How Older Women Can Serve

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about Why Older Women Don’t Serve at church in an in-front-of-people way or a “take charge of big things like VBS” way. But even though older women may have physical issues and may not have the energy to serve in certain ways doesn’t mean they should not serve at all. Psalm 92:14a says, “They shall still bring forth fruit in old age.” God has given to every member of His body gifts to exercise. Older women are given a specific assignment in Titus 2:3-5.

If you’re “older” and can still coordinate the ladies’ group or cook for 200 members for a banquet or teach active five-year-olds in Sunday School, go for it! A friend of mine had an aunt who still delivered Meals on Wheels at 92. But if you’re not quite up to that, here are a few other ideas of ways you can serve:

1. Prayer. You may not have the energy to “go” and “do” a lot, but you might have more time than others to pray. There is a lot to pray for: your pastor, church, missionaries, young people seeking God’s will for their lives, adjustments for newlyweds, harried moms with young children, older moms in the “taxi years” taking their kids hither and yon, moms facing the empty nest, single ladies at any stage…there is enough to keep any of us busy praying for much longer than we do. This doesn’t mean we necessarily need to spend hours on our knees: we can pray while cleaning the kitchen, driving, resting, etc.

I can’t tell you what it meant to me when, while recovering from a serious illness, an older lady from a previous church in the town we had moved from called me to see how I was doing and to tell me she was praying for me. Some of my favorite missionary anecdotes involve people being prompted to pray for a certain missionary at a certain time, and in the days before texts and e-mails it may have been months before they knew what the specific need was, but as they and the missionary compared dates, the missionary had a specific need just when the individual was prompted to pray.

2. Show interest. As you cross paths with other ladies, ask how they’re doing. “How’s that new baby? Sleeping through the night yet?” “How did that job interview go?” “How’s Johnny liking school this year?” Just having someone take a moment to show personal interest can lift someone’s day. Watch out for new people and making them feel welcome. One lady with multiple health problems whom no one would have blamed if she stayed in bed all day instead came with her husband to every sports event, home and away, of our Christian school even though they had neither kids nor grandkids in the school. That meant a lot to those involved. Even in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, there are those who withdraw and keep to themselves and those who try to smile and brighten others’ days.

3. Word of encouragement. When you do show interest in others, you can offer words of shared joy when things are going well and words of encouragement when they’re not. One of my favorite posts of Shannon‘s was It Gets Easier for younger moms (though Shannon’s not in the category I’d generally think of as “Older Women,” we are all older than someone and can offer encouragement to those in the paths we’ve come through).

4. Offers of help. One older lady I knew would sometimes go and help a new mom after the birth of a baby when that lady’s own mother could not come, or when a pregnant lady was on bedrest. Practical help like doing dishes, laundry, tidying, making a meal can lift one’s spirits tremendously when one can’t keep up. Be alert even to little ways one can offer help: when a mom holding a baby is trying to help a toddler go potty in the ladies’ restroom at church, offer to hold the baby; when a mom is trying to coordinate a baby carrier, diaper bag, Bibles, and two preschoolers from the car to the church, ask how you can help (don’t just swoop in — the baby may cry if anyone other than mom holds her, the children may panic if you just take their hands and offer to take them in: ask, “Can I help you somehow? I’d be happy to take the baby or carry the diaper bag” or something similar.)

5. Sharing what you know. Once a lady told me she’d love to have a ladies’ meeting where someone demonstrated how to bake bread, because she couldn’t get a handle on it, and she could learn it more easily by seeing someone do it and being able to ask questions. But we couldn’t think of anyone who made their own bread. If you know how to make bread, can vegetables, knit, etc., you may or may not want to do so in a ladies’ meeting, but maybe you could invite one or two others over, or go to their houses to show them. I know one lady who went to help another younger mom harvest and put up her produce from her garden, and I know another mom who asked a retired school teacher to teach her daughters to sew, so that they could be influenced by her sweet godliness as well as being taught the basics of sewing.

6. Having one or two women over. I mentioned in the previous post a retired lady I looked up to who found various unique ways to serve. One thing she did was to have a couple of ladies at a time over to lunch at her house. She didn’t do so specifically to Try To Be a Good Influence, but people who walk with God do carry a sometimes unconscious godly influence into the lives of others.

Indwelt

Not merely in the words you say,
Not only in your deeds confessed,
But in the most unconscious way
Is Christ expressed.

Is it a beatific smile,
A holy light upon your brow;
Oh no, I felt His Presence while
You laughed just now.

For me ‘twas not the truth you taught
To you so clear, to me still dim
But when you came to me you brought
A sense of Him.

And from your eyes He beckons me,
And from your heart His love is shed,
Til I lose sight of you and see
The Christ instead.

—by A. S. Wilson

6. Visiting shut-ins. We tend to think of this with shut-ins who are alone, but when they have family nearby we assume the family is meeting all their needs and they’re well taken care of. The lady I mentioned above also brought another lady with her to visit my mother-in-law in an assisted living facility. One of us saw her every day, but it brightened her week as well as ours when these ladies came to visit her.

7. Sending notes. Or cookies. Or both. How many people send hand-written notes any more? Yet we all still love receiving them. You can brighten the day of a college student, military personnel, your pastor, or just about anyone with a little note (or even an e-mail or a Facebook post). And you may not have the stamina for a marathon cookie baking session, but maybe you could bake just a few and send a package to one person at a time.

8. Volunteer. When my dad was in the hospital, the “pink ladies” were older volunteers who kept the coffee pot going in the waiting room, stocked donuts, helped people find which way to go, and just generally made themselves available and useful. Having a sweet, friendly face in that place helped a lot. Similarly, Christian schools are having a tough time of it with decreasing enrollment, and volunteers can help provide services that the school couldn’t otherwise offer. At the Christian school my boys attended for twelve years, one older lady oversaw the library part-time while moms or sometimes grandmothers would handle each class’s library time, checking out books and reading a story to the class. Some helped with class parties, some helped sorting papers for students’ weekly folders, some helped in the lunchroom. And the students seemed to love their grandmotherly influence in the school. When I was coordinating our ladies group, sometimes when we would work on a project like cards and bookmarks for missionaries or favors for a ladies’ luncheon and wouldn’t quite get finished, ladies who took some of those things home to finish helped me tremendously.

9. Blogging. Sharing what God has taught you along the way can be a blessing to others who read.

A younger woman may be thinking, “Wow, I’d love to find an older lady to help me in some of these ways!” Pray about it and maybe take the initiative: they may be suffering from a crisis of confidence either in the loss of some of their abilities or the thought that perhaps they’re not wanted. I think many of these kinds of ministries work together: maybe as you invite someone over for coffee or ask them to show you how to do something, that can spark a relationship where some of these other things can flow.

Not everyone will be able to do all of these things, of course. Time and energy will vary from person to person. But if you’re older (in any way) and wanting to be used of the Lord but don’t know how best to serve, pray, seek His will, and start where you are with a word of kindness here, an expression of interest there, prayer here, an offer of help there. He does have work He wants you to do, and He will guide you to it and enable you to do it.

(Graphics are courtesy of Microsoft Office clip art.)

This post will be also linked to “Works For Me Wednesday,” where you can find a plethora of helpful hints each week at We Are THAT family on Wednesdays, as well as  Women Living Well.

Communication in Marriage

E-Mom at Chrysalis hosts an occasional Marriage Monday, inviting bloggers to write on a certain topic related to marriage. When she announced the topic this month was communication, I didn’t think I’d have anything to say besides, “Yes, do it.” 🙂 But throughout the morning thoughts have been coming to mind about communication, so I thought I’d share a few gleaned from 30+ years of marriage. Forgive me for not having this as carefully crafted and polished as it would have been if I’d started when the topic was first announced. 🙂

1. Do communicate. Sometimes life gets so busy it seems you just pass each other on the way to getting other things done, but make time to talk. I wouldn’t necessarily schedule a set weekly time to talk: that might work for some, but for us that would be awkward and stifling. But lingering to chat a bit after dinner instead of dashing off to clean up the kitchen, etc., allows some time to touch base.

