Thursday, July 19, 2012

Keeping the Little in Your Girl Pt 5

This week we discussed Chapters 6 and 7 from Dannah Gresh's, "Six Ways to Keep the "Little" in Your Girl ". Wow! I say that for every chapter {have I mentioned this is a great book?}


Chapter 6 is about finding the right toys for your daughters. The suggestion is toys without limits to allow more creative play. Great suggestion!! Remember that during these tween years, the girls' brains are developing and this creative play helps that process.

"Time spent playing make-believe, dress-up and building things with sticks, twigs, and blocs actually helps children develop a critical skill called executive function." "Executive function performs many different things in a human being,  but one of them is to self-regulate - or to appropriate moral behavior and values."

Self-regulating - wow, that's a novel concept. To be able to control oneself. I see the need for that all over the place {including in the mirror}. One study dealing with self-regulating {self-control} measured how long a child could stand still. Can your children stand still? Let's just say it is a struggle for mine. lol!

In the 1940s an average 5 year old could stand still for 3 minutes and a child over 7 could stand still for an indefinite period of time. WOW! Can you guess what those numbers are today? An average 5 year old cannot stand still for even a minute and a 7 year old can stand still for about 3 minutes. That is a huge difference!

So I put my daughter {almost 7} to the test. The first time she made it 30 seconds. The second time she made it about 90 seconds. The third time {after I told her it was a contest} she lasted 4 minutes 15 seconds. Hooray!! I think this is a skill we will work on regularly. :)

This chapter also talked about the right kind of dolls our daughters should have. Here is the big question....

How do you feel about Barbie?

Let's just say that Dannah Gresh has a strong opinion and I'd have to say a valid opinion. Barbie is a doll that has "consumerism" written all over her. She is a marketing tool - and she is good at her job! But do we want our daughters to fall prey to marketing schemes so early? Besides that, she is a doll with limits. Due to her sexualized "attributes", she limits the way our girls play with her.

"When our daughters play with cute, nonsexual dolls, they tend to let imaginative play loose. They role-play and create, giving muscle to their executive function. But when our daughters play with dolls that have a more seductive or beauty-based nature, they tend to be more confined in their imaginative play. Their play generally leans toward "seduce the boy". "The more a girl plays this way, the more she'll focus on looks and coquettish behavior, and the less time she'll spend doing the open ended activities kids need. It puts her on a conveyor belt to early sexualization."

Whoa! Even though I played with Barbie when I was young, I have not been a fan of her for my daughters; this just reinforces my decision. In our group discussion, we had others who felt differently and I can see their point as well. I think a lot of it is how your daughter is playing with the toy. Do you hear her playing "seduce the boy" or "get the boyfriend" or do you hear her playing house, doctor, librarian, veterinarian?

Although what happens if/when you do start hearing her play more "romantically" with Barbie and Ken? Do you take it away?

One of my very favorite people / dolls / animal friends are the Calico Critters . Have you seen them? They are little animal families and they are the farthest thing from a Bratz doll. Both of my girls will take and play with these little friends in all sorts of scenarios. Tonight, my youngest (3 yr old) ran to the bedroom after bath to play with the Mommy Guinea Pig and all the babies (rabbits, cats, penguins, guinea pigs). It looked like she was playing "The old lady that lived in a shoe".

Chapter 7 suggests how to talk with your daughter about her upcoming period. Have you even thought about that yet? My daughter will be 7 next month, so I hadn't really considered it, but Dannah has a beautiful way of sharing this new milestone of life.

She says that this is a way to celebrate the gift that God has given us as women to be able to have babies. Celebrate! Is that a word you think of when you think of that monthly cycle? It isn't for me, but the way that she puts it in the book makes it so beautiful!

In our society, it is an unfortunate thing that being a mother, especially a SAHM, is not a position of respect. Most young women dread the idea of being a Mom and would rather chase after a career than toddlers. In a survey of "1200 Christian teens, the vast majority of them did not want to be mothers and felt motherhood should be a goal secondary to the dreams they had for a career." These are Christian teens. This breaks my heart.

So what a great opportunity you have as a mother to celebrate her period and to use it to help motivate her to to want to be a Mom someday. Dannah lists all kinds of ways to do this, but I won't give them all away. You gotta read the book, too!

