Blessing Your Children: How to Spiritually Bless Those You Love

Blessing your Children: How to pray a spiritual blessing over them

Today’s guest post is a wonderful one by Pat Fenner about the Judeo-Christian concept of blessing your children. I love this, because when both of my girls turned 13 I held “blessing” parties for them, where I asked 13 adult women who were important in their lives to come and say a blessing over them–name gifts they saw in the girls, or give them a word of wisdom. Their friends were invited, too, and we turned it into such a fun spa night! It was lovely. And so I’d like to spread the word about this wonderful tradition of blessing our kids–and what a difference it can make in their lives.

Many years ago, our oldest son turned 13.  It was an inspiring time for us as parents, and a significant moment in our family’s history.

About a year prior, when my husband Paul and I were still coming to grips with having our first son enter the teenage years, we began thinking and talking and praying about what we could do to make that transition year memorable and important.  We headed to Scripture, and searched it to see what ceremonies or activities we could possibly adapt from the Hebrew tradition and the early church.  For years we had already been celebrating a Christian Passover as a family, so that wasn’t really a far stretch for us.  We also sought current or popular materials on the blessing, but were somewhat dismayed at what was available at the time.  The few books we could find were dull and dry; not really engaging and a bit too, um, conceptual.  Of course, God uses all things for good (Rom 8:28), so despite the dearth of information, the net result was something that not only truly reflected our family’s beliefs, but the vision and prayers we had for our son, and subsequent children.  How it has evolved and been used over the years is something totally beyond what we could ever have imagined.

Modern Milestones vs Spiritual Steppingstones

What events can you think of that signify a child growing up?

Let’s see, first boyfriend/girlfriend (although these days I hear parents talking that way about their pre-schoolers!  Ugh!), maybe first date, getting a driver’s license, first drink, ears pierced (I guess this one could be for boys, too, these days), sweet-16 birthday, registering to vote or enter the Armed Forces…

These have become what I call modern milestones.  And while they may indeed have some significance, at best they are events on a timeline.  In and of themselves, they add no character to our children’s lives, provide no preparation for their future, and neither strengthen nor build their faith or journey with the Lord.  They are both temporal and temporary.

These modern milestones quite often occur during what we call “adolescence”, roughly between the ages of 13 and 20, when children undergo physiological changes and begin to transition their roles in the family.  (Interestingly enough, this period in life did not even exist as a concept prior to the late 19th century, was not given serious study until the early 20th century, and is generally considered to be an American “discovery”.  But that’s a whole ‘nother post…)

Spiritual steppingstones, however, are more eternal in nature.  They are more a matter of building on and building up than simply marking time.  Daily blessings or an even-bigger and more-celebrated occasion, can become a part of the fabric of your family’s life, establishing routines or customs that can help create a unique family history and identity, among other things.

Why Is It important to Bless our Children?

What are the specific benefits for them?  I believe there are 5 significant ones:

1) Blessing them builds their character and enlarges their life vision

2) Blessing your children encourages them to know you’re giving their future your intentional attention

3) Blessing your kids conveys your dreams and hopes and belief in their future

4) Blessing them daily encourages them to seek and find daily blessings in their own lives

5) Giving a blessing is a tool to grow a deeper and more “real” relationship with them

Responding to The Call

Praying for your Children

As parents, we have not only the right but the privilege to pray for and bless our kiddos, and we can find many ways to speak blessings over them frequently and informally.

1) On a daily basis, we can pray for our children by name during our quiet time.  If there are particular issues that you are working through with them, find a concordance, or use the online one here, and locate Scripture passages that speak to that struggle.  Lift them up to the Father by name.  He already knows, of course, but it’s good for us to ask on their behalf.

2) You can then share that info with your kids, and let them know what you’ve done/are doing!  Tell them how and what you’ve prayed for them (see #1) over a meal, or while you’re sitting together in the family room at the end of the day.  Follow-through by asking them about those situations and how you can further pray for them.  Reassuring them in this way that their issues/problems/requests are important enough for YOU to pray about most definitely blesses them…

3) Decide for yourself the daily events that you’ll choose to use as a blessing opportunity.  For example, when they leave for school in the morning, before practice or rehearsal in the afternoon, at supper, before bedtime.  Locate a Scripture that reflects your dreams and desires for them, or one that is relevant (see #1), replace their name in the appropriate sections and speak it aloud over them!  The first few times may be a little uncomfortable, but I promise that if you persevere, not only will these times become precious to you both, but they will start to remind you if you forget.

A Notable Spiritual Steppingstone

To get back to my opening story, all those years ago, Paul and I did fashion a beautiful ceremony that we have subsequently replicated with unique touches for each of our other children.  It has become a family tradition to celebrate their 13th birthday in this manner.   Referred to in our family simply as “the Blessing Service”, each child has spoken of it (and 1 still anticipates it!) as a memorable and pivotal time in their young lives.

Too much to describe here, I’ve included the information on that celebration in a special booklet I have available on our website, Mom’s Morning Coffee.   Just shoot us an email and we’ll be glad to send you out the free, downloadable document in PDF form, filled with resources and references, the format we use for our family’s service, and sample prayers of blessing.

