Tag Archives: inspirational

Summer Is Here—Keeping Skills and Gaining New Ones

Summer is Here--Keeping Skills and Adding New Ones

“One good mother is worth a hundred schoolmasters.” -Unknown

Summer is here! Whether our children attend preschool, private school, public school, or homeschool, there are things that we can all do during the summer to make it an enjoyable, growing time in our children’s lives.

Summer truly proves the quote above–that one good mother is worth a hundred schoolmasters. We have our children home all summer–either with us if we work at home or stay home with younger children or at home while we are working. Either way, we have all summer to be their “schoolmasters.”

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Six Ways My Husband Makes Me a Better Mother

 

 

6 Ways My Husband Makes Me a Better Mother

I love being a mother! I have loved every stage of it–from being pregnant to having a son turn thirty-three this year! My husband and I have been working a lot on the slides and handouts for our parenting seminar (“Raising Kids With Character”) and for homeschooling conventions, so all of this prep has led me to this blog post. 

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Be the Kind of Mom You Have Always Dreamed of Being

 

Be The Kind of Mom You Always Dreamed of Being

When I was in elementary school, I had a friend who came from a big family. When we were in sixth grade, I believe there were already eight children in the family—and my friend was the oldest. When I went to her house to stay overnight, three things stood out to me: how her parents made them recite and pray before bed (they were devout Catholics whose children memorized catechisms and the Lord’s Prayer, etc.); how hard her mother worked—from first thing in the morning until she tucked the kids in; and that her mother made homemade bread all the time.

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W is for Wonderful Wednesday–and Other Special Times With Our Kids!

Piglet sidled up to Pooh. “Pooh!” he whispered.

“Yes, Piglet?”

“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. I just wanted to be sure of you.”

                                        A.A. Milne







One way that we have tried to have one-on-one conversations with our children, in spite of there being seven of them, is to take a child with us in the vehicle whenever possible. We began this custom when we just had three small children, making it a point to always “take whomever had shoes on” with us when one of us ran an errand.

Through the years, our custom has become a little more sophisticated (especially now that the kids are older and not always available to go run errands). Now we focus not on who has shoes on but rather on who needs Mom or Dad the most at that time. It is not uncommon for us to discuss the week in terms of kids’ needs and for one of us to say, “Why don’t you have ______ ride up with you to see your mom Wednesday night, so the two of you have a chance to talk about that.” Whatever that might be.



Of course, good discussion can also take place in the vehicle with more than one child with you. We had three girls in a row followed by three boys in a row (after our first child, a boy). This made it particularly good for talking in groups, and it wasn’t uncommon for the boys and Dad to have “Daddy talks” while en route places. (And I could never disclose the contents of those talks!)

Sometimes deep discussions did not take place. Sometimes we just talked about what we saw outside (more on that tomorrow!). Other times, it was just like the quote above by AA Milne—and the child just needed to “be sure of us.”

In case you think that taking a child one-at-a-time is still not that important, let me leave you with this thought: We have had children repent of deceit, cry their eyes out over a broken heart, and even accept Christ as their Savior in a vehicle, one-on-one with Mom and/or Dad. We actually had our oldest child reveal to the two of us whom he thought he wanted to marry (and he did several months later) in the drive-through of a fast food restaurant. Never underestimate time spent with Dad and Mom alone doing something as mundane as running errands!

Our Kids Will Do To and For Other What We Do To and For Them–Reprint

“Throughout their lives, your kids will do to and for others what you have done to and for them.”


In our “Character for Tweens and Teens” seminar, we stress the quote above—because we have seen it over and over in our children’s lives during our thirty years of parenting. And it is truly something to consider in the time, effort, money, and teaching that we invest in our children. When I look back at how true this statement has been in our lives, I just want to tell every parent that there are genuine dividends paid for all of that investing!

I could share examples of this with you from every age and stage our seven kids:

*How Joshua, our first born, would sit in the back of the van and tell his sisters what to expect when we got to our destination, how they should behave and how they should treat others—because his mommy and daddy had done that for him since he was a toddler.

