Monthly Archives: January 2011

Who’s tending your garden?

I’m a disgrace to my Iowa farm heritage. Is it possible to turn a black thumb green? On Saturday I took the first step in attempting the impossible. I went to a gardening class, and sat next to women from Michigan and Wisconsin. We all agreed that growing things in central Florida is a mystery.

Two words from the speaker revealed our problem, growing seasons. Florida’s growing seasons are totally mixed up. When northern farmers are harvesting and settling in for the winter, Florida farmers prepare for the prime-growing season! The northerners in the room had visions of tomato plants wilting in the July heat and wondered how we could’ve missed something so painfully obvious… did I mention my black thumb?!

I’ll let you know how my gardening journey progresses. Today I’m planting broccoli, lettuce and some herbs. In February and March I’ll plant corn, peppers, tomatoes, radishes, snap peas and beans. If anything actually makes it to the table it will be a miracle, but hey, miracles do happen!

People have growing seasons too. There’s a time to let the soil of our lives rest and re-coop needed nutrients and there’s a time to plant the seeds and help them grow. Do you know what season you’re in right now?

Our chaotic culture rarely offers opportunities for a season of rest. Many try to produce success from soil that’s sucked dry and wonder why their “garden” is falling apart. It’s easy to keep planting the seeds and working the garden without thought to God’s plan and growing season. (This can be especially true with our kids. We try to force growth in one area when God is actually planting something else. As a result, we can end up stifling both.)

God has growing seasons especially designed to maximize the “garden” He’s planting in our hearts. He is our Master Gardener and He promises to produce a bumper crop for all who let Him. Your growing season is probably different than mine and that’s okay. The question we must constantly ask ourselves is this: Who’s tending our garden? A fruitful “life” garden is dependent on how we answer that one question.

But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.  They are like trees plated along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Psalm 1:2-3 (NLT)

P.S. Anyone have suggestions for where to find good vegetable seeds?

U-haul to Utah

I’ll never forget the day I “got it”. I’d known it for a long time. Believed it and counted on it. But that day in the desert it became real.

My possessions rattled in the back of a U-haul truck as I made the solitary trip across the Nevada desert. I was making yet another major move…alone. Looking at the empty seat beside me I was keenly aware of the fact there wasn’t anyone to help back the monster truck up if need be. I’m proud to say that I drove from Sacramento to Salt Lake City without ever backing up. If I couldn’t pull in and out going the same direction I didn’t stop!

I poured my heart out to God as the truck rumbled down Interstate 80. I was tired of being alone. It wasn’t the ‘longing for a husband’ kind of tired. It was a weariness of starting over without a common denominator. Wonderful friends from every stage of life were a rich blessing, but they only shared a season of my life. I longed for someone to share all the memories, not just a few. Someone who knew me “when” and knows me “now”.
Then, in the desert, I heard His voice. I looked to the passenger seat half expecting Him to be there. I didn’t “see” Him, but His message was clear:

“I’m here Kathy. I’m your common denominator. I was there when you were born and when you took your first step! I was there when you cried in the school bathroom with a broken heart. I was there when you did well. I was there when you failed. I was there in Sacramento, I’ll be there in Salt Lake and I’m here—right now. You are never alone.”

I experienced the reality of God’s presence that day in the U-haul cab and I’ve never “felt” totally alone since. God did eventually provide an incredible husband but as wonderful as Brad is, even he isn’t the common denominator. Only God can fill the lonely spot in my soul.

God is with us—always. When we smile at a funny memory God smiles at it too. When we say, “Remember when…?” God always says, “Yes, I do!”

You go before me and follow me. You place Your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! I can never escape Your Spirit! I can never get away from Your presence!
Palm 139:5-7 Discover God Study Bible NLT

Mountain of Laundry

A friend of mine posted on her facebook page that she was looking at a mountain of laundry on her bed and was thanking God for it. Yes, you read correctly! She actually thanked God for a mountain of laundry! Why? Because she saw the mountain as a testimony to the fact that her family has the clothes they need. I love that!!

The genius of God’s command to give thanks for all things is that in a blink of an eye our focus moves from self and fixes on God. When our gaze is fixed on Jesus our perspective changes. Instead of seeing a mountain of laundry to be washed, we see God’s provision in the midst of a challenging economy. I assure you, doing the laundry can become an opportunity to rejoice rather than a drudgery to endure!