Blessing your children is a wonderful way to encourage and build them up, and a great tool for releasing God’s best in their lives!

Pat FennerPat Fenner is a Yankee city-girl who has been adopted by the sleepy, sunny south. Married for 28 years and the mother of 5, she woke up one day to discover she reached the stage of life where she is the “older woman” described in Titus 2:3-5. She owns Mom’s Morning Coffee.com with her good friend Candy, and enjoys writing, homeschooling and doing whatever the Lord puts on her plate each day! You can reach her via email and look for her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!

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Does God Make a Difference in Marriage Part 2

Does God Make a Difference in MarriageDoes God make a difference in your marriage?

Last week I made some observations that often Christians act like God doesn’t really make a difference in our lives, and everything is ultimately up to us. We just don’t really have faith that God will actually move.

I see that in marriage, too, and I want to see how two different trends–though they may seem like they have nothing to do with each other–actually show that we have a long way to go with marriage.

1. Christians Divorce at the Same Rate as Non-Christians–Right?

You’ve heard that stat, haven’t you? In fact, it’s even worse than that. I’ve heard the stat that 50% of marriages end in divorce–but that it’s even higher in the Bible belt.

Do you believe it?

Chances are you do because Christians quote it all the time. We announce it from pews. We use it to fundraise for family organizations–Christian marriages need all the help they can get! We’re in dire straits, people!

Yet think it through logically. Do we believe that having God in your life should make a difference? Do we believe that God works in people’s lives? If we do, then how could it possibly be that our marriages are as bad as everyone else’s?

I started to wonder that recently and so I did an experiment. I looked through my church directory to see how many were divorced. It was closer to 10%.  Then I wondered–maybe that’s skewed, because once people divorce they stop going to church? So I thought back on the couples I knew in university. I wrote out a long list of all my university friends who had gotten married. And of all of them (we knew each other from the campus Christian group), only 2 had been divorced–a rate of about 5%.

I read a study recently that said that in marriages where couples pray together daily the divorce rate is more like 2%. I believe that. It makes sense to me. And I’ve read critiques of that study that found that our divorce rate was just as high because they really didn’t define “Christian”. Practically everyone claims to be a Christian, and so that’s pretty meaningless. We want to flesh out what the divorce rate is among those who honestly believe and try to live out their faith. I want to write a post looking at all the accurate studies, but I haven’t done that yet. I’ve actually been talking to a major magazine about writing it, and that’s why I’m not linking to studies here. I want to make sure they’re accurate first and do my homework.

But the main question I have is:

why is it that Christians were so quick to believe that stat that God doesn’t make a difference?

2. Does God Make a Difference in YOUR Marriage?

Maybe the reason we’re so quick to believe it is because in our own lives we still really struggle with marriage. It’s an area that has brought us a lot of hurt and grief over the years, and we haven’t felt the “victory” or the “oneness” or the “intimacy” we long for.

I have to tell you that the last few weeks I’ve been really burdened by the emails that get sent to me. I had to turn off the Messages feature on Facebook because I couldn’t keep up with them all. And I’ve got Reader Questions of the Week now scheduled through to the end of June! But I started to keep track everyday of all the problems I heard about–really, really big problems–and then at the end of the day I’d show them to my husband. And we’d pray over them and I’d let them go. It helped me to realize how I was beginning to be changed by what I do, and I’m praying more for strength to really make a difference.

But the simple fact is that many, many of you are really hurting, and my heart breaks for you. Many, many of you are wondering, if we’re Christians why does my husband play video games for 6 hours a day? Why can he not get over this porn addiction? Why do I have no patience for him? Why am I always so frustrated with him? Why can I not motivate myself to show him love anymore?

From speaking at marriage conferences and talking to couples and to counselors, I completely believe that God can make a difference in a marriage. If you run to Him and you’re humble and you’re open to correction about the things that you have done wrong, and not just open to God correcting your spouse, God can do amazing things.

Even if your spouse isn’t turning to God, God can still work in your marriage. It doesn’t mean your marriage will always be saved; but He can work.

Yet often I see couples where both claim Christ, and where both go to church, and where both would say that they believe, and yet they are getting nowhere.

I don’t believe the problem is that you don’t have God. I believe the problem is that God doesn’t have you. (Click to Tweet this quote)

God is not like a mechanic where you can take your broken marriage and He’ll fix it for you. He doesn’t work that way. He’s not a mechanic; He’s a potter who wants to mold you into something better. But He can’t mold something that is hard and brittle; He can only mold us when we’re pliable, when we are humble, when we are open to be molded.

God isn’t really interested in fixing your spouse nearly as much as He’s interested in having your heart. And if we are humble before Him, He can transform us, which can start to transform a marriage. If your spouse is also humble before Him, He is then free to do a beautiful and amazing work!

But we have to stop making excuses. We have to stop pointing fingers. And we have to do the work!