One thing we are thinking of doing this fall, just to get the conversation started about how babies are born and all, is to visit a local dairy farm. I am told that they have regular births - like multiple each day - and everyone just piles into the birthing barn to witness a calf being born. How awesome!! I cannot wait - although I am a little  nervous for the plethora of questions I'll get from my daughters {Lord please help me}.

So what toys do your girls play with? Will you be giving some away to Goodwill after reading this chapter? How long can your daughter (or son) stand still?

Have you had "the talk" about puberty and the monthly visit from Aunt Flo yet? How'd that go? I'd love to hear what you think.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Protect your heart on a mission trip

In the previous post, I talked about the {heart} dangers of going on a mission trip. Most of these center around pride and self-love. It should not be a surprise to anyone that this is a huge danger. I am sure I am not the only one who battles pride in my life, right? Anyone? Anyone?

Then it should not be any surprise that the moment we are able to help others that there is a huge potential for our sinful flesh to take over and claim it all for ourselves - stealing the glory from the Lord.

We are to be working for the Lord, not ourselves.

But we are warned in Matthew 6:1 about doing good deeds for the attention and praise of others.

"Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven." {Matthew 6:1}

There are a few things I highly recommend you do before, during and after you go on a mission trip.

1. First and foremost - are you a Christian? A true believer? Have you surrendered your life to the Lord, repented {which means to turn away from} of your sin and trusted in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation? Are you growing so close in your walk with the Lord that you hate the sin in your life? Do you feel like your sinful flesh is like an itchy, woolen sweater worn in late July?

Because if you are not already a Christian and you travel to a third world country on a "mission" trip, what is your mission? What do you hope to accomplish? The mission of a mission trip is to spread the gospel and love of Christ to all nations. If that is not your goal, then you are in serious danger of becoming puffed up with pride and you may need to purchase 2 plane seats for the trip home: one for you and one for your ego. Just sayin'.

But seriously, this is the most important decision you will ever make. There are only two choices. Choose to follow Christ and obey His commandments or choose to follow self and be on the road to destruction.  The choice seems easy to me.

2. Meditate on the characteristics of God. It may be tempting to start questioning God's goodness when you see people suffering in poverty and then reflecting on your own over-abundance. But remember, God is sovereign. He is in control of the entire universe. He knows what is best for you, for me and for all the people around the world. We know from Romans 8:28 that He does in fact, work it all for good. So it may not seem right that some people throw away more food than others have to eat, but we can trust God. God is good.

Meditate on these characteristics {and more}. Read your bible. Get a good book or two by trusted authors that will help guide you through studying the attributes of God. A couple of suggestions would be: The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life {Tozer} or The Attributes of God {Pink}.

3. Pray, pray, pray. Your trip needs to be covered with much prayer. Surround yourself with friends and family that will join you in prayer. Pray for safety but also pray for your heart to be changed in a good way. Pray that this trip will draw you closer to the Lord and His will for your life. Pray that you will be like the good and faithful servants in the Parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25:14-30 and use the resources that God has blessed you with wisely.

A mission trip, either short or long, has the potential to be a life changing event - for the good or not-so-good. What a fantastic opportunity and blessing! Remember,

And whatever you do, in word or deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, 
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
{Colossians 3:17}

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Keeping the Little in Your Girl Pt 4

This week, we discussed brain development and more of parent / child connectedness from Six Ways to Keep the "Little" in Your Girl by Dannah Gresh.

Did you realize there are two times in our lives when our brains are having HUGE growth spurts? As you can imagine, one is when we are infants. Just think about how much a baby learns in that first year of life. Their brains will "double or triple in the first year of life". It is so essential for Moms and Dads to spend time with their babies! Did you know in Europe, the maternity leave from work is six months to a year? How wonderful would that be!

But what you may not have realized is that our brains go through another growth spurt. This happens just before puberty. The prefrontal cortex of the brain's frontal lobes develops at this time. "This area is responsible - among other things - for appropriating and controlling moral behavior or values!" "Brains can be positively molded by structure, guidance, and discipline provided by caring parents and other adults." This is not only "emotional and moral development of the child, but the actual physical brain growth."