*How Kayla, our second daughter, took it upon herself at age fourteen to do all of the cooking for a long period of time during my grief after our stillborn daughter’s birth and my life-threatening ruptured uterus—because her parents had served her, fed her, and taught her everything she needed to know in the kitchen.

*How Cami, our third child, started a ministry for the disabled when she was a senior in high school (that still runs today seven years later and ministers to over a hundred disabled adults every week)—because we taught her to look into people’s hearts to see their deepest needs, and we looked into her heart.

*How the girls planned a special meal for their brothers and even called and invited their grandparents to their “Silly Supper” while Mom and Dad were out of town—because Mom and Dad had always tried to make things special for them.

*How Kara, our fourth child, listened intently night after night to the needs of the teens on the traveling drama team that she led—because her parents had listened to her needs late at night for twenty years.

And on and on and on and on. Our children are far from perfect—as are their parents. But there is one thing that we can be sure they will always do: serve, love, reach out, touch, help, and communicate with others in many of the same ways that they have been served, loved, reached out to, touched, helped, and communicated with by us, their parents.
We have an example of this hot off the press that is so incredibly cute I just had to share it with you. Our almost-eighteen  year-old Josiah (sixth child of seven living)  asked a few weeks ago if he could surprise his younger brother Jacob (our youngest) by taking him to visit their oldest sister near Chicago where she is in grad school at Wheaton College (a four hour drive from us). We discussed it and decided to let him do it, so he set about planning the trip.

He must have talked to me about the “unveiling” of the trip to Jakie no fewer than a dozen times over the three weeks prior to the trip: “Should I drive home with him from my drum teaching and ask him to tell me where the gps says to turn?” “Should I take him to Cami and Joseph’s (our daughter and son-in-law) and make him think we are spending the night there but then take off from there?” “Should I pack all of his stuff while he is at piano then act like we are going to run errands?” On and on. He had a new idea everyday it seemed.

He set aside two hours the night before to go over directions with his dad, talk to us about details, call Kayla (whom they were going to see), and pack/load the car while Jacob was at the YMCA exercising with Kara (our fourth child). He gassed up his vehicle. He packed snacks. He gathered story tapes. He went to the bank and got cash. He packed Jakie’s things and hid them in the trunk.

At one point in Josiah’s preparations, he said, “Don’t you think this is the best surprise that any of the siblings have ever done for another one?” To which we just smiled and nodded. (Our kids have had a sort of unofficial “best sibling EV-ER” contest going on for many years.)

And then they left. His idea to take Jacob to Cami and Joseph’s and go from there, telling him only when Jacob noticed that they were not taking the route that led home, won out. 

And Jacob called us to see if it was really true—“are we really driving to Kayla’s for the weekend?” We could hear Josiah laughing in the background—one happy big brother.

Josiah’s idea wasn’t quite as original as he thought—but we didn’t tell him that, of course. For Josiah had just done nearly everything that we had done for him eight years ago when we took him and his siblings on a surprise weekend trip—right down to hiding packed things in the trunk, packing good snacks, sneaking out story tapes and games,  and taking a strange route to confuse them. Because by that time, we knew that  “throughout their lives, our kids will do to and for other whatever has been done to and for them.” Smile…

The Impact of Teaching Our Children to Minister to “the Least of These”


The homeschooled kids in our area start out young (as early as ten years old with their parent) serving in the One Heart Disability Ministry. Look at the joy that children bring to those with disabilities!




A Facebook post just came through from my daughter and her husband concerning their 

disability ministry, One Heart:


“Got some sad news this morning that Charlie, one of our dear One Heart members passed away this Wednesday night. Charlie always made us smile and brought us joy. I bet he’s bringing other people joy in Heaven now! He always answered questions about the Bible with, ‘Jesus died on the cross for us.’ What a simple, amazing truth. Last year at the Talent Show he sang ‘Jesus Loves Me.’ So blessed that he was part of our lives!”


My son-in-law Joseph with Charlie


If you have heard Ray and I speak in our parenting seminar, “Raising Kids With Character,” or at a homeschooling convention, you know that we are big advocates of teaching children to serve at young ages. You might also know that we believe there is a hierarchy of service outlined in the Bible that teaches children to serve the Lord at home–to serve their own families—first, followed by reaching out to those locally and finally to the “uttermost parts of the world.”



“Journey Through Easter”–drama and walk through (with petting zoo!)–is always a hit with the One Heart attendees


Without going into the entire seminar session, I will give you some keys that have led us to this thought process:

1. “To whom much is given, much is expected.”
2. “He who does not provide for his own family is worse than an infidel.”
3. Parable of the talents
4. Serve in your own “Jerusalem” then your state/region….then the uttermost parts of the earth


One of my sons helping a One Heart client fill in his VBS book



We began this teaching with our kids when they were two or three years old–teaching them to pick up around the house, unload the silverware in the dishwasher, help put away laundry, etc. Then they continued to learn household skills that they could/would eventually use in serving others.

As they grew, they served with us–starting with setting up chairs for small group or homeschool support group meetings and moving into going with us to nursing homes and other local outreaches. 

Soon the time came for them to go “out” and serve others–that is, they had learned to serve their family so well and so cheerfully and so diligently that they could take the skills that they had learned here and serve on their own.


The skills that we have built into our children during their formative years–cooking, cleaning, organizing, serving, music, drama, reading, writing, leading, Bible teaching/studying, etc.—are used over and over by our young adults in their various ministries

This has looked different for different kids–from preaching in young adult services to leading/directing dramas in church to singing on the praise team to working in children’s ministries (locally and at state homeschool conventions) to “going to the uttermost parts of the earth”–such as taking wheelchairs around the world with Joni and Friends; serving at state capitols every weekday for a semester; leading drama teams of teens in summer drama traveling around the midwest or southern USA; and even starting a ministry that would some day reach over one hundred disabled adults every week for many years.

Boys’ sports night (along with a trophy for each client!) is always a hit with the One Heart male clients

The latter is what this post is going to focus on–and the impact that teaching our children to minister to “the least of these” really has on our children–and their futures.

When our third child, Cami, was seventeen years old, she served at a Joni and Friends Family Retreat (the world-wide disability ministry of Joni Ereckson Tada) for two weeks. At the end of the retreat, she told the leaders there that she wanted to do something similar to the retreat back home–on an ongoing basis. They told her to go back to her pastors and tell them and see what she can start. 

One Heart “Special Deliveries” is a yearly outreach to nearly three hundred disabled adults in the Fort Wayne, Indiana area

Cami was a senior in high school when she began the One Heart Disability Ministry (One heart…one soul..is worth it…). She had trouble getting volunteers (it is difficult to work with disabled people–and many adults do not want to get involved), but she started rounding up her younger sister and little brothers and their friends, and before she knew it, she had a weekly ministry, sort of a “Sunday school” every Tuesday night for adults with cognitive disabilities. And it grew. And grew. And grew.

The joy that One Heart brings to the lives of those who attend is unmistakable

Within two years, she had her associates degree in church ministry with an emphasis on disability ministry, and she was asked to come on staff at the church as the Disability Ministry Director, the “official” head of One Heart Disability Ministry.

Four years ago Cami married a young man who has a paraplegic brother and cousin with severe brain injury–and also a heart for the disabled and broken, much like Cami has. They have continued leading One Heart together with their combined compassion, love, and selflessness.


In addition to the weekly services that are held with over one hundred disabled attendees all throughout the school year, One Heart delivers gifts and goodies to up to three hundred disabled adults in the Fort Wayne are every Christmas, hosts a summer VBS, and has other special events throughout the year. 

My message today is not what kids can do when they are trained in so many skills (that would take a book–and I would love to write it!); nor is it about having kids serve in general (though that is a good idea too!). My message today is this:

Teaching our children to minister to “the least of these”–the widows, elderly, disabled, and orphaned–has the potential of having a bigger impact than almost any other ministry or service opportunity they could do.

Why do you suppose this is the case?

It is consistent with Scripture–“do not only invite those who can invite you back”; “care for the widows and orphans”; and Jesus’ ministry to the blind, mentally challenged, poor, hungry, homeless, etc.

It builds an empathy in our children that cannot be duplicated anywhere else. Truly, we can tell them there are poor children who do not have enough to eat, but until they serve food to them in a summer ministry in the park, they cannot comprehend that. We can tell them that there are people whose brains do not work like ours do and they cannot do for themselves, but until they go week after week and listen to these people tell the same stories over and over or teach them to color or tell them about Jesus, they cannot FEEL the feelings that we should as Christians feel for those less fortunate than we.




Our four youngest children started working in One Heart with Cami as soon as they could be trusted to fully obey their older siblings and really work hard without parental supervision (not be tempted to play ball in the gym during the gym night but instead stay focused on the people they were there to serve). This was between the ages of eight and ten for all of them. 

And as a result, they are four of the most sensitive, compassionate kids I have ever known. 

Would they have developed this sensitivity and compassion without serving “the least of these” in an ongoing manner? 

Maybe. Maybe not. But I know that this consistent outreach–having to give up their own interests one evening a week, being responsible for their parts (teaching, serving refreshments, leading games and crafts, etc.), and learning to love and reach out to those who are “different” and extremely-mentally challenged–has had a huge impact on the kinds of people that they are growing up to be. 




P.S. Cami and Joseph are expecting their first baby in January, and Cami recently posted the status below. It is such a blessing to think that my grandson is going to start learning to serve “the least of these” from babyhood.




Funny story from One Heart last night….(this is even better than last week’s story!) I (Cami) was closing the evening in prayer with a full classroom of people and as I stood in front with my eyes closed, I feel someone patting my belly. I look down (mid prayer) and I see Susie, a One Heart member with down syndrome, just patting my belly and smiling as if she was talking to the baby. It was adorable and hilarious all at the same time. I got through the prayer without cracking up too much and dismissed everyone. Love it that the One Heart people are so excited about our baby. Can’t wait until he is here and can meet everyone. He is loved already!”


A Change a Week–Times Fifty Weeks a Year Times Thirty Years…Equals a Lot of Change!

Even just one change a month can equal a lot of changes over a lifetime—and a lot of NOT GIVING UP!

Thirty years ago, Ray’s mentor said, “Sit down with Donna every week and ask her, ‘What change do you think we need to make? What do you need for me to do?'”

He continued, “After you do this for a long time, it will give Donna peace, and she will feel secure that you really care about your family and how to improve it. 

He said, “Then one day, you will ask her ‘What do you need for me to do for you?’ and she will say ‘Nothing at all. What can I do for you?'”

Well, that time of my saying “nothing at all” has never happened yet in over thirty years! 😉 

But he was right about part of it: the peace and security that come from knowing for over thirty years that my husband wants good things for our family as badly as I do is incomprehensible.

A change a week times fifty weeks a year times thirty-plus years–equals a lot of change. Granted, we didn’t do this every single week of our lives. But even if we made a change a month for thirty years….

Twelve months times thirty years equals 360 positive changes. That is 360 opportunities to make our family stronger. It is 360 times to solve problems. It is 360 situations to improve. 

It is 360 painless times to say, “We can do this. We can make changes in this area, and we can make this month better in our home than last month!”

You see memes on Facebook and other places all the time that read something like one of the following:

1. Just do it! The time is going to pass whether you do it (a fitness activity, usually) or not, so you may as well have a good change being made as the time passes!

2. Make the change (again, usually fitness-related). Sixty days from now (or whatever), you will look back if you do it, and be glad you did. If you didn’t do it, you won’t look back and be glad you didn’t!

There is actually no place this is truer than in parenting….
(from Destination Healthy Me)

And so it is with family changes. We all have things to work on in our homes. We need to tweak the schedule, so that things run more smoothly. We need to discipline a child differently so that the child’s behavior is changed. We need to remove so much fun or add more fun in. We need to drop things for our lives to have time to spend on/with a certain child at a certain time. We need to take our focus off of one thing and put it on another until a skill is learned. And on and on and on.

However, those many changes can feel overwhelming when we look at them all at once. (I used to make “Master Changes Lists,” so I know what I’m talking about here!) 

But what if we didn’t have a “Master Changes List,” but instead we just looked at this week, this moment in time, and we decided to do one thing to improve our family….and what if we really carried out the steps necessary to make the change? And what if once we got that change down pat, we took on another problem area and solved it–and again really did what it took to make it better?

Now that doesn’t feel overwhelming at all–and not only does it not feel overwhelming, but it also feels good–and doable. 

We are talking on the Facebook page about how my husband and I kept going–NOT GIVING UP week after week, month after month for thirty years of parenting so far. This is one of the things that kept us going–knowing that we had the ability to change things that were not working in our homes–but also knowing that we didn’t have to do everything all at once.

You can do this! You can have the family life that you want. You can discipline your children properly and in love. You can raise children who have the character of Christ—not perfect, mind you, but virtues in their lives that you know the Lord wants for them. You can have fun in your home, have organization, and develop deep relationships with your children…

…one change at a time…facing one thing today and another thing in another week or month…because even a change a month times twelve months a year equals a lot of change…



Ray and I for our thirty-second anniversary this summer visiting the first place we made changes in our lives–the church where we were born again the year before we got married

Four Things Teens and Young Adults Need





I am an experiential writer. I like to write and speak about things only after I have experienced them for myself for a while. I have had the writing/speaking bug ever since our first born (now thirty) was two years old, and I headed up our children’s church department and taught teachers how to teach, manage the group, etc. (based on my credentials as an elementary education major). However, it wasn’t until I had homeschooled for many years, raised a few babies and toddlers, managed a busy household for a decade and a half, etc. , that I felt ready to talk to others about those things. As a learner, I also like to learn from those who have “been there” and “came out to tell about it”! Smile…

My husband and I began talking about raising and homeschooling teens about eight years ago–when our first born was twenty-two. Now I have seven children ages fourteen through thirty–three of whom are in college and living at home. Guess what? I am more than ready to tell the world what I have learned and continue to learn about raising/discipling teens and young adults in this heart-affecting way that we have chosen to live. If there are even a few things that we have found to work, I want to spread that vital info from shore to shore and sea to sea (okay, that’s a little dramatic, but have you ever had seven kids ages fourteen to thirty at various critical stages of life–let me tell you, it’s more than a little dramatic!).

So…with deep affection and emotion, I bring you a few things that we KNOW teens and young adults need from us as parents:


1. Safe place to talk

They need to know that it is safe to tell you whatever is going on in their hearts and lives. They need to know that you won’t completely freak out (even if you don’t agree)–and that you will love them regardless of what they say in these talks. Our oldest son and daughter (30 and 27) were raised in a pretty strict home. We had rules that did not have logical reasons (see our teen posts for Recipe for Rebellion beginning here: http://characterinkblog.com/day-sixty-eight-avoid-the-recipe-for-rebellion-ingredient-i-rules-without-reason/). We were oftentimes lost, exhausted caring for small children and emotionally drained trying to help young teenagers find their way. However, our son told us that he never wanted turn away from us–in spite of our many faults–because no matter what we made him do, wear, or say, we always gave him “intellectual freedom”–freedom to believe and think for himself (with our guidance but not with an iron fist). Fourteen to twenty-four year olds need a safe place to talk that should be found in their parents.




2. Availability

Are you tired of hearing me talk about this yet? One of the most unfortunate things to me in the whole “teen” thing is that parents sometimes think that they are done or at least almost done long before we really should be done. I have often said, and continue to believe, that children between the ages of sixteen and twenty need their parents more than ever. Why would we work so hard to instill in them our beliefs, to teach them character, to raise them with love and tenderness–just to leave them to peers alone during these ages? They need us. And they need for us to be available when they need us. For some of us, this means not going to our own things (shopping, golf, and, gasp, ballroom dancing) many a Saturday for much longer than we originally thought we would have to give up those things. Parents of teens and young adults–you are not done! There are still some more critical years to make yourself available to these amazing people in your life.





3. Time

This might seem like a repeat of number two, but it really isn’t. Yes, we need to clear our schedules not just to watch them play baseball or go to their concerts; we need to clear our schedules to provide times of availability. We also need to understand the amount of time that these ages take. We have had two of our kids get married so far. The amount of time that it took to counsel them, have fun and plan with them, encourage them, and help prepare them was probably more than my many long days of teaching that child to read or working on chores together! We have three college kids at home right now. They need the “normal” time things–help with college math, reviewing class schedules and seeing how they can squeeze in something that is only offered at a certain time during a certain semester, help changing a tire, and the “as-only-Mom-can-do” edits on their big papers. But they need long periods of time for #1 (safe talking place) and long periods of time of just being there—when they feel friend-less, when the stress of going to college and working is taking its toll on them, when they have a broken heart, when they are questioning something that they have always believed to be true, when they are disillusioned with people and this world….time….and lots of it.





4. To Be Treated Like Adults

If you have been to our parenting seminars or read our parenting book (The Well-Trained Heart), you have likely heard us emphasize the strong link between responsibility and privileges. This point, to be treated like adults, is not to de-emphasize that. We believe that children (and adults!) who show themselves responsible and mature get more and more privileges (hmmm…parable of the talents????). However, many of us treat our sixteen year olds like little kids–micromanaging their school work and homework, following them around to check on each step of their chores, not “expanding the boundaries” of responsibility/privilege in a way that is commensurate with the responsibility and maturity level they are showing. If your teens are still working on that whole responsibility thing and really aren’t ready to have the boundaries widened like you had hoped they would be, at the very least, don’t continue to treat them like little kids in other areas. Give them opportunities to please you and do good things. Set them up for success so that you can expand their boundaries and treat them more adult-like. Quit giving them money for nonsense and toys that keep them playing all the time, and instead provide them with tools–books, computer for school, gas cards, work desk, handy tools, car wash passes, and even fast food gift certificates so that when they are out doing those adult things, they can get gas and a bite to eat. Stop giving them video games, ipods, and individual sports things that twelve and fourteen year olds want/get. Talk to them like adults–don’t ask them where they are going or what they are doing in an accusatory way, but ask them in the same way  you would ask your spouse–in order to determine the schedule and plan for family time. Say, “When will you be home from class–I was hoping we would have some talk time tonight” not “And what time will you be rolling in tonight?” I have so much more to say about treating our teens and young adults like adults, and I will try to address this even more as Ray and I are speaking about some teen topics this summer at some conferences, but I will leave you with this word of advice: The tone in which you speak to your kids tells them right away whether they are being treated in a condescending, child-like way or an adult way. Tone is where I would start.


That’s all for today. I am crying as I finish this article. I have had a couple of weeks of intense parenting of teens and young adults. I truly have the most amazing eighteen, twenty, and twenty-two year old living in my home right now. But their hearts are vulnerable, and they are facing a big scary world. And they need me and Ray to help them finish becoming who and what they are going to become. The needs are so much bigger than getting them to finish their peas and pick up their toys. 

 Our teens and young adults need us! They need our support. They need our advice. They need our encouragement. They need our faith in them. They need our time. They need for us to be available to them. They need for us to treat them with respect. They need us.









We Understand….For Mom and Dad Are in Love Too




We understand that you were nervous, afraid of the unknown and possible hurt…for Mom and Dad were afraid one day too.

We understand that once the answer was yes, you were giddy and seeing stars…for Mom and Dad are often giddy and seeing stars too.

We understand that as you got to know each other, you needed to talk for hours and hours…for Mom and Dad need to talk for hours and hours too.

We understand that as your love has deepened, the days between your time together have felt like forever…for when Mom and Dad have time apart, it feels like forever too.

We understand that you can hardly wait for the next time you get to spend time together…for Mom and Dad can hardly wait for the next time we get to spend time together too.

We understand that you need to hear each other’s voices, to have the restlessness in your souls calmed…for Mom and Dad calm each other’s restless souls too.

We understand that you just want to laugh, to sing, to play–and you need to do these things together…for Mom and Dad need to laugh and sing and play together too.

We understand that you await words of affirmation and love from each other every day…for Mom and Dad await those words from each other every day too.

We understand that you want to dream together of the future–think, talk, scheme, and hope…for Mom and Dad dream together too.

We understand that you think nobody else in the world feels like you do–that nobody else could possibly hold the love and feelings that you are holding…for Mom and Dad think that we are the only ones too.

We understand that you need more minutes, more hours, more days, more weeks to be together…for Mom and Dad need more time too.

We understand that you long for the day when you will not be apart, the day that your lives are joined as one and you no longer have separate lives….for Mom and Dad longed for that day for us too.

We understand that you wake up in the morning thinking of your love–and that is the last thought you have before you sleep…for Mom and Dad think of each other morning and night too.

We understand all of these things…we haven’t forgotten. We understand….we understand that you are in love….for Mom and Dad are in love too.

Your Kids Will Do To and For Others What You Have Done To and For Them….

“Throughout their lives, your kids will do to and for others what you have done to and for them.”

 

 

In our “Character for Tweens and Teens” seminar, we stress the quote above—because we have seen it over and over in our children’s lives during our thirty years of parenting. And it is truly something to consider in the time, effort, money, and teaching that we invest in our children. When I look back at how true this statement has been in our lives, I just want to tell every parent that there are genuine dividends paid for all of that investing!

I could share examples of this with you from every age and stage of our seven kids:

*How Joshua, our first born, when he was six or seven,  would sit in the back of the van and tell his sisters what to expect when we got to our destination, how they should behave and how they should treat others—because his mommy and daddy had done that for him since he was a toddler.

*How Kayla, our second daughter, took it upon herself at age fourteen to do all of the family cooking for a long period of time during my grief after our stillborn daughter’s birth and my harrowing ruptured uterus—because her parents had served her, fed her, and taught her everything she needed to know in the kitchen.

*How Cami, our third child, started a ministry for the disabled when she was a senior in high school (that still runs today seven years later and ministers to over a hundred disabled adults every week)—because we taught her to look into people’s hearts to see their deepest needs, and we looked into her heart.

*How the girls planned a special meal for their brothers and even called and invited their grandparents to their “Silly Supper” while Mom and Dad were out of town—because Mom and Dad had always tried to make things special for them.

*How Kara, our fourth child, listened intently night after night to the needs of the teens on the traveling drama team that she led—because her parents had listened to her needs for twenty years.

And on and on and on and on. Our children are far from perfect—as are their parents. But there is one thing that we can be sure they will always do: serve, love, reach out, touch, help, and communicate with others in many of the same ways that they have been served, loved, reached out to, touched, helped, and communicated with by us, their parents.

 

We have an example of this hot off the press that is so incredibly cute I just had to share it with you. Our almost-eighteen  year-old Josiah (sixth child of seven living)  asked a few weeks ago if he could surprise his younger brother Jacob (our youngest) by taking him to visit their oldest sister near Chicago where she is in grad school at Wheaton College (a four hour drive from us). We discussed it and decided to let him do it, so he set about planning the trip.

He must have talked to me about the “unveiling” of the trip to Jakie no fewer than a dozen times over the three weeks prior to the trip: “Should I drive home with him from my drum teaching and ask him to tell me where the gps says to turn?” “Should I take him to Cami and Joseph’s (our daughter and son-in-law) and make him think we are spending the night there but then take off from there?” “Should I pack all of his stuff while he is at piano then act like we are going to run errands?” On and on. He had a new idea everyday it seemed.

He set aside two hours the night before to go over directions with his dad, talk to us about details, call Kayla to talk details (whom they were going to see), and pack/load the car while Jacob was at the YMCA exercising with Kara (our fourth child). He gassed up his vehicle. He packed snacks. He gathered story tapes. He went to the bank and got cash. He packed Jakie’s things and hid them in the trunk.

At one point in Josiah’s preparations, he said, “Don’t you think this is the best surprise that any of the siblings have ever done for another one?” To which we just smiled and nodded. (Our kids have had a sort of unofficial “best sibling EV-ER” contest going on for many years.)

And then they left. His idea to take Jacob to Cami and Joseph’s and go from there, telling him only when Jacob noticed that they were not taking the route that led home, won out. And Jacob called us to see if it was really true—“are we really driving to Kayla’s for the weekend?” We could hear Josiah laughing in the background—one happy big brother.

Josiah’s idea wasn’t quite as original as he thought—but we didn’t tell him that, of course. For Josiah had just done nearly everything that we had done for him eight years ago when we took him and his siblings on a surprise weekend trip—right down to hiding packed things in the trunk, packing good snacks, sneaking out story tapes and games,  and taking a strange route to confuse them. Because by that time, we knew that  “throughout their lives, our kids will do to and for others whatever has been done to and for them.” Smile…