I’m really burdened by a relationship issue in my extended family, and it’s causing me to pray like I never have before. That’s the beauty of relationship issues; they drive us to God. My instinct is to get on the phone and try to force the issue and make it all better, but like Calm Healthy Sexy wrote in a post she linked up to Wifey Wednesday this week, we have to wait on God’s timing. She says:

The devotional book I’m reading, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, reminded me this week to “stop trying to work things out before their times have come.”  That idea really spoke to me; it made me realize that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do.  Even though I believe in God’s timing in my life, I haven’t been operating as if I believe in it at all.  I’ve acted as if everything depends on me, as if I just need to keep charging ahead and things will fall into place exactly as I’ve planned.  The only problem is, it’s not working.

We have to pray and then honestly walk in faith. We have to wrestle. We have to cry. And we have to believe.

Yesterday I took a day to fast and pray with a “blogging buddy” of mine from the other side of the continent. We prayed for each other all day and for ourselves and then at the end of the day we called each other and prayed on the phone together. We were both burdened by something similar and we needed God to lift that burden. But that meant also emptying ourselves and fighting for it. It meant giving God more of us, not just asking for more of Him.

If you believe in God, He should be making a difference in your marriage. If He’s not, the problem is likely not with God. It’s likely that He wants to bring you deeper, or bring your husband deeper. Of course you can do everything right and lean on God and your marriage may still not be saved, but even in that God wants you to lean and trust, because He does want to make a difference even in the brokenness. But maybe, instead of getting angry at our spouses and feeling defeated and feeling lost we need to throw ourselves more on God and get back to the only source that can bring real healing.

Do we believe God works, or not? I fear too often we really don’t, and then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Wifey Wednesday: Supporting Your Adventure Loving Husband

Supporting Your Adventure Loving Husband

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! And today Renee Tougas is joining us to share her story about her adventure loving husband.

I met my husband twenty years ago. We met at a Christian campus organization camping trip. That should have been my first clue.

I always knew my husband liked the outdoors and physical activity. When I met him he biked, hiked, kayaked, rock climbed, and lifted weights. A lot of young men are into those things. They like the physical challenge, the “muscle building”, and the adventure.

It wasn’t Damien’s sense of adventure that attracted me to him or even his muscles though. It was his steady nature. I am a reactive personality type. I am expressive in both my highs, and my lows. My husband is the near opposite of me and I fell in love with his easy going nature.

I was nineteen years old. I had no idea what I was getting into.

SONY DSCI was looking for a steady sort because though I was young I knew what I wanted in life. My dream was to be a wife and a mom. I wanted to stay home with my babies. I wanted home to be my first career and after that, well, I’d figure it out when the time came.

I was looking for a man. Call me old fashioned but I wanted someone who could provide and protect. I was frugal, and still am. I didn’t want much in the way of worldly goods but I wanted a solid, steady family life.

God gave me my husband to make those dreams come true. And to stretch me beyond those dreams in ways I could not have imagined.

As much as my husband was the steady I was seeking, he is also a visionary adventurer; not content to stay put or accept status quo. He questions and he quests. I knew a bit of this when we married, I have those tendencies myself. But I like to do my questioning from a place of relative comfort and security.

God knew what I needed. Someone to stretch me beyond the comfort and security of my carefully constructed world.

I connect with a lot of women through my blog FIMBY. I’m not a marriage expert but after seventeen years together I am happily married and still head-over-heals in-love. I guess that counts for something.

A blog reader, who was about to get married, asked me if I had any words of wisdom to share.

My advice went something like this: “Your life, your marriage, your spouse will probably surprise you in some way. Hold onto each other for dear life and be ready to change and grow.”

My own major growth spurt came a few years into our marriage. The early years of our marriage were very much about establishing home and family. Making a home in the various apartments we rented, making babies and taking care of them, learning how to be a good manager of our finances and my time. We bought a home, started homeschooling and I tended our backyard garden. I was living my dream.

And then my husband wanted to live his dream.

He has many dreams actually. He’s a dreamer. A steady provider yes, but a dreamer too. And there were things he wanted to do besides build a home and family. He wanted some adventure.

kids-campfireThus began the most significant growth curve of our married life – saying yes to my husband’s dreams. Saying yes to adventure. Saying yes to a lot of personal and marital growth that was at times physically painful and uncomfortable (like the first time backpacking!).

Something funny happened.

This comfort-loving, routine-seeking homemaker became an adventurer herself. I fell in love with the things my husband wanted to do. Hiking, backpacking, cross-country running, and backcountry skiing. I started to welcome more spontaneity into my life, and let loose the grip I had on how things must be.

I learned a few things along the way that may help you support an adventure-loving husband also.

Be his best friend.

My husband wants to be with me. He choose me. He’s rather go hiking, skiing or any other activity with me than anyone else. What a gift.

We choose each other when we made our vows. We choose to throw our lots in together, come you-know-what or high water. And trust me, I’ve experienced some “high water” moments in our adventures. But the fact remains my husband would still rather do these things with emotionally expressive me over anyone else.

We have made a conscious choice not to go separate ways in our hobbies and pursuits, instead investing time in together activities so our we get to spend as much time with each other as possible.

backpacking-autumn-leavesJust say yes. Not everyone is married to a dreaming, adventure loving husband. You might be the adventurer in your marriage, or adventurous in areas that your husband is not.

I think what our spouses want from us, regardless of which one leads the adventures, is that we say “yes”. Can we say yes every single time? Probably not. My husband has so many ideas. Too many ideas. We can’t do all the ideas, someone has to help sift through and think through them all. My “down-to-earth” managerial skills come in handy there.

But I need to say yes more than I say no.

Saying yes to our adventurous and visionary husbands communicates “I believe in you”.

It communicates respect. My husband thrives, he is fulfilled and driven to provide for our family, when he feels I respect and believe in him.

This summer I am thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail with my best friend and the three children our love brought into existence. We are embarking on an adventure that was just a dream one time for my questing husband but because I said Yes, is now a reality.

Are you married to a visionary adventurer?

Maybe your husband is an outdoors adventurer. And he would love nothing more than to spend days in the wilderness with you, hiking and camping.

Or maybe your husband is an adventurer of a different sort. An entrepreneur or perhaps involved in ministry, blazing a trail into territory that is unfamiliar and uncomfortable for you.

Regardless of which kind of adventurer he is, I bet he wants, more than anything, to have you join him. To be his adventurer-in-arms. To have you say “yes”, just like you did those years ago when he proposed.

If your family loves adventures of the outdoor kind and would love inspiration, ideas, and encouragement for how to make more of that happen in your life, follow our adventure this summer by subscribing to our video series Beyond our Boundaries: A Family Adventure on the Appalachian Trail. Never heard of the Appalachian Trail? You can read all about it and details of our family adventure here.

How do you support your adventure-loving husband? Let me know in the comments!

Renee TougasRenee Tougas is a hiker and homemaker; a mother and wife; a writer and photographer. Fresh and honest, Renee’s blog FIMBY is the story of interest-led learning, creative and adventurous family living.



Christian Marriage Advice
Now it’s your turn! Have any marriage thoughts for us today? Link up below by putting the URL of a MARRIAGE post into the linky. And be sure to link back here so other people can read all these great marriage articles! It’s a great way to build traffic for your blog, and I often highlight some posts on Facebook and Twitter, so link up below!

 

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Teaching Kids to Cook: Spending Quality Time while Teaching Life Skills

Teaching Kids to Cook Spending Quality Time while Teaching Life SkillsI’m a big believer in teaching life skills to kids. I think too many moms do too much for their kids, which ultimately does them a disservice. When they move out they don’t know how to fend for themselves, but they also grow up feeling a little entitled, since little is expected of them.

When Jillian St. Clair asked if she could sponsor this post to share about her new resource, My Very Own Cookbook, I agreed, because cooking alongside my girls has been one of my most fun memories of their childhood!

I grew up with three sisters and a brother. The kitchen in our home was not very big, so not surprisingly we were not allowed to do much in it. When I got married I was not confident with my cooking skills even though I majored in Home Economics in high school.


My mother, aunt and grandmother cooked many delicious meals that I don’t know how to prepare. I don’t want the next generation to follow in my footsteps, so I’ve created My Very Own Cookbook for parents to share time with their children teaching them how to cook. It’s also a wonderful record of time shared with loving relatives who will help them become capable, self-confident adults.

There are many “grown-ups” who have no experience in preparing nutritious, healthy meals for themselves or their families.

Together, parents and young children can create memories of learning useful, cooking and management skills. Perhaps you were given many gifts/presents as a child but lack the training and confidence to care for a home, keep up with the laundry, and prepare delicious, healthy dishes or even how to set a table.

If You Didn’t Learn These Skills, It’s Not Your Fault!

None of these skills come naturally to any of us. We must count on others to help us learn them and this learning can begin as early as 4-years old.  My grandchildren are 10, 8 and 4. When we’ve enjoyed family vacations, we’ve prepared recipes together. Sadly, many children don’t get to spend much time with their parents. This is something they especially crave when they are young. Time passes quickly; if we’re not careful, we may miss the chance to make an important impact in our children’s lives.

When we don’t cook from scratch, too, we tend to eat out more. Not only is that far less nutritious and far more expensive, but it also means that you lose the potential to really bond as a family the way families used to do around the dining room table.

Beware of Technology Undermining the Dinner Hour

Often when we’ve eaten in a fast food restaurant I see parents texting instead of sharing conversations with their children. My concern is that this pattern will go too far and when these children are pre-teens or teenagers, they will no longer want to spend much time talking with or listening to their parents. Cooking and eating together creates opportunities to share important daily events in our lives. Studies show children who share meals with their parents make better decisions and earn higher grades.

As parents, it’s our responsibility to expose our kids to everything we can that will help them succeed in all aspects of their lives. Good manners, respect for others, kindness, acceptance and patience are learned behaviors. Who else is best to teach these than the parents who love them?  Setting up this kind of relationship early will benefit both the children and their parents. Knowing your children can care for themselves is a huge blessing!

The Best Gift of All from Teaching Kids to Cook: Quality Time With Your Kids

Research shows that working parents spend only 19 minutes a day of quality time caring for their kids. Perhaps you have heard this scripture verse before:

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

The Food Network has featured many young children taking an interest in preparing recipes and even full meals. This early training will be very valuable to them as they mature into adulthood.