"Your investment of time is helping your child produce the brain space to store moral values. And that gives you the ground to plant the values".

This is why the Bible tells us in Deuteronomy 11:18-19 to "Fix these words of Mine in your hearts and minds, tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." {emphasis added}

We are to be teaching our children about God and His ways when we sit, walk, lie down and get up - basically all the time. This is essential in these tween years!! We are also given a promise in the Proverbs:

Train up a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6

This takes time. You must know your child {likes, dislikes, short-comings, gifts, sinful bents, love language} in order to train them to grow in the Lord. You can only do this by spending time with your children - lots of time.

The next chapter talks about the phases that children go through. There is a copycat phase, a counseling phase and the coaching phase.

The copycat is from 2-5. This is when you'll find your daughter pretending to be a mommy just like you. It feels good to her to be like Mommy. She wants to make dinner, play with baby dolls and do all the things she sees you doing {this is a good reminder for me to watch what I am doing}.

The counseling phase happens between 6-11. This is when your child will start pondering "why you believe what  you believe and do what you do."

This is the phase I am in with my oldest daughter and it shows. I feel like she is often questioning my authority when she asks so many "whys", but sometimes {not every time mind you - but sometimes} she really wants to know the reason behind the decisions I have made to figure out if it sounds right to her. She is learning to think on her own. Oh Lord, please help me. Ha ha!

The coaching phase is when they are teenagers. You are basically a coach, helping and guiding them a little as they make decisions on their own - good and bad - but you are pretty much just an observer. This is why it is so vital to lay the groundwork when they are younger so they are equipped to make wise decisions.

A special note from the book: "Children who grow up in a legalistic environment - never knowing why a rule is a rule - tend to not internalize the values of their parents, and when you aren't looking they'll live however they want. Children who grow up in an anything goes environment - where parents are buddies - usually lack the discipline to live out the values you introduce to them. "

This is why it is so important to spend time with your kids, especially when they are in that counseling phase. They will be counseled between 6 and 11 - so who do you want to counsel your daughter {or son}? The television, beauty magazines, friends at school? Or YOU?

Are you following along in the book? I'd love to hear how you spend time connecting with your kiddos. Do you have regular date nights? Do you talk before bedtime?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Six ways mission trips are dangerous

Have you considered going on a missions trip to an impoverished nation? Maybe you already have been on one {or more}? This year, I got my first official passport and my first official stamps after I went on my first official mission trip to Haiti {if you follow the blog, you probably already know this - I'm a little excited about it - can you tell?}. As I have thought long and hard about this wonderful experience, I have also contemplated how a mission trip {either short or long} could be dangerous.

The dangers I will be talking about are heart issues - not malaria, typhoid, lack of hospital care, guerilla attacks, theft, kidnapping or anything like that. These dangers are what may happen in the depths of your heart and mind - and may be more subtle and therefore, more threatening.

1. As you observe the level of poverty in a third world country, you realize the level of need. This sparks a strong desire inside to help in a very tangible way. This desire can be from the Lord and a result of His calling for your life. Maybe He desires that you spend either your time and/or money in the mission field. The danger arises when you want to help others as way of earning your way into heaven. Now I am sure most people would not use those exact words {at least I hope not}, but it may go something more like this.

There are people who desperately need help. You give time and money in order to help the people. Your own life is not riddled with outward, ugly sin, so you see yourself as a pretty good, moral person {but on the inside where no one can see....that is a different story for us all}.

The danger: You see yourself as a good {moral} person and you are helping out people that others in the world basically ignore. Why on earth would God not want YOU in heaven? Well, the answer is if you haven't repented of your sin and accepted Jesus as your Savior, it does not matter how much "good" you do in the world. You are still a sinner {yes, even small "respectable sins" will keep you out of heaven} and you are in desperate need of a Savior.

2. As you see the vast need of the poor in the world, you start to give of your time and/or money {which is a good thing}, but then you start to develop a feeling of self-righteousness and judging the way others choose to spend their own resources. This is the dangerous part. It is a great thing to help others. It is a horrible, ugly, sinful attitude to judge the way others are spending their resources. Each one of us is on our own walk with the Lord and He will convict each of us differently as He chooses. God is Sovereign and in control of all things. He is the one on the throne in heaven - not you {nor I}.