What mundane jobs are you facing today? I’ll thank God for mine and you thank God for yours! Let Him turn the mundane into an extraordinary gift of gratitude!
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)

Are Chinese Mothers Superior? One more thought…

I promise, this is my finale blog on the Amy Chua article!

It’s true that the Chinese method of parenting has produced incredible dividends when it comes to academic and business success. However, one could also also say that the fear of failure, born from the demand for perfection and conformity, stifles creativity and ingenuity. Americans may not be perfect but boy are we innovative! My husband sums it up pretty well, “Americans invent it and the Asians perfect it!”

Of course, this entire discussion deals in generalities. I know some Western parents that make Chinese parents look like cream puffs. I also know and love many Chinese parents who are examples we all would do well to emulate. So, bottom line, what makes the difference? As I’ve suggested before, our view of God.

America was born on the backs of men and women who had an incredible work ethic as well as a determination and passion for success that was founded on a faith that sustained them through countless failures and heartaches. It is our view of God that propelled this nation to greatness. When America lost her high view of God, she also lost her heart and soul. Her parents became consumed with gratifying their own desires (larger house, nicer car, the latest fashions) and forgot their God-given mandate to raise children in “the way in which they should go”. (Proverbs 22:6)

I mentioned in the first blog that the liberal Morning Joe round table all agreed that Western parents are too soft on their kids. They seemed to say that we’re raising whimps. The real problem, however, is not our lack of discipline or our tendency to praise mediocrity and suppress excellence. Those are merely symptoms.

Chinese mothers may produce “successful” children, but at what cost? The pressure to achieve excellence robs them of experiencing true love—unconditional love. As Amy Chua so eloquently described, love is lavished on the children only after they’ve achieved the goal. You and I may shudder when they call their daughters “fatty”, or their sons “losers and worthless”, but that is not the real problem. It, too, is only a symptom.

In the West, we have the exact same problem as the Chinese, a flawed view of God. Until both cultures fix their foundational view of God, who is perfect, immensely creative and loves unconditionally, neither will produce very many children who become everything God intended.

It starts with you and me, choosing to live out our view of God in everything we do; in the home, at work and at play. But that’s just the start. If we want our children to live in a country that allows them the freedom to pursue their dreams, the incentive to achieve excellence and the moral compass that values each person (from the womb to the grave), we must pray for an awakening of America’s soul and look for ways to encourage others to make God, rather than societal norms or status, their North Star for navigating life and raising children.

Are Chinese Moms Superior? It depends on your point of view…

Continuing the conversation about Amy Chua’s article…

Amy Chua tells us that Chinese mothers are superior because they’re committed to raising their children to be successful adults. Frankly, I don’t know any mom, Chinese or otherwise, who approaches parenting with the goal of raising a loser. Amy makes the issue a“Chinese” thing. I disagree. It’s a God thing, and from where I’m sitting, we all have a lot to learn!

Our view of God directly affects how we raise our kids. It shapes our definition of success and guides every decision we make on their behalf. For instance, my view of God’s love doesn’t allow me to demean my children the way Amy advocates. They are precious gifts, created by God in His image. He calls us to encourage, exhort, teach, train and discipline them, however, He does not allow me to demean or belittle them.

Our view of God determines our definition of success and provides a grid for parenting that’s based on His unchanging character, rather than on often flawed societal values. Because God created my children with unique gifts and a specific purpose I believe it is my job, as their mom, is to help them discover what those are.

Amy Chua believes it is the parent who determines their children’s destiny and then forces them to comply. The God of the Bible says that He is in charge of our children’s destiny. He does, however, expect us to equip them with the tools they need to love God with their heart, soul and mind and to do “everything as unto the Lord” with all their strength.

If I’m serious about raising children to be mature adults who love God and do everything in life “as unto the Lord”, it requires my time, energy, prayers, prayers and…did I mention prayers?

So what’s the best parenting advice I can give? Pursue your own relationship with God everyday. Get to know the God of the Bible better every day and let your relationship with Him guide how you parent your children. It sounds simple, but it’s the best place to start! As my husband is fond of saying, “Unlike the Federal government, you can’t give away what you don’t own.”

Are Chinese moms really superior?