My daughters were 7 and 10 when I became a single mom. I was a stay at home mom until that time and when going back to work, the girls pitched in and helped take care of the laundry, their rooms and the home we lived in. Today, they have careers and homes of their own. Thankfully, they spend a great deal more than 19 minutes a day with their children.

As parents, we can help our children become adults by teaching them many things they’ll need to know so they can care for themselves when they leave home. Most parents with grown children remember and cherish the special times they’ve spent with their children. Teaching children how to be independent and self-sufficient is a precious gift.

My Very Own Cookbook is a blank recipe journal encouraging children to share time with their parents and other loved ones. Filling in the details of a recipe being prepared with help from loved ones will be a cherished gift and record of special times spent together with loved ones and a timeless record for their future children to enjoy.

Want to start teaching your children to cook? Download Jillian’s FREE ebook: 15 Recipes You Can Make with Your Kids–and get started today!

Is Screen Time Robbing Your Marriage?

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! Today please welcome Arlene Pellicane, author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife, as she shares great insight into how we choose to spend our time as a couple (and as a family).

is screen time robbing your marriageA few months ago, I was speaking at a youth event about keeping your family relationships alive in a screen-driven world.

A father came up to me afterwards, not to talk about his teens and their love of technology, but his wife’s.

His wife is a ministry leader at church and social media has really allowed her to expand her reach to encourage wives, no matter where they live, at whatever time of day.  It all started very innocently.  A text, a tweet, a Facebook message.  But as she began to engage more with women through social media, she discovered she was really meeting a need in the lives of many friends.

The only problem was her love for social media was leaving her husband out in the cold.

This man talked about how his wife was constantly on her phone.  If they were in the car together, she was texting.  When they were sitting face to face at a dinner date, what was she doing?  Yes, you guessed it…she was using her phone.  It was driving him crazy!  Her husband tried to tell her that she needs to put down the phone and engage with him, but so far, nothing has changed.  And he doesn’t want to nag because otherwise, he says, she’s a perfect wife.

Technology, while bringing this wife closer to many of her friends, is driving a wedge between her and her once-happy husband.

It really could happen to any one of us, couldn’t it?  The phone makes us carry around the “urgent” inside our pocket while the “important” sits across from us at the dinner table waiting for when you have a spare moment.

I don’t know about you, but there is nothing smart about a phone that alienates you from the ones you love most.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  It’s not the phone that’s the problem.  It’s the way we use our phones which can get us into trouble.  And we don’t only have phones that compete with quality time with our spouses; there’s television, Pinterest, DVRs, and much more.

So here’s the question for you to consider today:  Would your marriage relationship improve if you and your spouse unplugged from your devices more often?

According to a Nielsen report, the average American spends more than 34 hours a week watching live television, plus another three to six hours watching taped programs.  Think of all that time that could be spent in more meaningful ways.  You could pick up a new hobby with your mate, go out to dinner, walk in the park, or snuggle up on the couch together with some great books.

My family doesn’t get cable but that doesn’t mean we’re not tempted to succumb to screen time during all our waking hours.  My husband James and I realized that after we put our three kids to bed in the evening, we would retreat to our computers and answer emails, browse headlines, check Facebook, and watch YouTube videos.  One night James said, “I’m on the computer all day, why am I wasting time at night on this thing?”  So we decide to try something new.  When the kids went to bed, we would power off our devices.

Turning off the computer earlier in the evening has been rejuvenating.

Not only is it a much better way to get a good night sleep, it gives space for my relationship with James.  We can talk, snuggle, read together, pray, or kiss…and all of these options are better than updating my Facebook status!

So the next time you are aimlessly flipping through channels, clicking through websites, or texting like a wild woman, stop yourself and ask:

What could be a better use of my time right now?

Does this activity help or harm my relationship with my husband?

Would anybody really care if I missed this program or didn’t engage in social media right now? 

When you turn off your electronic devices more often, you’ll turn on better things like red hot monogamy (as my friend author Pam Farrel calls it), quality time, and a stronger connection with the one who matters most – your husband.

Let’s make sure our husbands know they are more important than texts, tweets, pins and posts.  Not just with our words, but with our daily actions.

So it’s okay ladies…I give you permission to be unreachable and turn your phone…off.

More Screen Time Equals Less Marital Satisfaction

Arlene Pellicane 600x600jpg31 Days to Becoming a Happy WifeArlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife.  She and her husband James live in San Diego with their three children.  You can learn more about her ministry at www.ArlenePellicane.com

 

 

Now, do you have any advice for us today? Link up the URL of a marriage post to today’s Wifey Wednesday, and get some traffic back to your blog!



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How Married Couples Can Help Single Moms

Today Latoya Edwards, homeschooling single mom and blogger, guest posts about how married couples can be a blessing to the single moms in their midst.

 

how married couples can help single momsI learned a lot about marriage when mine started to fall apart.

It’s strange how that happens sometimes. God uses our difficult situations to teach us important lessons.  I was blessed to have some very loving and supportive friends in my life during that hard time. I know that not everyone has that when going through a divorce.  People often ask me how they can best help/support single moms like me. Today I want to share four ways that married couples can be a blessing to single parents and those whose marriage may be in crisis.