The danger: The growing root of self-righteousness grows in your heart due to your comparing yourself with others instead of Christ {where we all fall short}.

3. After serving in a country that so desperately needs help and is so quick with the thank you's and praises, it may be difficult to transition back to ordinary life. As a stay at home Mom {like myself} it is hard to see my scrubbing the toilet here in the states to be at the same level of work as working in Haiti. However, we are to do our work as unto the Lord no matter where He has placed us. Right now, God has blessed me with a beautiful family and my work is here serving them. It may be that you are working retail, in an IT department, in a hospital or wherever - but your job is just as important as working on a missions trip, if you are working as unto the Lord. We are here to spread the love of Christ and His gospel - and we can do that anywhere, anyplace, anytime. We need to just look for opportunities. We cannot all be full-time missionaries. If we were, who would be serving here in the states?

The danger: Feeling discontented in your current situation and not feeling as if you are serving at the same level as someone living on the mission field.

4. You went on a mission trip and it felt good when you were there, but almost as quickly as you returned home, your life returned to normal. You were basically unmoved and unchanged. But when others are discussing missions and the needs of the poor around the world, you start to feel puffed up and are quick to chime in with your own experience, as if it were a check off the 'good list' and something to "brag" about.

The danger: Taking something that has the potential to grow you in your walk with the Lord and using it to grow your own pride and self-love instead.

5. It is very obvious that in America, we enjoy many things {and often take for granted} that are considered luxuries in third world countries reserved for the very wealthy and famous. Nearly all of us have these in our very own homes. Things like running water, toilets, refrigerators stocked full of food, heating and cooling, a comfortable bed, water that is not infected with germs and feces. 

There is a danger of going on a mission trip to an impoverished country and walking away feeling blessed, very blessed that God has placed you in America. That doesn't sound bad, does it?  This is a heart issue. There are two ways to look at it. You can walk away and realize that yes, you have been blessed with much and it  humbles you, leading you to want to share with others.

Another way to look at this that God has blessed you with much because you are all that, and a bag of chips. Oh yeah! Wrong.

The danger: Again, growing the self-love and pride in your heart when this should be an opportunity for you to be humbled, compassionate, grateful and giving.

6. It is a reality that there are many, many people in the world that desperately need {need, not want} clean water, food to eat on a daily basis, clothing to wear, shoes for their feet, and medical attention for preventable diseases {and so much more}. But what these people in the third world countries, around the globe and here in America need the most is the gospel. More than a drink of clean water, they need to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. It can be difficult to think about a person's spiritual need when their physical need is so very obvious {and there are so many}.

The danger: Being more motivated for social justice than spreading the gospel.

I see two things that must happen before, during and after the trip to ensure that you will not fall into these traps. These are more important than getting those vaccinations and taking that malaria medication.

But that is another post. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Keeping the Little in Our Girls Pt 3

If you remember, I am reading through Dannah Gresh's "Six Ways to Keep the "Little" in Your Girl " book this summer with some friends from church. This week, we covered Chapters 2 and 3. These chapters detail the risk of not being proactive and starts to detail what we need to do {as Moms and Dads} in order to help protect our girls.

First, the risks. I have one word - SCARY! It really is mind boggling to think about the dangers that our girls are faced with that the world just thinks is OK {or even worse, they celebrate it}.

One reason I started reading this book because I have heard beautiful stories of young women {and men} who remained pure, went through a courtship process and then had a beautiful marriage ceremony where he truly gave himself to his new bride and she fully gave herself to her husband. The two were going to become one. They saved their hearts, purity and sometimes even their first kiss for one another. This sounds wonderful and exactly how God designed it. It is what I want for our daughters.

Not like my own story {and so many others that I know} where my past is riddled with romantic love affairs and heart breaks. There are so many stories and images that I wish could be burned out of my mind {where are the men in black when you need them with their magic 'memory erasers'?}. I have had my heart broken so many times and have built walls around portions of my heart that I am unwilling to share again {I'm learning to let the walls down, but it is very difficult after so many years of building them, brick by brick}. I have mountains of guilt for the hearts I have broken due to my own selfish sins.

