Just Let The Weeds Grow

Just Let The Weeds Grow I don’t know about you but I enjoy the change that occurs in Spring.  It is wonderful to go outside on a warm Spring day, especially after a long and cold Winter.

Last weekend I was outside enjoying the warmth and  looking over the yard, noticing all the work that was needed.  I grabbed my lawn rake and began cleaning up.  My kids were outside enjoying the warmer weather.  They ran over and asked me to play with them.

I stopped what I was doing and had a debate in my head:  You really need to get this work done while the weather is good … But your kids want your attention … You can play with your kids another day … Or you can play with your kids and leave the yard for another day.

I decided that the yard could wait.  I know that I may not have the nicest yard on the block, but I will have kids that remember their dad wasn’t too busy for them.  So when the choice arises in your life between spending time with your kids or having the nicest yard on the block, may I suggest that you just let the weeds grow.

Find Solutions as a Family in Ten Steps

Find Solutions as a Family in Ten StepsLike every family, my family faces challenges.  There are times when I gather all the kids around and we decide what to do together.  I find that when we do this we get more traction with our kids than a decree from Mom and Dad.  Let me illustrate how we do it with the following example.

We were having problems getting the children to do their chores.  After dinner I gather everyone together in our family room (I find our kids are better behaved with a full stomach).

I say “I need your help” then I explain the problem.  I do it in general terms and not assign blame to any individual.  I will say something like “I have a problem.  I don’t know if you have noticed but our house has gotten a little messy.”

I then show how the problem impacts on the family.  “It really make mom and me unhappy when the house is messy.  How do you feel when our house is messy?”  Once everyone can see the problem and its impact we move to finding a solution.

I ask them “How do you think we can solve this problem?”  I listen to their responses.  I will thank them for their input even if it is totally off base.  I am looking for a principle; something that could be implemented in many different ways. When ideas arise that have potential I will say “Now that is an interesting idea” or “I really like this part of your idea.”

Once we find a principle that is workable and then guide them in deciding how to implement it.  Once we come up with an idea I say something “Okay so we think we should do                   .  Can we do this?”  I listen for any obstacles and then we work to remove them.

I get commitment from the children to carry out the plan.  I will say “I think we have a really good plan.  To help keep our house clean we will do                  .  I will do this.”  I will ask them individually for their commitment.

I explain what I see as being the result.  “I really think this will help mommy and daddy be happier if we have a clean house.”  I end by thanking them for their help and tell them that I love them.

So in summary here are the steps that we take:

  1. Gather the family
  2. Ask them for help
  3. Explain the problem generally
  4. Explain the impact on the family
  5. Ask for solutions & Brainstorm
  6. Find a workable solution
  7. Eliminate any obstacles to the plan
  8. Get commitment
  9. Express confidence in the plan
  10. Thank them and express love

Five Bible Scriptures that Show Families Matter to God

Five Bible Scriptures that Show Families Matter to GodOne of the reasons I place so much value on my family is because of my belief in God. I believe the family matters to God, and because the family matters to God, it matters to me.  The following are five scriptures from the Bible illustrate why I believe the family matters to God. The verses comes from the King James version of the Bible (you can get a free copy here).

1. “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” (Exodus 20:12)
While on Mount Sinai, Moses received a commandments that deals with family relationships. The way children act toward their parents is important in God’s eyes. Important enough to be one of the Ten Commandments.

2. “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” (Psalm 127:3)
According to the Psalmist, children are a blessing from God. How do we view children?

3. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8)
Children are not the only ones receiving commandments that touch on family relations. The Apostle Paul’s strong words to Timothy reminders us that we will be held accountable for what we do with our blessings from God.

4. “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4)
Paul reminds us that the responsibility to raise your children is ours. You should not outsource this responsibility to the church, school, or anyone else. The Bible also gives the assurance that it will be worth it. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

5. “… Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” (Matthew 6:9)
This last scripture comes from the Lord’s Prayer and is the strongest evidence of the importance of family to God. Think of all the names or titles God could rightfully be called: Creator of the Universe, All Powerful God, The Most High, etc.  Well, out of all the things God could be referred to, the Lord taught us that God wants us to refer to Him as Father when we pray.