Tuesday morning on MSNBC they were discussing an article entitled, “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” by Amy Chua. The title of the article caught my attention, but it was the discussion around the Morning Joe table that I found fascinating. But first, a little bit about the article…

Amy Chua not only asserts that Chinese mothers are superior she also does a thorough job of critiquing “western” parents. Americans are too easy on their children, she contends. We don’t challenge them to reach their potential because we’re more concerned about how they “feel” than we are about raising them to be successful adults. She says:

Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches. Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.

She goes on to say:

Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn’t get them, the Chinese parent assumes it’s because the child didn’t work hard enough. That’s why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and to improve from it. (And when Chinese kids do excel, there is plenty of ego-inflating parental praise lavished in the privacy of the home.)

Amy knows that Chinese mothers are accused of being harsh and unloving. She contends, however, that it is because they love their children so much that they refuse to let them settle for anything less than their best. By the way, it is the parents, not the child, who decide what the child is capable of. She says that Chinese mothers live out their love by spending hours upon hours helping their children achieve their best.

Around the Morning Joe table the discussion was mixed. They didn’t like the harsh words Chinese mothers often use to motivate. No one was comfortable with the name-calling and humiliation, but they all agreed that Americans are too soft on our children…interesting. They recommended reading the article with an open mind because American parents could learn something from what Amy has to say. I would agree. The next few blogs will be devoted to responding to Amy’s article. If you would like to read her article Google “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior”.

Conquering Fear

Our two dogs, a seven pound Pekinese/Chiquaqua and a beautiful Sheltie, are making it challenging to write. I love the thunderstorm that’s raging outside, but my dogs are petrified. I’ve done everything I know to do to calm their fears. The little one works himself into a frenzy, shaking like a leaf and totally beyond consoling.

He’s completely safe, wrapped in my arms. I know he’s safe but that doesn’t matter to the dog. He shakes until the storm dies down or he gives up from shear exhaustion!

I look at him, quivering over nothing, and I wonder if I frustrate God this much when I tremble with the fears that threaten my world. Does He wonder why I don’t trust in His strong and faithful arms? Does He shake His head when I waste so much energy fretting over something He’s taken care of already?

My fears reveal my lack of faith—faith in His Love, His Power, His Faithfulness, His Control. Fears unveil the question mark few are willing to admit exists in their lives. Is God really more powerful than _________? Can God really make something good come from___________? Can God really love me after I __________? So many questions, only one answer, “yes!”

Here’s a question that has really helped me identify the source of my fears: What attribute of God am I struggling to believe is true in this circumstance? The answer to that question is the place I know I need to start. The key to conquering fear is focusing on our All Powerful, Faithful, Totally in Control,Loving, Merciful, Ever Present, All Knowing, Always Right, Just, Holy, Truthful, Personal and Never Changing God.

Whatever your fear is today, ask God to help you feel His arms surrounding you, giving you strength and peace beyond understanding.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.” Habbakkuk 3:19 The Discover God Study Bible, NLT

Don’t miss it!

Dirty dishes—free. Music on the radio—free. Two teenage kids and a husband who hates to dance, all spontaneously rocking out in the kitchen—priceless!

When my kids were 1 and 2 ½ a friend’s advice changed my perspective on the day-to-day grind of mothering. Tracy recognized the haggard look on my face. It hadn’t been long since her precious children were knee high and challenging the boundaries of patience.

“Someone gave me this advise, Kathy, and I want to pass it on to you,” she said with a smile. “Cherish these moments. Work at enjoying your kids…right now. The moments pass so quickly. If you don’t make yourself stop and treasure them, you’ll miss them. Once they’re gone, you can never get them back.”

I was working hard to keep the house clean, cook great meals, “do” all the things “good” moms are supposed to do, and I was missing the wonder of watching my kids learn, grow and explore the world. I was easily irritated when their behavior messed up “my plan” for the day. I wasn’t aware that I had begun to treat them like an obstacle to accomplishing my goals, and yet they were one of my top priorities—how crazy was that?!

I still live by Tracy’s advise. My house is rarely spotless and meals are often simple, but I have a treasure of precious memories from the moments I forced myself to stop and enjoy with my kids. I have a relationship with them that’s deep with understanding because I made myself stop and get to know them (really know them) at each stage of life.

For some this may come naturally. For me it takes constant reminders. The task-driven side of me quickly forgets. It’s a character flaw that easily creeps into my relationship with God as well. I love Him passionately. Most days I can’t wait to talk with Him and engage with Him throughout the day. There are still days, however, when I must choose to set aside time to be with Him. When the “to-do” list is long and the pressures threaten to block out everything else. These are the moments I need Him most. It’s in these moments that I experience the depth of His Love, Power and Sovereignty. He reveals His Mercy, Faithfulness and Presence. They are precious memories I would have missed if I hadn’t stopped and enjoyed the moment with Him.

Stop and enjoy those you love, dear friends! Thank you Tracy! May your advice keep paying forward!!!!

Tragedy in Tucson

I’m heartbroken by the shooting in Tucson, Arizona. How do we process tragedies like this? Where was God when six innocent people met their eternal destinies at the hand of a lunatic? When faced with tragedy our view of God will either turn us away from Him or motivate us to seek comfort in His arms.

If we try to “make sense of it” we’ll go crazy. If you have kids they may be asking some hard questions about this incident. How can we help our kids when we can’t answer it for ourselves?

One thing that has helped our family wrestle through challenging times is to focus on all the attributes of God rather than just one or too. When we filter a tragedy through only one or two of God’s attributes it often results in anger, doubt and disillusionment. All of God’s character comes into play at all times.

Two of the attributes that get a lot of criticism in times of tragedy are His Sovereignty and His Love. Here are some thoughts about those two attributes we’ve found helpful:
God is Sovereign: He is in total control all the time, but He didn’t make us robots. God gives us the freedom to make choices for good or ill. Some people make very bad choices that impact good people. The flip side is also true: some people make very good choices and others benefit from them. God was not out of control when the bullets were fired in Tucson. His perfect plan will be accomplished and no man can stop that. (Romans 8:28—And we know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.) So what is God’s will? To know God’s Love…
God is Love: We often think that God’s love means He wants us to be happy, successful and healthy. God showed us that His love is so much more. He wants the very best for us and He was willing to die for it.

What is His “best”? There’s nothing better than being in relationship with Him, now and forever. Heaven is the ultimate fulfillment of His best. It’s not just about streets of gold and mansions designed specifically for their inhabitants. Heaven is about freedom. No more sin, no more tears, no more hunger, cancer or fears. Heaven is about experiencing the love of the One who created us and treasures us. When a follower of Jesus dies, those who are left behind grieve their loss. God’s love and presence will be their comfort. The one who dies is welcomed into Heaven and knows love in a way we cannot imagine.

Volumes have been written about these issues. I encourage you to check out Discover God for help in knowing God more deeply. Discover God 4Kids Family Adventures is a great resource to help you equip your kids with a view of God that will carry them through the tragedies of life.
How about you? Has the Tucson tragedy affected your view of God? Have your kids been affected by it?

Beauty Shop

When I was in grade school I heard about a girl who was horribly disfigured.  Her doctor, however, was confident there was hope.  After countless surgeries, Dr. Maltz held his breath as the final bandages were removed. A smile of relief lit his face as he handed her the mirror and waited for the now beautiful woman to see what he saw. “I’m still ugly!” she cried at her reflection.

Dr. Maltz was dumbfounded. He had given her a face many women long for but she still saw herself as ugly. Her response confirmed what had long been a nagging suspicion for Dr. Maltz. If a person believes they’re ugly on the inside, there’s not a plastic surgeon in the world who can make them feel beautiful on the outside.

I think of the deepening lines I saw staring back at me in the mirror this morning (along with numerous other flaws I won’t mention!) and I have to admit that, apart from the grace of God, I too would be disappointed in the image that stared back at me. Every day I need to re-affirm the foundation for my self-esteem in order to fight the media driven lies that pummel my self-image and rob me of the joy that comes from embracing who God has created me to be. It’s a battle to look in the mirror and see what He sees.

I hope you will stop by God’s “Beauty Shop” every morning and get a ‘face-lift’ from His Spirit and an infusion of peace from His Word. No amount of creams, make-up or surgeries can make you more beautiful to behold than time spent with the One who made you and loves you just the way you are. If you need a place to start, read Psalm 139!

By the way, you can help your children navigate the self-esteem waters. Encourage them to see themselves through God’s “looking glass” rather than the “worlds”! They’re never too young to go to His Beauty Shop!! (check out DG4Kids: God Knows Everything/day 3)