I have heard love {the kind of love and acts of love that should be saved for the marriage bed} described as putting two pieces of duct tape together. When the relationship {or unfortunately these days it is even more casual than that} breaks apart, it is like peeling the two pieces of duct tape apart. It is not easy and each piece has bits of the other stuck to it. It is never quite the same. So is the heart of the young lady {or young man} that foolishly gives it away before she finds the man God has to be her husband.

I long for my daughters to save their hearts and their purity for their husbands. That is why I picked up this book.

But there is more at risk. Chapter 2 talks about these other dangers:

  • Depression: "Today's average {that is, normal} young person between the ages of nine and seventeen scores as high on anxiety scales as children who were admitted to clinics for psychiatric disorders in 1957." And I can see this - children move from one fad to the next, one BFF to the next, climb the ladder of popularity {no matter what the cost}, and seek love from whomever they can - all in the name of making themselves "happy". Do what feels good, right?

    And when they are not able to meet these high standards {Twiggy skinny, glamorous like the red carpet beauties, most popular/handsome boyfriend}, they become severely depressed. "The only reality for almost every girl is that she doesn't and never will look like that {magazine and TV stars}, which creates an extreme sense of inadequacy and self-loathing at a very early age."
  • Eating Disorders: "'A decade ago, new eating disorder patients at Children's National Medical Center tended to be around age 15,' says Adelaide Robb, director of inpatient psychiatry. 'Today kids come in as young as 5 and 6.'"

    Really? 5 and 6 year olds with eating disorders? There is so much emphasis on body image in our culture {just look at the magazines at the check out line} that our girls are starting off elementary school hating the way God created them. This is heart breaking! Our little girls are beautiful. They are made in the image of God and we need to scream this from the highest hill!

    Side note: This is where I, as the Mom and dominant voice in the lives of my daughters, need to watch what I say about my own body. I need to check my self-image and make sure I am not sending messages that I am unhappy with how God made me. Sometimes the sermon that speaks to their hearts is the one they see in me.
  • Impurity: Do you know what one of the major risk factors is for a teen girl to be sxually active? Having a boyfriend for more than 6 months. "Almost half of tweens have, or have had, a boyfriend, and while most of these think that means you "hold hands" or say, "I like you", about 30 percent think it means having oral s*x or sxual intercourse."

    Are you kidding me?! 30 percent?! These are our tween girls, not teenagers {which would be bad enough}.

    I do not know what we will do about dating or having a boyfriend when our daughters are in their teens, but I can assure you this - there will not be any boyfriends when they are 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, or even 13! There will be no hand holding. There will be no movie dates. Will they have friends that are boys? Probably. They already do. I hate to be all legalistic, but we are talking about saving my daughters from a lot of pain {pain they will hold onto for life}. At this point, we need to be the parents and implement boundaries. I am sure these will have to change as our girls get older {although I really have no idea how we will do that and will be seeking out my friends that have older children for wisdom and guidance}, but while they are young in age - they will remain young in their heart, mind and body {with the Lord's help}.

Chapter Three discusses the one factor, more than anything else, that is the "strongest risk reducer for teen sxual activity."

What is it? Parent-child connectedness.

That is defined as "being closely bonded by common traditions and frequently occurring activities" or "intentional togetherness". It is eating dinner together. It is spending vacations together {and not having the electronic entertainment blaring in the background or tiny earbuds plugged into the ears of either the parent or the child}.

"Quality time? A myth! Our kids need quantity that comes with great quality here and there."

There is a great quiz to see how connected you already are with your daughter - did you take it? Did you pass or fail? Remember, God gives mountains of grace for our shortcomings and His mercies are new every morning. Start today! Plan a "date" with your daughter(s) and even your son(s). I haven't read the companion book for boys, but I am guessing parent-child connectedness is just as important in the lives of the boys. Do something fun! Laugh until your cheeks hurt! You will never regret it.

Are you reading the book yet? What thoughts did you have about Chapters 2 and 3? Are you a connected family? What activities do you enjoy doing together? Camping? Date nights with the individual kids? Do you eat dinner as a family most nights?

Quotes taken from Six Ways to Keep the "Little" in Your Girl by Dannah Gresh

Other resources that you may find interesting: