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 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 Blessing of Teen Daughters

Our parenting goal has always been to raise children who love God with all their heart, mind, and soul; however, each phase of a child’s life is unique and requires different parenting skills to achieve that goal.  Whether or not you choose to use the label of “teenager,” the ages with the word “teen” are years of enormous change, growth and development.  In our home, it has been a joyous time of great blessing and precious memories.  Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past seven years, but most apply to any age: Parenting Daughters Find joy in who she is. Focus on her good traits. Pray for her weaknesses. Make memories. Mentally record her laugh. Do it her way, sometimes. Ask if she wants help. Declare your love. Always respond with kindness. Spend quality time together. Compliment her often. Expect the best. Drink in her smile. Kiss her goodnight. Listen. Gently guide her. Share her excitement. Try something new. Be silly. Hug her tightly. Value her opinions. Enjoy her company. Tackle a challenge together. Encourage her attempts. Listen more. Take lots of pictures. Correct her privately. Think outside of the box. Speak respectfully. Dream together. Treasure the beauty of today. Trust God with the future.

By:  Joy Moore, Copyright 2011

The Deadly Trap of Comparison

I have lived a life of comparison.  From a young age I measured myself by the others around me.  My older sister always had cooler clothes and pristine toys.  My younger sister was quieter and didn’t get in trouble for talking too much like I did.  In high school I compared myself to my friends:  Sheri got better grades, Heather was more beautiful and popular, Lori was more athletic, and Rhonda had a better singing voice, and nearly everyone else was taller than I was.  When I entered college as a music major, the culture of auditions and recitals only added fuel to the already burning fire of comparison.  After graduation, I married Harold and we started a family.  In my desperation to be the best wife and mom I could be, I compared my efforts to those of my friends.  And then came homeschooling!  No matter whom I compared myself to, I always came up lacking. God has certainly done a great work in my heart, but the recovering perfectionist in me still fights to stay out of the deadly trap of comparison.  I know that I’m a daughter of the Most High God and that He takes delight in me, but I sometimes I fall prey to the enemy’s scheme of using others around me as the standard to measure my life.  I don’t think I’m alone in that.  I’m taking a chance and being pretty transparent, but here is a recent entry from my journal about God’s perspective of comparison:

Comparing is a form of dishonor--one is the loser and the other is the winner.  People compare because they feel a sense of lack.  They make excuses or justifications why someone has more than they do.  They define themselves by comparing themselves with others.  When you compare yourself with others, you are saying only one is good or valuable and that everyone should fit in the mould.  That’s not my way.  Look at the world I created.  There is great diversity, even in one species.  Is a maple tree more important than a pecan tree?  Is a tree more important than a flower?  I have created them all for a special purpose.  I am a unique God and I have created unique creations for unique purposes.

My limited study of art has taught me that the more rare a work of art, the more valuable.  Leonardo DaVinci’s one-of-a-kind painting of the Mona Lisa is a thousand times more valuable than a mass-produced painting from Walmart.  I’m not an art historian, but I do know that one element of the Mona Lisa that gives it value is its unique perspective for the time it was created.  It was unlike any other.

You are a unique work of art, fashioned by the Creator of the universe.  There is no one quite like you.  No one brings Him pleasure the way you do.  There are things that God purposed for you and only you to accomplish.  If you ask, He will give you wisdom to be the best wife to your husband and the best mom for your children.  Don’t let the deadly trap of comparison hold you captive.  Follow the leading of your Savior and walk confidently with your head held high.

“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves.  When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.  (2 Cor. 10:12)