Those are five Bible verses that show me families matter to God.  They are undoubtedly not the only ones.  What scriptures show you families matter to God?

Teaching your Children to Love and Serve Each Other

teaching your children to love and serve each otherI want to preface this post by saying that my wife and I have made an effort not to use work as a punishment for bad behavior in our home. It sends the wrong message about work. That being said let me relate a story from our family life and an instance where a valuable lesson was taught. This may come as a surprise to some, but with four boys in the home there can be fights. On one such occasion one of my boys was hitting his brother. I separated the boys and took the instigator to another room. After a silent prayer for help I began to talk with my son. I explained to him that what he was doing was wrong. I explained that Jesus taught us to “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,” (Luke 6:27) I told him fighting does not show that you love your brother. Instead he needed to “do good.” I told him he needed to wash his brother’s dishes that were still on the table. This would help him love his brother. Strangely there was not much protest. So perhaps a good response to bad behavior is to substitute a good one, by serving one another.

Lessons from building a Snowman

My grandsons recently visited me in upstate New York, and were looking forward to playing in the snow. Unfortunately, right before they arrived the snow melted. Then, their first day here, we got a “dusting” of snow (hardly enough to cover the grass.)
I didn’t think there was enough to do more than make “foot prints” in the yard, but my daughter said, “Mom, even an 8 inch snowman would be fun for the boys!” So I took a shovel and joined them on the back deck. In a matter of 5 minutes, we had a small pile of snow, and the two boys eagerly began shaping the mound into a snowman. We got sticks for arms, a pair of knit gloves, a hat and scarf and before we knew it- we had a respectable snowman. Once again, from a simple life experience, the Spirit taught me three valuable insights.
Lessons learned from the “Snowman”

There didn't seem to be enough snow

There didn’t seem to be enough snow

First: Don’t underestimate the resources available to you.
I had assumed that since there wasn’t 10” of snow (like we had the week before) that we couldn’t make a snowman. By using a shovel and gathering the inch of snow from all over the deck- we had a big mound to work with.

Acorns worked better than stones

Acorns worked better than stones

Second: Be open to suggestions.
My daughter knew that her boys wanted to be in the snow. Where they live, even a small amount is cause for them to rejoice. Her suggestion got me outside with a shovel. When I had about 12 inches piled up, my 4 year old grandson said “Grandma, he needs gloves!” My first impression had been that we wouldn’t have enough for a snowball, but Ethan was already feeling excited about getting the snowman dressed.
Six year old Corban was looking for rocks to make eyes and buttons, but rocks were hard to find. When he was able to get 2 odd sized stones, we tired pushing them into the snow- but they wouldn’t stay in. I asked the boys, “What else can we use?” Then Corban found an acorn top, and tried pushing it into the snow. It was perfect! He quickly found a half dozen more and had the eyes and buttons done.
The last insight came the next day in Sunday School class. Someone was describing one of the titles of Satan as “Perdition” (meaning the destroyer or “separator”). To thwart God’s plan for our Happiness, Satan tries to separate us from one another and from God. Dis-unity is his ultimate goal. The snowman came back to my mind.

Stick together!

Stick together!

The last lesson: Stick together!
One of the greatest ways to preserve and keep snow from melting is to gather it and make something of it. The snowman we made from a thin layer of snow lasted for days because it came together in a snowman. Long after the snow had disappeared from the grass and the deck, our little snow man endured because that snow “stuck together.” The Church is sort of like the snowman because it brings us together and as we hold on to one another we are collectively stronger.
When we are feeling isolated and alone, it’s easy to forget who we are. As a child of God and a member of His Church I feel strength when I choose to “stick together” with other members. My values, my opinions and life’s perspectives are important to share with others (who may or may not share them) but when I am united with my Church family- I can withstand a lot more “heat” and not melt! When the Lord tells us to be “one” I think he means that by “sticking together” (holding onto one another in love) we can achieve what He wants each of us to be.
Eventually all snowmen melt, but I hope I can keep the lessons I learned. When I don’t think it’s worth trying to create something of value, I will try to look at all the resources around me. I’ll try to be more open to suggestions and innovations, and finally I will try to remember that unity is the best way to preserve and protect something precious.  In our Church families- “sticking together” means we need to forgive and cherish one another.

The gifts of Christmas

GiftsI recall waking up one Christmas morning waaay too early for my parent’s liking and racing my brother to the living room. One quick glance around the room, under the tree, along the hearth, and we quickly discovered that Santa Claus had indeed visited our house. The only trace of the cookies and milk left out for a hungry Santa or reindeer were just a few crumbs. A large ping-pong table, a small musical organ, a new bicycle for my brother, games, toy cars, stockings filled with nuts. ….Nuts? Really? There was also an orange and some lifesaver candies, whew! Christmas morning, yes!

As kids, we didn’t yet know this wasn’t the real meaning of Christmas. We simply looked forward to this same celebratory, toy-receiving, glorious morning repeated every year in December. Oh sure, the gifts changed every year and the Sears catalog toy section always had tons of items circled. I was sure Santa knew what I wanted every year, I even dog-eared the pages to make his finding the items in the catalog easier.

And then….I grew up. I married, had kids of my own, and on one particular Christmas morning, my wife and I made a huge mistake. We had one of those mornings my brother and I had had so many years before. We celebrated opening numerous purchased gifts including the entire contents of the Sears catalog, or so it seemed. There were more presents than we could possibly count or should have purchased.

We had been blessed abundantly that year and desired to enjoy a wonderful Christmas morning, one our kids would certainly enjoy. Grandma and Grandpa were also visiting, and to see the kids open all their presents that morning sure brought smiles and giggles from everyone. Torn paper and bows were all over, and presents in piles; “Be careful where you step”, mom would say, “you’ll step on someone’s gift.” It was chaos. Christmas toy overload. Noisy. Hectic. Not at all what Christmas should be about. Thinking we were creating a wonderful Christmas morning instead turned out to be simply a morning with 4 kids and 2 grandparents opening presents. Nothing more. Observing the excitement in our children’s eyes, the joyful expressions of opening their favorite toys were indeed magical, but empty. Not even the faintest recognition or remembrance of why we were even opening gifts.

As stated in the New Testament book of Matthew chapter 2, verse 11. “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”

Celebrating Christmas at home, we discovered, need not be filled with endless piles of toys, every desired item circled in a catalog, the latest techno gadget, or even a ‘must-have’ item all the other kids are getting. After that empty Christmas morning, my family and I began a search for Christmas. We spent more time serving, more time reading, more time decorating, singing together, praying together, playing together, and reading from our scriptures the story of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. We discovered the magic not contained in unwrapping gifts on a cold winter’s morning, but in the simple exchange of the love we share one to another. Along the way, we discovered Christmas in a whole new way, allowing us to celebrate the meaning and reason for the season. Through service, love, devotion, meaningful worship, and the gift of self, our piles of presents are gone, shrunken down to a few carefully selected meaningful gifts, just like the wise men.

Christmas Activity Advent Calendar

Christmas Activity Advent CalendarOne of our families favorite traditions for December is an activity advent calendar. It changes a little each year depending on what works, but a lot stay the same because they really like the activities. Here is our list for this year along with some links to help you plan your own calendar. What is your families favorite December activity?

1st – make a count down chain
2nd – pick a family ornament
3rd – make the grandparents ornaments with the kids pictures in them
4th – donut hole reindeer
5th – turn our door into a snowman
6th – buy and wrap parents for siblings
7th – decorate gingerbread houses
8th – peppermint hot chocolate floats
9th – go see Santa
10th – prep the 12 days of Christmas for a secret family
11th – silly dinner – each person has to buy part of the dinner, they can pick whatever they want and we have that for dinner and eat with silly utensils
12th – Christmas craft
13th – Church Christmas party (12 days of Christmas starts)
14th – popcorn and a Christmas movie
15th – fire and hot cocoa
16th – read Eve Bunting’s “The Night Tree” and make popcorn strands and bird feeders for the animals
17th – mini van express (the kids get tickets and treats, we drive around and look at Christmas lights)
18th – craft
19th – prep cookie trays for neighbors and presents for teachers
20th – sleep around the Christmas tree
21st – deliver cookie trays
22nd – candle lite dinner
23rd – Christmas books
24th – The Christmas Story
25th – Christmas Day

Why you need to bring your kids to church….each week

Just two years old at the time, my youngest son had more energy than the rest of the household combined. He didn’t feel pain, he never cried, he could climb out of any crib, never went to bed when told, but always, always smiled, laughed, and loved. He ran everywhere, habitually chewed his fingers until calloused, which I mention only because of a babysitting incident that scared the babysitter to death, and constantly annoyed his older sister…on purpose. About that babysitter…she had opened a door and my son ran, out of his abundant curiosity, to see who might be there. He inserted his finger in the door frame as she attempted to close the door. You probably already know toddlers and closing doors don’t go together very well. He cried, she worried. As we arrived home, she began apologizing profusely for the ‘accident’ and thought his fingers might be broken; even suggesting we take him to the doctor for x-rays. As most parents are prone to do, we simply looked, laughed, and excused her for the evening, but not before assuring her all is well. “You see”, my wife explained, “he chews his fingers all the time and they’re just calloused and ‘look’ swollen, but they’re certainly not broken.” Thanking her for her honesty and apologetic nature, she immediately appeared relieved that no real harm was done.

We had three kids at the time and in addition to ‘accidents’ like the one mentioned above there were always moments for concern; scraped knees, soccer injuries, bruises, twisted ankles, the assorted owwies, you name it. Children are very resilient, I thought. They bounce back quickly, they forgive willingly, smile often, laugh constantly, and are some of the greatest teachers on earth.

My children are much older now, my oldest son is married to the sweetest girl on earth, my oldest daughter is currently serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and my energetic son and another daughter are still learning from their rapidly aging parents. Over the years, I’ve watched them play all kinds of sports, participate in school activities, play music, sing, dance, and otherwise entertain my wife and I. It has truly been a blessing to raise them, each one of them.

I mention all this because of what I witnessed today while attending Stake Conference; a semi-annual 2-hour Sunday meeting for all the congregations in a larger geographical area. In attendance at these meetings are local leaders and sometimes regional or national leaders to teach and instruct those in attendance. These meetings usually begin with an opening song, a prayer, and several speakers all of whom speak for about 10-15 minutes each; just something a two-year old would whole-heartedly enjoy. The chapel is not designed to hold the 1,000 or so attendees so most of the church buildings are designed to allow the rear curtains to open accommodating many more chairs that extend well into the gym area; cold, hard, metal, chairs. Again, something a two-year-old would love to use as a metal Jamaican drum. During the meeting, I observed a young family with several small children. In the beginning, the family arrived took their seats and settled in as best they could. An assortment of ‘quiet toys‘ were made available for each child to stay that way…or so the parents had hoped. However, it wasn’t long before the youngest, a babe in arms, proceeded to create a ruckus for which the mother exited the room, with child, leaving the dad to do his best with the other two. Their oldest daughter was well behaved, but it was the middle child, a boy not too unlike my own energetic toddler, decided he had had enough of trying to be quietly entertained. And so….he ran! Not out of the room, not to his mother, but up the isle towards the front where some sweet elderly lady was speaking, coincidently, about her love of children. Father in speedy pursuit caught the little speed racer before he had gone too far. This process repeated itself a few more times. In between we’d hear the not-so-rhythmic tunes on the steelpan, or the vroooom vroooom of the not-so-quiet hot wheels on the steelpan.

Over the years, my wife and I managed. Now, we smile about it when we observe young parents going through it. I simply lean over to my wife and whisper, “I’m sure glad those years are over.” However, for all those years my wife and I endured similar behavior in our own children, I have not a single regret for ever bringing them to church each and every Sunday. I can’t possibly count the number of Sunday lessons missed because I was in the hallway tending to a much-too-noisy-for-church child, or the countless Sundays dressing up little children in their ‘Sunday Best’ just to watch them spill juice all over their clothes, or the constant distractions of a child looking for parental approval for their latest quiet crayon-scribbled work of art, just when someone had mentioned something uplifting and insightful over the pulpit. “What’d she say honey?”, I ask my wife. “I couldn’t hear it either”, she’d say, pointing at one of our other children. Oh well.

Do little children learn what is being taught over the pulpits of our churches? Not always. Some do, but certainly not every word. Occasionally a child will remember a phrase or something a speaker has said, and will repeat it at home, much to the astonishment of their parents I’m sure. “See honey? It IS working!” Little children are resilient indeed, but in a society that seemingly rewards ill behavior more often than good behavior, they need the strengthening and tireless example of parents who will chase them down in the isles at church, who will voluntarily miss the occasional sermon, and willingly wash countless juice-stained dresses, shirts, and ties.

Why do we endure these hardships? Why should you? Because these days matter. Seeing a child grow into adulthood, having learned the values of faithful obedience to God, of serving Him, of worshipping in His house, of being honest, true, chaste, and of discovering for themselves the rewards of service to others, matters. Children may not remember every word heard in church when they’re little, but they’ll grow up knowing there were those who loved them enough to look beyond the immediate hardships young families endure. They’ll remember a mom or dad who could see that child the way God sees them, not as a noisy, energetic, distracting bundle of chaos, but as a child of God. And one of the most effective ways I know of teaching them to know who He is, is to bring them to church…EVERY Sunday. Because yes, it matters.

How a Chessboard Taught Me Forgiveness is Real

The Chessboard Taught Me Forgiveness Is RealI remember an experience I had when I was a child. In our home we had a coat closet. Above where the coats hung was a shelf. I remember one day standing tip-toe on a chair reaching for something on that shelf (what that was is now forgotten). As I was pulling whatever I was trying to get down I heard a crash. I looked down to see what made the noise and my heart sunk. My father’s chessboard fell to the floor. And the worst part was that it was broken.

My first impulse was to hide. I pushed the broken chessboard to the back of the closet, closed the door and quickly left the scene. With it hidden I thought I would not get caught. However as the day passed the thought of the broken chessboard pressed on my conscience.

Latter my father came home from work. I knew what I had to do to make it right. I dug out the chessboard and slowly walked to his bedroom. I explained to him what happened showing him the chessboard. He was angry and took a sharp breath in. I braced myself for scolding and punishment. But my father surprised me. He exhaled, gave me a big hug and told me he was proud of me. Confused, I began explaining again what I did but he stopped me and told me he did not care about the chessboard. He was happy that I told the truth and he assured me I could always come to him when I did something wrong. He would never be angry that I told the truth.

I walked away being fully forgiven by my father. I looked down at the chessboard and realized it taught me a great lesson. It taught me that forgiveness is real.

I have though back on the broken chessboard throughout my life. I did approach my father when I had made mistakes and true to his word he was never angry when I told the truth. I have also found myself in similar situations with my own children. Thanks to my father’s good example, I know exactly how to act.

Teaching Children How to Show Gratitude

Teach Children How to Show GratitudeWe try to teach our kids to be grateful for the things that have and appreciate that not everyone has the same blessings that we have. I don’t think they quite understand that everyone has different blessings and situations. In November we try to have different ways that we can think about those blessings. The kids have come to look forward to our different “thankful” traditions. Try one of these with your family this month.

1) Make a turkey out of styrofoam wrapped in yarn. Add “thankful” feathers throughout the month. We love going back to previous years feathers to look at what we were thankful for.

2) Make and decorate a thankful placemat. Laminate them and use it for Thanksgiving dinner.

3) Make a thankful wall. Put a piece of butcher paper on the wall someplace and challenge each family member to add something original each day in November.

4) Make a thankful tree. Make a tree out of construction paper or a real branch and make paper leaves with what you are thankful for written on them and put it on your tree. See example and pattern here

What are your family traditions for showing thankfulness in November?