1. Prayer

Prayer is one thing that you can never have too much of. There were many people praying for me as I walked the difficult path of divorce for 3.5 years. And there have been even more praying for me since.  If you know of a family that is in crisis or a single mom or dad pray for them. Pray for healing and restoration for all involved. Pray for peace in the home and comfort for the children.  If you have the chance to ask the family for specific prayer needs great! And don’t forget to pray about other ways to be a blessing.

2. Be a Mentor

One of the things that was sorely lacking in my marriage was a godly example of what a husband and wife were called to do. No one sat us down to walk us through the God required of each of us in our marriage. And no one was there to show us the godly way to resolve our issues.  If you know a newly married couple or a couple that is having some trouble consider mentoring them. Walk with them on the journey of marriage.

3. Continue to be a Source of Support

I can’t speak for single dads but as a single mom I need lots of help and support. There’s no man in my home or someone that is around on a consistent basis to be a role model for my boys.  There are things that I struggle with because I’m a woman and don’t truly understand all the inner workings of boyhood.  I have a friend that has adopted my little family. She and her husband pray for us regularly. They have us over for dinner and her husbands takes some time to pour into my boys spiritually.  There are no words that can express how much that blesses me.  Divorce is hard and the hard part isn’t over when the judge signs off on the final judgment.  Single parents need all the support we can get.

4. Be an Example

Invite a single mom and her children over for dinner. There are many reasons for this. You give her a night off of kitchen duty. You also have a chance to see if there are any needs that you can minister to. But another thing that is really important (and often overlooked) is that you have the opportunity to show the children in that family what  God intended a family to look like.

There are all those scary statistics about children (especially boys) raised by single moms.

Want to help with those numbers?

  • Be an example.
  • Give those children a chance to see a husband loving and supporting his wife and children.
  • Show them a wife serving her family joyfully.
  • Let them see children, who respect and obey their parents.

It makes a difference!

When my boys started asking me what a man was supposed to do, it was hard for me to answer. I couldn’t point them to their father at the time because he was not walking with God. But I was able to point to my friend’s husband and say, “You see how hard Mr. X works? He is providing for his family and he always makes sure to do fun stuff with his children even when he is tired.”

There are many other ways to for married couples to be a blessing to single parents. What would you add to the list?

Latoya EdwardsLaToya Edwards is a single, homeschooling mama of two boys. She writes about her journey as a single parent, homeschooler, special needs parent and more at  www.LaToyaEdwards.net.

On Those Who Deserve Fame

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week I wanted to address what it means to be a True Hero.

On Those Who Deserve FameI recently served on a committee looking for leadership for a nonprofit organization, and we joked that one of our criteria was that the people we would ask would not want to do it. People who don’t want the spotlight often end up being better leaders.

People who crave attention usually don’t deserve it.

I was reminded of this when I read the story of Nicholas Winton. Winton grew up in a British Jewish family that later converted to Christianity. In 1938 he decided to forego a ski holiday in Switzerland to go to Prague to help a friend who was involved with Jewish refugee work.

After Kristallnacht, when the Nazis started overt persecution of the Jews, Winton single-handedly set up an aid organization to transport Czechoslavakian Jewish children to Britain, arranging for families to look after them once they arrived.

Most of those children’s parents later perished in Auschwitz, but 669 children made it to Britain. Tragically, the last train that was scheduled to leave, full of 250 little ones, never made it. Those children were sent to Auschwitz instead.

Winton had to contend with physical danger in Czechoslavakia, red tape in Britain, and trouble in the Netherlands to get the kids to safety, but he persevered with no resources except his own determination.

What hit me most about his story, though, other than the amazing heroism, was the fact that he never told anybody.

In 1988, his wife Grete was rooting through the attic when she came across his famous ledger where he had taken painstaking notes about the identity and whereabouts of all of the children. She went public and he has since been honoured by the British government, the Czechoslavakian government, and the Israeli government. He was even touchingly reunited on a television documentary with dozens of the children that he rescued.

At 104 years of age Winton has outlived many of the children that he saved. And yet he never desired fame or recognition. He did it because he felt compelled to. He couldn’t NOT do it.

I wonder, though, if one of the reasons he couldn’t come forward was that even though he saved 669, the 250 who didn’t make it still haunted him. I remember the end of Schindler’s List, when Oskar Schindler was overwhelmed with the thought that if he had just sold a few more possessions he could have saved dozens more. Or there is Charles Mulli, a Kenyan who opened a children’s home initially for a dozen children, and now cares for more than 3000. When he goes into the slums, though, he’s still overwhelmed by the need.

Real heroes don’t look for fame, because real heroes pay the price. It’s not a game about fame or fortune; it’s a real life struggle to do what’s right, to stand up to evil, to make a real difference in the midst of heartbreaking circumstances. It means opening yourself up to true tragedy. That is never easy.

Winton was and is a real hero, and his story deserves to be told, far more than whether or not Jennifer Aniston is pregnant or whether or not another Kardashian is getting a divorce.

The things that our culture cares about are a measure of that culture. We are a petty culture, and yet amongst us there are still calm, quiet giants. It behooves us to wade through all of our silly noise and take time listen to their very important stories.

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UPDATE: I made an error in the original version of this column and said that he rescued the children from Austria. It was really Czechoslavakia. I’m sorry for the mistake; I’ve corrected it now.

Practice Makes Perfect: Homemakers are Made, not Born

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week I want to talk about  practice, perfection and our tendency to compare with others.

Practice Makes PerfectLast night I was cleaning up my kitchen while my 18-year-old practised piano. At one point I paused from my scrubbing, and just listened as her fingers danced across the keyboard playing a deliciously difficult piece.

I love moments like that.

Nine years ago, when she started piano, she did not sound very lovely. She would sit on the bench, her feet dangling over, as she tried to pick out the notes to This Old Man. It was cute, but it wasn’t beautiful.

Over the years she has spent countless hours perfecting her skill. And now she can sit down whenever she wants and play a song she heard on the radio. She’s had experience.

We instinctively understand that when it comes to instruments. We get it when it comes to most hobbies. We know it’s true of driving, too: you get better with time and effort. I don’t think, however, that we give enough credence to the idea that this phenomenon could also apply to other parts of life.

When my children were very small, Keith and I were invited over to dinner to the home of a couple who was then in their late forties. They served a wonderful meal with a beautiful centrepiece and a delicious dessert. Music was drifting in the background. The house was immaculately decorated. Our hostess made the meal look effortless.

The next day, when I looked around my living room to see the mismatched couches, and the toys scattered over the floor, and the distinct lack of dining room table (we ate in the kitchen and had allowed the children to take over the dining room for their craft projects), I felt like a failure. I couldn’t have hosted a dinner party even if I had wanted to. I wouldn’t know what to make. I wouldn’t know where to seat people. And my furniture was terrible.

Fast forward fourteen years, and life is very different. I can host a dinner party now, because I have a dining room table again. My 15-year-old makes great centrepieces. I can cook much better (though last year’s Christmas dinner was a disaster, but that’s another story). My house isn’t a mess.

And the reason is because I’ve had practice.

When I think back to that woman in her late forties who entertained us, I think she, too, had simply learned how to be a good hostess. When she was in her late twenties, she had three boys under four. I’m sure her dining room table wasn’t huge and spotless. I’m sure her furniture didn’t all match, and toys likely littered every surface. But over the years they could slowly afford to buy better furniture. She had practice cooking. The toys were packed away. And life got easier.

We have a tendency to compare our abilities to keep a nice home, cook a good dinner, balance a chequebook, or manage investments to those of other, older people, like our parents. Perhaps it’s time to stop. Your mother’s home may have been quite a mess when her children were the age of your children, even if her home is spotless now. Your boss who is so careful with investments may only have learned to be that way because of mistakes and lost opportunities in his twenties. Your father’s ability to grow grass probably is not instinctual; he learned it over decades.

If you’re not there yet, relax.

Practice makes perfect.

We don’t learn basic life skills overnight. It takes a while to get used to it. So let’s enjoy the journey, rather than always beating ourselves up for not having arrived yet.

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Beware of the Vacuum: Don’t Give Up Something Unless You Replace It

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week, I offer a proven solution to helping those resolutions stick.  This year, let’s plan to succeed!
Beware of the Vacuum

December 20 was a pivotal day in my life, though I didn’t know it at the time. I drank my last Diet Pepsi. I’ve been trying to give up the wonderful drink, off and on, for about five years now, and lately I’ve been cutting down substantially.

But on December 20, only after I had finished that last can did I finally decide that I had had enough, thanks to some prodding from my pesky oldest daughter who mentioned things like “it can cause cancer” and “you’re killing yourself.” When a Christmas guest left a Diet Coke in the fridge, she poured it down the sink. I am officially cut off.

Old age dementia runs in my family, and I figure aspartame can’t be that nice a thing for your brain. So, after ten years of it being a daily habit, I’m done.

Many of us are quitting things this time of year. 2014 is upon us, and we want to start right. We’re going to cut out sugar. We’re going to cut out wheat. We’re going to cut out aspartame, preservatives, and anything resembling flavour. We’re going to beat our bodies into submission.

Yet one thing I’ve found with my decision to forsake Diet Pepsi is that vacuums aren’t pretty. When you quit something you rely on–whether it’s a drink or a cigarette or a daily Facebook fix–you’re disrupting your normal habits. That forms a vacuum. Whenever there is a vacuum, things rush in to fill it–usually bad things. That’s why it’s so hard to finally quit, because that vacuum reminds you, every second of every day, wouldn’t that nice cold fizz taste good right about now?

If you’re going to give something up, then, you must replace it with something–and it’s best to have that plan before you give that thing up.

Too often we think, “I’ll just develop self-control and I’ll be fine.” If self-control were that easy, we wouldn’t have rehab or Cheetos in giant bags or websites dedicated to the People of Wal-Mart. Taking pride in oneself and treating oneself well isn’t just about self-control; it’s about developing new habits. And it’s not easy.

That’s what I’m really struggling with right now. My cousin, who has never ingested anything bad into her body in her life, suggested that I replace my Diet Pepsi with lemon and Perrier. I wonder if she has ever actually tasted Perrier. But I’ve stocked up anyway, along with a new water cooler and some juices, because I need something.

