time.  Also label blocks for family worship or devotions.

Spending Time

When we make choices about what to do and how long to do it, we are spending time.  When we aren’t doing anything or just playing outside, we are still spending time.  A schedule is helpful because it keeps us focused and accountable to do what is most important.   Some things on a schedule are necessities, like going to school, doing homework, doing chores, participating in activities, or even daily hygiene.  When you’re an adult you’ll have other necessities on your schedule like work, laundry, or homeschooling your children.  On your schedule:  Label blocks for daily hygiene, chores, school, and any activities (ex. sports, dance, music lessons) you participate in.  Ask your parents to help you determine how many blocks to label for sleep.

Giving Time

God has promised to provide for our needs and often He provides more than we need.  Sometimes God gives us abundance to bless us and other times God provides extra so we can give to others.  God’s Word says to “consider one another’s interests ahead of your own.” (Phil. 2:10)  Our priorities should not focus only on ourselves.  God desires that His children live as a family by sharing, giving, and preferring each other.  He also commands us to feed the hungry and care for those in need.   At this stage of your life, you probably don’t have a lot of money to give, but you can give your time.

Talk with your parents about the opportunities available in your church and community and how you might be able to serve as a family.  Babysit for free for a family in the church or neighborhood.  Some communities have soup kitchens or distribute food through the local Food Bank.  Some churches have a ministry to the elderly who aren’t able to come to church.  Volunteer to serve in the children’s department at church so parents can be in service.  Pray with your parents about what would be the best option for you and your family.  On your schedule:  Label blocks on your schedule for the area(s) that you plan to give your time.

Saving Time

Time is a limited commodity.  You may get a raise and make more money, but no one on this earth can make more time.  The only way to have more time is to use it more efficiently.  Believe it or not, there are companies hired for the specific purpose of saving people time.  These companies collect and analyze information about how people use their time and then make recommendations for how the time could be used more efficiently.

You don’t have to hire a company to save time.  Take a good look at your schedule to find ways to save time and conserve motion.  For instance, it is probably a better use of your time to do all of your chores in one block of time than to do chores in short segments throughout the day.  Before you start school or homework, sharpen a pencil, gather your books, notebooks and any other supplies you’ll need.  This will help you work with fewer interruptions.  Taking your dishes to the sink after a meals takes less time and energy than leaving the table and then going back to get your dishes.  At the end of the day, hang up your clothes if they’re clean or put them wherever you keep your dirty clothes.  This takes less time and energy than putting your clothes on the floor and later picking them up and putting them away.

One of the most effective ways to save time is to stay organized.  When everything has a home, it is easier to put things away and locate them when you need them.  This will eliminate or at least decrease the time you spend searching for something you need.  You can save minutes a day by changing some habits and being organized.   On your schedule:  You can’t really label a block for saving time, but you can consider the suggestions above and choose one or two that you will add to your schedule.  If you are challenged in the area of organization, you may want to add a block or two of time to work on organizing one area of your life—school, room, closet, or other area.

Margin

You may be familiar with the word margin from assignments you’ve had in school.  Margin is the white space around the words on a page--basically the space that isn’t occupied.  Margins are important in writing because they allow people to easily read the content on the page.  If every space is filled, it would be confusing.  The same holds true for your schedule.  It must have some margin, unoccupied space, in case something unexpected happens or you just need some time to relax.  Margin also allows you to do your best without feeling rushed and pressured to move on to the next thing.

Take a look at your schedule.  If all of your blocks are filled, you need to make some adjustments and find some margin.  Talk with your parents about what might need to be adjusted or eliminated.  You may want to add margin or overestimate travel time to allow for the possibility of traffic and still arrive on time at your destination.

If all of your blocks aren’t filled, that’s ok!  The goal isn’t to fill all of the boxes.  The goal is to make time for all of the things that are valuable to God and to you.  Any square that isn’t filled is like having extra spending money.  Ask God to show what to do with your extra time.  On your schedule:  Label any margin blocks.  Make adjustments to your schedule, as needed.  You may have empty blocks that you’ll fill in the future.

Making the schedule was the easy part; now you need to fine tune it.  Live with the schedule and see what works and what doesn’t work.  If you’re feeling rushed in some area, try to shift the schedule a bit to make a little more time.  (You can divide the blocks to make smaller segments.)  If you consistently finish an activity with time to spare, you may want to shorten the block of time for that particular activity.  Activities may come and go.  Use your schedule to help you avoid the overcommittment syndrome—having more activities than you have hours in the day.

One schedule doesn’t last forever.  It is helpful to start with a new worksheet at least once a year and make a new schedule.  Take time to reevaluate priorities as well as the amount of time spent in each activity.  No matter how old you are, a schedule can help you be more productive and focused in what God has called you to do.

A Commitment to Purity

Over the past several years, the concept of purity rings has grown increasingly popular in the Christian community.  While the article is about jewelry for daughters, I believe that it is equally important for sons to have a symbol of their commitment to purity.  So much emphasis is placed on the ring, but it is a only a symbol of a more important commitment made. The Commitment Harold and I made individual commitments to purity before we met, but they were commitments from our hearts and not with written or spoken words.  Our desire was to be more intentional with our daughters, calling them to a commitment of purity in body, mind, and spirit—not just before marriage but for all of their days on this earth.  We chose to discuss this topic during what we call “Purity Weekend”—a mother/daughter overnight get-a-way when we first discussed intimacy in marriage as well as courtship and the biblical standard of purity.  (The Gift of Purity includes a schedule as well as all information necessary to conduct a purity weekend for your daughter.)  At the conclusion of our weekend together, Harold surprised our daughter and joined us for dinner.  After dinner, we returned back to the hotel where we were staying and Harold talked with them, recounting our weekend discussions about the biblical command for purity, calling them to a point of verbal response.  He then presented his princess with a lovely purity ring, symbolizing her commitment to purity.  He explained what the ring meant and placed it on her finger.  It was a significant and emotional moment for all of us.

Purity Rings vs. Promise Rings Lately I’ve heard the words “purity ring” and “promise ring” used interchangeably.  I understand that a promise ring could reflect a commitment to keep one’s promise to remain pure until marriage; however a pre-engagement ring symbolizing a commitment to a future together is also called a promise ring.  In order to most clearly communicate, we have chosen to use the term “purity ring” to describe the ring our girls wear on the ring finger of their left hand as a symbol of their commitment to purity in body, mind, and spirit both before and after they are married.

Our Choices At the writing of this article, our oldest three daughters wear purity rings given to them by their father at the conclusion of their individual purity weekend.  (The youngest is anxiously awaiting her purity weekend.)  Each ring is unique and suits the wearer perfectly, though none of the rings was labeled as a “purity ring.”  We purchased all three rings on sale from local jewelers.  Our oldest daughter wears a gold ring with a red stone in a heart-like shape; the second daughter has a gold heart and white gold heart intertwined; the third daughter treasures her white gold band with three tiny stones. When we were purchasing rings, we took into account the following requirements:  We looked for a simple, yet beautiful design that was symbolic and meaningful.  Not knowing when she will marry, we wanted a ring she would be proud to wear even as a grown woman.  We wanted the ring to be long-lasting and reflect both her value and the value of her purity.  While some parents may be concerned about giving a young person something so valuable, I’ve found that their ring is so precious to them that they care for it and guard it carefully.

Your Choices Since purity rings have become much more acceptable in our culture, you can find purity rings for sale at several local and chain jewelry stores as well as numerous online outlets.  Two popular styles available to order online are The Gift Wrapped Heart Purity Ring and The Unblossomed Rose Purity Ring.  (I’m not providing a link since these are available from many online retailers.)  I’ve also found reasonably priced quality rings at www.overstock.com and www.amazon.com. If you think your daughter would rather not wear a ring, you may want to consider a “purity necklace.”    There are several choices available through Pumpkin Seed Press, here.

Make a Choice There is no right or wrong when it comes to purity rings or purity jewelry.  There is no perfect symbol—only the perfect symbol for your daughter.  Your daughter is a unique individual designed by the Master Creator.  As you make your choice, think about who she is, her interests, what she values, her favorite color, and all the other characteristics that make her so special.  Ask God to help you choose something you think she’ll love, but remember the ring is only a symbol of a personal commitment to purity.  May God lead you as you bless your children and lead them to walk in purity all the days of their lives.

Under Construction: Our New Online Store

Some of you may have noticed that our online store is temporarily under construction while we make some adjustments.  When our new store opens, you’ll find some changes.  After much prayer, Harold and I believe that God is leading us to make some adjustments to our ministry. First, we are discontinuing all products that aren’t exclusive to Daughters 4 God.  We will continue to carry our self-published titles such as Lady Day, The Gift of Purity, the audio products, and our sterling silver jewelry.  It is impossible for us to offer the other products at prices to compete with Amazon or CBD.  At this point, I’m planning to review new products for raising daughters, but we will not be offering them for sale.  Fewer products mean less time managing inventory and more time for writing and for ministry at our local church.

Second, we anticipate that our new store will have audio and pdf downloads priced less than a hard-copy product.  Some of you have asked for a “Cleaning Game” download so you don’t have to pay shipping.  We think that’s a great idea and we’re working to make that a reality.  We’re also hoping to add more audio teachings as well as some other books that are in development.

Third, we will not be traveling to homeschool conventions as we have in the past.  (We still haven’t decided about MACHE for 2011…)  It has become more difficult for us to travel together.  Harold took on a new role as Associate Pastor last October which means he can miss fewer Sundays, and the oldest two will be in college in the fall but still living at home.  Yes, we could leave Harold and our two college students behind, but that’s not what the Moore family does.  We’re a team and we minister together.

We believe that this is God’s plan for this season.  We will still look for opportunities to share our heart and our experiences, but just a little closer to home.  That’s a tough one, since we’ve made so many friends over the years.  Thank you for all of your encouragement and support.

Ruth Bell Graham once saw a sign along the road and asked that it be epitaph.  Her tombstone reads:  “End of Construction.  Thank you for your patience.”  I suppose I feel the same way, like I’m always under construction.  There’s another flaw, another weakness, another insecurity that my Creator lovingly reveals to me.  But I’m so grateful that He also shows me His complete sufficiency for every area of my lack.  "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)  “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  (Phil. 1:6)  His construction process is not always easy or pleasant, but always necessary and beneficial.   Our construction, both personally and for D4G, continues but thank you for your patience.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: A Lesson Plan to Teach Respect

Here is a lesson plan I used to teach my young children respect using an acrostic of the word “respect.”  This is certainly not the only instruction I gave the girls, but I was able to link my future reminders and correction to these expectations.  It could be easily adapted for older children.  Each day, we studied one letter but also reviewed the main concept of the previous letters.    I have included the scriptures, not just the references.  You could use these as handwriting practice.  The very short lessons are directed to the child and are meant as a springboard to further discussion.  I also had a basket of items to symbolize the lessons so that we could look at the item, remember the lesson and review the concept.  The symbols are listed in parentheses.)
 
 
Requests (piece of clothing—The most frequent request I made was regarding the care of clothing.)

Elders  (toy chair—This represented giving our chair to the elderly.)

Service  (thank you note—This represents what our attitude should be to those who serve us.)

Property (any precious possession—This represents the preciousness of something to those we love.)

Ears (earphones—This represents what some people do to avoid a gush of words!)

Comfort (deodorant—Some of the girls were just coming into that stage of needing to wear it!)

Time (watch—This represents being accountable with our time.)

Requests

What does the Bible say?

Read I Peter 2:17.  (“Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.”)

It is important that we obey the requests of those who are in authority over us.  Parents are an authority in your life.  God doesn’t live on this earth, so He gave us, your mom and dad, the authority to raise you.  Babysitters are also an authority in your life.  When dad and mom are on a date, we transfer our authority to the babysitter, just while we’re away.  Pastors and presidents and policemen are authorities in your life.  God placed them there as protection for us, whether they’re Christians or not. (Romans 13) (You may want to talk about how they don’t have to obey friends.)  It’s important to learn to obey these people that we can see because it is practice for obeying God that we can’t see.

How can my child show respect?

  1. Respond with a “Yes, Dad/Mom/Sir/Ma’m.”
  2. Obey right away.  Delayed obedience is disobedience.
  3. Obey without complaining.

Role-play Ideas:

  1. Take turns being the parent and the child.  The parent asks the child to do something and the child responds with “Yes, ____,” and pretends to walk away (representing immediate obedience.)
  2. The parent takes the role of a complaining child.  The child takes the role of the requesting parent.  If you complain a lot, your child may see how difficult it is to work with a complaining child.

Reinforcement:

  1. Remind your child to respond to your requests with a “Yes, ___.”
  2. If your child is not obeying right away, physically help them move toward obedience.

Elders

What does the Bible say?

Read Leviticus 19:26.  (“Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD.”)

God’s Word asks us to show respect for the elderly, those who are older than we are.  No matter how much we know and how smart we are, older people are wiser because they have lived longer and have life experiences that we haven’t had yet.  (I realize there are exceptions, but be careful not to open that door unless your child is older and you’re prepared for a discussion about wisdom and foolishness!) God wants us to show respect to older people not only because they’re wise, but because their body gets tired easier. 

How can my child show respect?

  1. Rise when an adult enters for the first time.
  2. When an adult enters the room, offer the adult his or her seat.
  3. Give up his/her seat to adults in public waiting rooms or on public transportation.
  4. Always allow adults to pass through doorways first.  Hold the door for them.
  5. If an adult drops something, quickly pick it up for him/her.
  6. Listen carefully when adults are speaking.

Role-play Ideas:

  1. One child can pretend to be “elderly” and another can be a child.  Both approach the door at the same time, and remember the child goes last.
  2. One child can pretend to be “elderly” and enter a room full of seated people and no empty seats.  (You can use stuffed animals to represent seated guests if you don’t have enough people.)  Another child can stand up and offer his/her seat to the elderly guest.

Reinforcement:

  1. When guests come to visit, be sure to remind your child to offer the best seat to the elderly guests and that he/she may sit in a seat only after all the adults are seated.
  2. When guests come to visit, have your child help serve snacks or drinks to the elderly.

Note:  Many of these guidelines for showing respect to the elderly also apply to pregnant women.

Service

What does the Bible say?

Read Mark 9:35. (Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.")

There are many people who serve us each day—the cashier at the grocery store, the bank teller at the drive through window, the mechanic who fixes our van.  Often, our culture values people who are in charge, not the ones who serve.  In God’s Kingdom, those who want to be first must be the servant of all.  God wants us to show respect to everyone we meet, even if they aren’t as important as a king or a president.  We should speak quietly and respectfully, and we should say, “please” and “thank you.”  We should be grateful for the service they are providing for us.  God has placed many people in our lives to serve and bless us.

How can my child show respect?

  1. Say “please” when he/she asks something of someone.
  2. Say “thank you” when someone does something for him/her.
  3. Send thank you notes promptly.
  4. When he/she visits someone, do not go empty-handed.  Bring a small token of thanks.

Role-play Ideas:

  1. Pretend your family is at a store.  One parent or child is the cashier and another is the customer.  Role-play respectful and disrespectful behavior and conversation.
  2. During lunch, pretend you are at a restaurant.  One child can be the “server.”  Role-play how customers should treat the server, especially if the server makes a mistake.

Reinforcement:

  1. Remind your children to say, “please” and “thank you”, especially to family.
  2. Speak respectfully to anyone in the community who is serving you.
  3. Purchase or make thank you notes and have them available.  (One of my friends helps her children make their own address “book” with 3x5 cards in a recipe box.)
  4. When you visit friends, bring a loaf of homemade bread or some flowers from your backyard.

Property

What does the Bible say?

Read I Timothy 6:18. (Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.)

Everything we have is a gift from God.  We should treat our possessions with respect.  If we take care of them, we won’t have to replace them and that will give our family more money to spend on our needs or to give to people in need.  Since everything we have belongs to God, we should not be selfish with what we have.  People are more important to God that things.  We should be willing to share with others.  When we borrow something from someone, we should always ask permission before we take it.  If we take something without permission, that is stealing.  We should also ask how long we can keep the borrowed object and be sure to return it on time or even a little early.  It’s important to respect your own possessions a

How can my child show respect?

  1. Take care of all property, especially property that belongs to someone else.
  2. Be generous to lend.
  3. Ask permission before borrowing something.
  4. If he/she damages something that doesn’t belong to him/her, offer to replace the damaged item.
  5. Return items in a timely manner.  (Set an acceptable amount of time.  Ex. Less than 1 month.)

Discussion Ideas:

  1. Talk with your child about how it feels when someone “borrows” something without asking.
  2. Talk with your child about how the family can better respect and care for your home.
  3. Talk with your child about how to respect church property. (ex.  Play carefully with toys at church.  Don’t write on offering envelopes if you don’t have an offering.)

Reinforcement:

  1. Borrow books from the library and be sure to return them on time.
  2. Encourage your children to borrow from each other.  That means asking permission first.  If a sibling does not care for another’s property, then they lose the privilege of borrowing for a season.
  3. If your child damages something that belongs to someone else, go with them as he/she admits her fault and offers to make restitution.  If necessary, find jobs for your child to earn money so they can pay for the replacement.

Ears

What does the Bible say?

Read Proverbs 18:21a (The tongue has the power of life and death…)

Read Proverbs 10:19 (When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.)

What a strange thought to respect someone’s ears!  Really, it’s about showing respect by carefully guarding our words that go into other people’s ears.  Words have great power.  With our words, we can bless, encourage, inspire, and make someone laugh.  We can also criticize, judge, and make someone cry.  It is our choice.  Spending words is like spending money:  you need to choose wisely when to spend, whom to spend on, and how much to spend.  Sometimes conversation is appropriate (dialogue, not monologue!) but other times it’s better to just listen.  We also need to guard how many words we use.  Some people are overwhelmed when they hear lots of words.  After awhile they stop listening and “tune it out.”  The more you talk, the easier it is to say something you shouldn’t!  No matter what you say, your words and tone of voice should show respect and bring life to whomever you’re talking to.

What can my child do to show respect?

  1. Use words to bring life and not death.
  2. Look for opportunities to speak or write words of encouragement.
  3. Guard his/her words.  Use only what is necessary—no more, no less.
  4. Speak slowly—it is difficult to understand someone when their words gush out!
  5. Speak in a respectful tone.

Role-play Ideas:

  1. Use a ball to teach your children how to have a conversation.  When you ask them a question, throw them the ball.  They should respond with a comment and then ask you a question—then they can throw the ball.  It helps children be aware of dead end comments.
  2. Demonstrate to your children by talking to them with a respectful tone of voice and with a disrespectful tone of voice.  Talk about how it makes others feel when you yell at them.

Reinforcement:

  1. Use a secret family signal in public that alerts family members when they are monopolizing the conversation.
  2. Practice good conversation skills at the dinner table.
  3. Remind your children that conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue.
  4. Be sure to give plenty of time for your children to talk with you.  They won’t be as likely to “download” so much on your guests!  When you set a precedent of being an interested listener when they’re young, there’s a greater chance they’ll be willing to communicate through the teen years.

Comfort

What does the Bible say?

Read Luke 6:31.  (Do to others as you would have them do to you.)

Showing respect to others means making them feel comfortable.  Standing too closely to someone or raising your voice can make others feel uncomfortable.  Wisely choose what to talk about and keep it positive.  It can also make people feel uncomfortable if you have food in your teeth or bad breath.  If you have dirt on your face or under your fingernails it can be distracting when someone talks with you.    Another way to show people respect and make people feel comfortable is to be modest—that means you don’t draw attention to yourself.  It is important to dress modestly and not bring attention to your body.  If we do all the talking or our voice is especially loud, the attention is focused on us.  When we talk with others, we should do what we can to make them comfortable and bring attention to our Lord, not to ourselves.

What can my child show respect?

  1. Be clean and neat.
  2. Be modest—dress modestly, behave modestly.
  3. Know which topics of conversation are just off-limits.

Discussion Ideas:

  1. Talk to your child about how it makes other people uncomfortable when you have bad breath or
  2. Demonstrate and discuss with your child appropriate “personal space” when talking with someone.

Reinforcement:

  1. Make a chart for your child to keep track of daily hygiene.  You can include brushing, flossing, washing face, wearing deodorant, trimming fingernails and cleaning a retainer.
  2. Set specific guidelines for modesty in your family.  Review them before you go shopping.
  3. For daughters, purchase several camis to go under clothing that is either too thin or too low.

Time

What does the Bible say?

Read Ephesians 5:15-15.  (Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.)

God has given each of us 24 hours in a day.  Once we spend our time, we can never get it back.  Spending money is like spending time—we must choose wisely and make the most of what we have. Sometimes our choices affect other people.  When you make plans to meet a friend, your friend says that you are important by choosing to spend time with you instead of doing something else.  If you are late or you take longer than you said, your actions say that your friend’s time is not valuable to you.  You are taking your friend’s time without their permission—which is stealing.  Honor others by respecting their time.

How can my child do to show respect?

  1. Arrive on time.
  2. Leave on time.  Don’t overstay an invitation.

Discussion Ideas:

  1. Talk about how it makes you feel when someone is late when they come to your house.
  2. Talk about how it makes you feel when your parents’ friends come to your house (without any children J) and they stay really late.
  3. Talk about what you can do as a family that will help you to be on time.  (ex.  Lay out clothes/shoes/Bible etc. on Saturday night so you’ll be on time on Sunday morning.)

Reinforcement:

  1. Help your family make a habit of arriving on time for events and appointments.
  2. Give your child a watch and hold them accountable for completing tasks by a designated time.
  3. Coach your child on how to plan in advance so that they will be ready when you need to go somewhere.  (ex.  When you have music lessons, put your instrument by the door in the morning.)

Social Networking 101 (By: Victoria Moore)

By: Victoria Moore Hello dear friends!  I can’t express to you how excited I am to be able to share with you this passion of mine: understanding social networking.  I also have to admit how overwhelmed I feel.  This article (long as it is!) hardly brushes the surface of social networking and the wonderful power behind it.  There’s so much more I wish I could share with you!

As I’m sure you’re aware, you can hardly go anywhere without hearing, "Do you have an email address?" or "Are you on Facebook?”.  What’s the big hype?  Why is the internet getting so much attention and receiving so much time from all the generations?  Through this article I hope to enlighten you on what social networking is, not evaluate whether it’s right or wrong.  And since my draft for this article is already looking long, let’s begin right away, shall we?

What is social networking?

Simply put, social networking includes a broad spectrum of web-based services focused on connecting friends and like-minded people.  These internet-based sites build social relationships among people and are increasingly becoming one of the major ways like-minded people communicate.  If there’s only one thing you remember from this article, I hope it’s the word responsibility.  No matter what our age or what sites we participate in, we must be responsible.

Responsibility with time: The internet is a powerful tool but, like a gun, if it’s not used properly it can cause great harm.  It’s important to use the internet effectively and responsibly.  It’s easy to let your time be eaten away when using the internet or any of these social networking sites.  The key is to use the tool, not let the tool use you.

Responsibility with what we say: No matter what you “delete” from your posts on the internet, everything you post is somehow retrievable.  (Think: huge cyber trash bag that’s never emptied.)  It’s important to be responsible with what is posted on the internet.  Be careful not to post potentially embarrassing stories or pictures of friends without their permission.  Their potential boss may be looking them up one day!  If you’re writing stories about your life it’s good to use first names and the initial of the last name to respect a friend’s privacy on the internet.  If you don’t want your post read by everyone, don’t post it at all.  Also, be careful not to post something on the internet out of haste or anger.  It’s easy to post things you’d never say out loud, so instead of the old adage, “Think before you speak,” it’s helpful to, “Think before you hit ‘share’.”

Responsibility with relationships: This is especially important when it comes to social networking sites.  Although it’s great to stay connected with people online, nothing can replace human interaction.  It’s important to use methods other than the cyber world to connect with people.  Healthy relationships don’t rely solely on communicating online, but use social networking as a sort of “Miracle Grow”, helping a strong relationship grow even stronger.  If you approach the internet with a mind filled with the wisdom of Christ, I believe He will show you how to effectively use that powerful tool!

Popular Social Networking Sites

Although there's a list miles long of "social networking" sites, this article will focus on three major networks that often pop up in everyday conversation.  I've also chosen to focus on the networking sites that require participation and communication rather than one-way reading, writing, or listening.

Facebook

What is it? The largest social networking site to date, Facebook can be used for communication, live chat, photo and video posting, writing, connecting with old friends, updating people about your life, and playing online games.  Facebook is a free service.

How does it work? People can create an account, or profile, on Facebook, where they can then post updates about their life (generally using something called a “status update”), invite people to be their “friends” (called “friending”), post on their friend’s “wall” (a way to communicate), play games, discuss different topics, and upload various forms of media.  If you want to learn more about how Facebook works, here’s a basic introduction video.

What kind of security is there? When you set up your profile, it will be open for everyone to see, unless you choose otherwise.   If you would like to keep your profile private, there are several ways to stay under the radar.  First of all, you can choose to leave out specific information in your profile. (i.e. your location, where you work…)  Secondly, you can change your profile into an “unsearchable” profile where only “friends of friends” can search for you.  On top of this, you can choose to hide your profile information (age, birthday, email, etc.) from everyone, including “friends of friends.”  It’s important to take time to know what people can and cannot see when it comes to your profile.  Facebook has created detailed layers of security that can help you create the perfect personalized settings.  I highly recommend that if you have a Facebook account that you go through ALL of your settings (security or otherwise) about once a month to make sure nothing has changed and that you’re still “hidden” from the search engines or whatever part of the outside world you choose to remove yourself from.  I strongly believe in keeping up to date with cyber security!  If you’re interested in learning more, you can watch this basic introduction video.  It’s a little old, but it will help familiarize you with the security options within Facebook.   If you’re already a part of Facebook, but are still worried about your safety, you can always join the Facebook Security page and receive up-to-date security information that lets you know about scams and other such risks.

Are there ads I should be worried about? There are generally three or four small, subtle side-bar ads based on your Facebook profile.  Facebook utilizes a revolutionary ad program which places ads based on the information you feed the program.  For instance, if you type something about pizza in one of your posts, the ad program will recognize this and generate an ad about pizza.  If you change your relationship status from being “single” to “engaged,” Facebook will generate ads that have to do with wedding cakes, and bridesmaids’ dresses.  Of course, Facebook ads can only feed off of the information you give.  If you don’t identify your relationship status or political views, it will use key words from your conversations.  (Another good reason to be responsible with the personal profile.)  While you shouldn’t have to shield your child’s eyes from inappropriate content, it is easy to click on an ad thinking it’s a part of Facebook.

Why would I want to use Facebook? Facebook can be a powerful tool to both keep in contact with friends and reconnect with old ones.  Many families use Facebook to keep in touch with children in college or children who are married and on their own.  I know missionaries that use Facebook to keep in touch with supporters in their home country and a foreign exchange student who keeps in touch with her friends and family back home by posting pictures, videos, etc of what is going on in her world in the US.  I know two women who are using Facebook to witness to friends they have reconnected with after 25 years.  It’s amazing to think that tools like Facebook have the potential to reach hundreds and thousands of people with the Gospel, simply by people effectively using the tool from their kitchens and living rooms.

Twitter

What is it? “Twitter-ers” (those who have a Twitter account) document their life in 140 characters or less, sometimes called micro-blogging.  People can “follow” other “twitter-ers” by subscribing to other people’s messages (“tweets”).  Twitter is a free service.

How does it work? You can sign up for a profile at Twitter.com and then begin “tweeting” and searching for other people who tweet that you can “follow”.  You can send tweets from your computer, your cell phone, or almost any other mobile device.  If you want to learn more about Twitter, here’s a basic introduction article.

What kind of security is there? A twitter-er often chooses to leave his or her tweets open to the public, although there is an option to keep your updates private until someone “subscribes.”  You have the option to accept or decline their following request.  Whether public or not, your settings page gives you the option to choose if your tweets are visible in public search engines.  (i.e. Google, Yahoo, etc.)

Are there ads I should be worried about? I’ve never seen any ads on Twitter, but if your profile is public, businesses with a Twitter account can conduct keyword searches within Twitter to identify who is using their product or service.  If you have typed one of those key words, they may start “following” you so that they can keep track of their clients and possibly suggest a product or service.

Why would I want to use it? Often well-known figures or businesses use Twitter to help people feel more connected to them, their company, or their product.  Also, people create an account to follow other people rather than to update for themselves and others subscribe to breaking world news and other similar services.  Although it can be convenient to receive breaking news, be careful who you “follow”.  It’s easy to waste a lot of time reading updates like “just went to the grocery store”, or “hit the snooze button four times today!” which honestly shouldn’t matter to you unless perhaps it’s your spouse, child, or best friend.

Blogging

What is it? A blogger is a person who posts on a “blog”, an online journal where authors can post photos and videos along with their posts.  There are many “blog” sites out there where people can set up their online journals.  Wordpress, Blogspot, and LiveJournal are some of the most popular blogging sites.  Basic blogging is generally free.

How does it work? Choose a specific blogging site you’d like to use and set up an account.  Most sites walk you through set up and design of a personal blog.

What kind of security is there? Every blog site is different, but there are generally three different layers of security in the blogging sphere.  As the author you can: A. Password protect your blog so only those you allow can read it, B.  Leave your blog (your writings) open for the public to see, but leave it off of all search engines (meaning people would have to know your web address exactly to get there), or C.  Leave the blog public, as well as listing it on search engines like Google and Yahoo.

Are there ads I should be worried about? I’ve never seen an explicit ad on a blog.  Some blog sites have links to similar blog posts, but the links not endorsed by the person who’s writing the blog.  Often the links are to for-profit blogs that are designed to generate income.

Why would I want to use it? Blogging has become a tool for many people to share their life and opinions with others.  If you love to write or have an adventurous life, perhaps blogging is for you.  If you post personal stories or information, check the settings on your account and be aware of who is able to access this information.

The Ultimate Lesson

When I first started writing this article I expected it to end with something like, "In conclusion: this is the right thing to do and this is the wrong thing to do."  But as I prayed, (for me, for the writing of this article, for you!) God began to reveal to me it just wasn't going to happen that way.  What He has shown me over the past month is what I'd like to share with you as I conclude.

As I was praying about the concept of social networking in a Christian’s life, the Lord told me that I needed to understand the concept of black and white.  I'm sure you know someone like this, but I'm what most people would call "black and white."  I like to say, "This is right.  This is wrong.  We should do this.  We shouldn't do this.  Period.  No exceptions.  No grace."  Sometimes black and white is okay.   The Bible speaks clearly about things like murder, adultery, stealing, and others.  But then we get to something like Facebook.  Ugh.

Now what?  This is what I was struggling with God about.  There has to be an answer, but how do I find it?  I asked, "God?  Why can't there be a definite answer for something like Facebook, or TV, or the length of a dress?"  Then I was reminded of my studies of black and white in a past art class. Between black and white are an incalculable number of shades of gray, composed exclusively from the colors of black and white.  Gray is defined by how much light is shown through the color.

Let the light of God define the boundaries that His Word doesn’t clearly address.  If you don't have a definite answer from God about something in your life, someone or something will try to define it for you and your family.  It's easy to look to authority in the church or to media and culture for answers to things like Facebook or Twitter.  Truly, only the light of Christ can define those grey areas and help you set boundaries for your family.

Debate regarding media and networking will continue in our culture and in the church.  Although we like to categorize everything (this is black, this is white), there's an endless grey scale that exists in the world around us-- an endless number of tools that can be used for good or for evil.  Just as God made each fingerprint unique, in the same way He made each family unique.  What is acceptable for one family may not be acceptable for another, but that doesn't mean one is wrong and the other is right.  When each family is depending on God for the amount of Light shed on their situation, we have no option but to respect others and abstain from any sort of judgment.  When we look at media around us we simply need to ask the Lord, "Should I incorporate this into MY life?" I pray that as your family faces social networking with strength and courage that God will shed His light on each and every one of your situations.  After He reveals His social networking plans for you and your family, run with it.  Don't let the judgments of others stop or hinder you from doing what He has told YOU to do.  Keep steady, and His light will readily shine through you and your family, whether you're using social media or not.

Perhaps you’d like to know more about social networking.   Feel free to email any questions to Victoria at: shop (at) Daughters4God (dot) com.

How to Use 'Polished Cornerstones'

Many moms come by our booth at homeschool conventions and tell me that they’ve purchased Polished Cornerstones.  My follow up question is always, “Do you use it?”  Nearly all of them say they haven’t.  They don’t know where to start.  It can seem overwhelming with nearly 600 pages of information on character training.  Where do you start?  How do you make it work?  This product is too useful to let it sit on the shelf collecting dust. Polished Cornerstones first captured by attention when I attended a local curriculum fair in preparation for our first year of homeschooling.  It looked inspiring and overwhelming (and beyond my price range!) but I found myself drawn to it.  I put it on a wish list—for five years!  There never seemed to be enough money left over after we purchased curriculum, so after five years I finally budgeted for the expense.  It has been a great investment and has served our family well.  While there are some activities for younger elementary, the majority of activities are suitable for ages 8 and up, with some definitely for high school and beyond. I’ve created a template for creating lesson plans that you can download here: Polished Cornerstones Lesson Plan Template.  You will need one template for each week of study.

Planning First, I plan which months we’re going to use the book.  Some school years we’ve used it every month and other years we haven’t used it at all.  I don’t feel guilty that we’re not completing every activity or even one activity for every character trait.  Doing something is better than doing nothing.

Second, I pray and ask God to show me the weak areas in my daughters’ lives.  I talk with my husband too, because he sees things I don’t.  I also look for areas that the girls might enjoy, like hospitality.  I make a list and then narrow it down to assign one character trait for each month of our study.  If one daughter needs it, we all study it.  It’s good for all of us to grow in our character.  I try to vary the topics between character and life skills.  For example, last year we studied a woman who is organized, humble, courageous, and manages her money.  Copy your choices on the lesson plan templates.

Next, I use the list of scriptures at the beginning of the chapter to choose one verse or passage of scripture to memorize for each week of our study.  I base my choices on the ages of the girls, making sure that the concept and wording can be understood.  Copy your choices on the lesson plan templates.  I usually create a document that has all the scriptures typed out in the order we’ll use them.  This page goes in the notebook that I talk about below.  This makes it much easier to read together.

Then, I review all of the possible activities listed in the chapter to see which ones fit our family.  Some require other resources you may need to purchase, some are definitely geared to older daughters, and others require Dad’s involvement.  Some are spread out over a long period of time and others can be done in a matter of minutes.  Some are scripture intensive and require lots of writing or thinking; others are more practical and are more “doing.”  I choose three activities per week, based on the age of the girls, and varying the activities by alternating between writing and doing.  Copy the number and letter of the activities, as well as the page number, on your lesson plan template.

Finally, I make a list of any resources or supplies we need for each unit.  I also make a list any pages that I need to copy.  Then, I order all the supplies and make all the copies for the entire year.  Yep, I said the entire year.  If I only prepare for the first unit I sometimes forget to order a book or make a copy which means we can’t do the lesson and we get behind.  I put all the copied pages in the girls’ notebooks (and the list of scriptures to memorize) so that the pages are ready when we need them.  Check off the column on the lesson plan when you’ve made the copies.

Creating a Notebook I bought each of the girls a 1-inch, 3-ring binder (with pockets) and divider tabs.  I labeled the tabs with the character trait and then inserted the copies for each unit behind each tab.  Over the years, they’ve kept the same notebook, adding more tabs for each new unit.  We don’t always keep our units in order chronologically, but I ask the girls to date their work for future reference.  You could even add 3-ring pocket folders to hold mementos, if needed.

There are reproducible pages suitable for each girl to keep record of her accomplishments.  You could also keep records by copying your lesson plans after you’ve finished your study and placing those in each daughter’s notebook.

Class Time We usually spend about an hour a day, four days a week.  (Until this year, we had an hour delay on Thursday morning because of late nights at church on Wednesday!)  I only choose three activities because I don’t like being in a rush and that allows me space if something takes me longer than I thought.  (The lesson plan template has space for four activities for those who can fit in more.) Each time we meet together, the girls bring their notebook, their Bible and a pencil.   Remember to record the date you complete the activity on the lesson plan template.  One year, we met with another family of girls once a week and worked together on some sewing activities in the “Godly Woman” unit.  The girls enjoyed that very much.

Worth the Work This may seem like a lot of work.  Really, it’s not too bad and well worth the investment.  God has always been faithful to lead me to just the right character traits and just the right activities.  We use our month of study to focus on instruction, but also on changing behavior.  Then when situations arise, I refer back to the scriptures and principles we learned.  Overall, I have seen a lot of growth in the areas we’ve studied.  Our study of hospitality has yielded much fruit, as we often have guests who remark about how welcome they feel in our home.

I’m not saying Polished Cornerstones is the only character curriculum you should use, or even that it’s the best one out there.  I will say that it is has worked well for our family and that we have seen much fruit.  It is a flexible tool which parents can use to teach their daughter godly character.

Available from www.Daughters4God.com or from Doorposts for $48.00

Doorposts has a similar book, Plants Grown Up, to train sons in Godly character.