These habits that we hate are only there because they serve some purpose in our lives.

Food comforts us. Alcohol helps us relax. Diet Pepsi dances on your tongue, especially when you take that first sip after the ice is added (I really need to reach for that Perrier again). Or perhaps it’s something even more intransigent: that go-nowhere relationship helps you feel not so alone, even if he’s never going to marry you, even if she’s never going to stop flirting with other guys, even if he still chooses porn over you. At least you have someone, right?

Maybe this year it’s time to say that the bad things that are holding you back have to go–and find something to replace them.

If you eat for pleasure, find something else that will give you pleasure. If you go for three days without taking more than a small dessert at a time, let yourself buy a new lipstick. Trying to give up cigarettes? Start a new hobby that will keep you busy. Tossing out that boyfriend who constantly berates you? Start volunteering and find a wider circle of friends.

Don’t just say good-bye to something; say hello to something else. Misery thrives in a vacuum, so this New Year’s, fill up that vacuum with things that help you, not hurt you. That’s the route to a truly Happy New Year.

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Just do the Next Thing

What Do I Want to Do NextAre you a control freak?

I sure am. I love plans. I want to know what’s going to happen when. I want to have a 5-year-plan, and a 10-year-plan. It’s really bugging me now that my girls are older that I don’t know who they’re going to marry (or when. I totally believe they will). I feel like I should have more of a say in that.

We like knowing the future.

When I read Becky Avella’s book “And Then You Were Gone” about her miscarriages, she talked about it, too. One of the hardest things is that you think you’ve got your life planned out, and then you’re thrown this horrible curve ball. And we don’t know how to handle it.

My mom’s a career counsellor, and she meets with clients who need a change or who are very unhappy in their jobs. And the problem is that as much as they want to change, they feel like they can’t, because they don’t know what they want to do for the rest of their careers. And Mom always gives them the same answer.

“You don’t need to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life. You just have to decide what you want to do next.”

Don’t plan your whole life out; just do the next thing.

I think that’s brilliant (as a lot of what my mother says is brilliant). As much as we may want God to, I’ve rarely found that he reveals His whole purpose for us ahead of time. I’d love to have a road map for my life, but that’s not how God works. And if He doesn’t tell you what your whole life is supposed to look like, then why do we think we have to have it all figured out? I have known people to agonize over this–what do I want to do with my life?–so much that they fail to do anything. They’re waiting for that lightning bolt from heaven and it doesn’t come.

Even the apostle Paul didn’t know what his whole life would be like. He always just decided what he was going to do next, not what he was going to do years and years from now. In Acts 16 we read about how he planned to go to Asia, and all the doors kept closing, so he went to Europe instead (where his first convert was a woman, by the way). And in his letters, he always said, “I am planning on coming to see you,” but he never really knew. Even his future was veiled.

And that’s what life is like. Our future is veiled. So all we can ask is, “what am I supposed to do next?”

I’m in the middle of one of those periods, and I’ve found it very stressful. I have a ton of potential speaking engagements on my plate, and my agent is shopping around two different books for me, both of which have publishers’ interest. And I’ve got another ebook I’m trying to write, and a Second Edition of another book I have to finish. It’s overwhelming. And I’m always trying to map out how I’ll get everything done, which just makes me feel worse.

So I’ve tried doing something totally different. Instead of asking, “when am I going to do each of these things?”, I’ve started asking, “what am I going to do next?” That tends to solidify my priorities. And when you figure out what you’re going to do next, then usually the other things end up lining up in the right order, too.

If your kids are getting older and going to school, and you want to go back to work, but you can’t picture a career you want to do for the next thirty years, why not simply ask, “what do I want to do now?” You can always change later!

If your kids are about to move out, and you’re going to have a ton of time on your hands suddenly, don’t think, “what do I want to do until retirement?” Just think, “what do I want to do next?”

If you’re considering joining a ministry at church, but you don’t know if you can commit long-term, just ask, “what do I want to do now?”

If you have a ton on your to-do list, and you can’t manage it all, don’t try to decide when you’ll get it all done. Just ask, “what one task do I want to do next?” Then do that task.

If you’re in a transition time with a move, or with your kids, or even with your marriage, you don’t need to know how it all turns out. You just need to ask, “what do I want to do next?”

And that’s true with how we handle problems in marriage, too. We don’t have to have it all figured out. We don’t have to ask, “how much will I put up with?”, or “when is enough enough?”, or even “can I ever get through this depression and feeling like I’m not where I belong?” You just need to ask, “for today, God, what will you have me do?” And ask people to pray through that with you. And you’ll find that things start to fall into place.

You do not need to know the future.

God is in the present with you, right now, and wants to help you today. But He doesn’t help by revealing His whole plan, or we wouldn’t need to trust. He nudges us quietly in certain directions, and molds us as we make little decisions: “what do I want to do next?”

The next time you’re trying to figure out your life, stop. Take a deep breath. And reframe the question. What do I want to do next? Then do that next thing, and that will get you on the right path to what God ultimately has planned for you.