2. It’s okay to be comfortable with silence sometimes. Women in general tend to talk more than men. One statistic I saw said women use approximately three times more words a day than men. And I heard one speaker say that many men have used up all their words by the time they get home from work. A wise husband will reserve some for his wife, but a wise wife will understand that when a husband sits quietly it may not mean anything is wrong. He may just be resting his brain. Over time as you get to know each other’s personalities more, you’ll probably be able to sense when silence might indicate something is wrong.

3. Try not to communicate in anger. That’s usually when harsher and more hurtful words are used. If possible, wait until emotions are under control. On the other hand, if it is really important, don’t let it fester: try to find a time to talk about it calmly (pray beforehand for wisdom and self-control. “The heart of the righteous studieth to answer” Proverbs 15:28).

4. Avoid “never” and “always.” “You never pick up your socks!” “You always interrupt me!” Statements like that are probably not completely true, and they engender defensiveness. Just calmly state whatever the problem is and request the change you want.

5. Don’t try to talk to him when he is distracted. Whether he is paying the bills or watching a football game, those are probably not the times to ask him a question or tell him something important. My husband doesn’t watch football, but when he is involved in a project he is very focused until it’s done or at least until he gets to a stopping place. I’ve spoken to him during those times and even gotten an answer, but later he doesn’t remember any of it. Instead of getting frustrated over it, just try to make sure you have his attention and he’s not distracted before saying something important. (After all, aren’t we the same way? We can multitask talking with some things, but other times we’d really like to finish what we’re doing first.)

6. Don’t assume. We can cause so many problems when we do that. Once during our early marriage, I was taking items to donate somewhere, and my husband asked me to get a statement from the place so we could deduct the donation on our income taxes. It’s not a problem now, but at the time I felt extremely awkward asking for it, and I felt like we were supposed to give “not letting our left hand know what the right is doing,” and this would be a violation of that. I stewed over it until we finally did talk about it, and my husband explained that he didn’t want to the statement as a means to take credit for what we had given: he just didn’t want to pay a penny more in taxes than necessary. Similarly, once my son and daughter-in-law joked about digging coins out of the couch for a date (Don’t we all remember early married days like that?), and so my husband saved his pocket change for several weeks and then gave it to them for a date night. At first my daughter-in-law thought the change was a subtle hint that they should be using the laundromat instead of washing laundry at our house. We laughed about it, but some misunderstandings based on assumptions can cause serious problems, especially if we stew over it rather than saying anything.

7. Speak to him with respect. This should probably be #1.  Especially if you’re dealing with a perceived problem, don’t lash out. Don’t talk to him like he is one of the children. Think of how you carefully you would word things if you were talking to your boss, your pastor, or someone you highly respected. You know what? You’re supposed to respect your husband like that. Even more than that. (Ephesians 5:33).

8. You don’t have to say everything in your head. I’m not talking about keeping secrets, but there are two aspects of this. First, I tend to want to tell every little detail of a story or situation (maybe it’s part of having three times more words that need an outlet, I don’t know), but it can be incredibly boring to listen to (or read. I am striving for conciseness, but it is not my natural bent.)  I know because I feel that way when people are telling  a very long story with a lot of detail that isn’t really needed. When I see eyes starting to glaze over, it’s a reminder to get to the point and leave out extraneous detail.

Secondly, you don’t have to point out every little fault or flaw. How would you feel if he did that to you? Love covers a “multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8). We all have our “besetting sins” that make us not the easiest person to live with.

9. Be careful about teasing. This is subjective and varies from person to person, but I’ve heard some couples say things to each other “in fun” that would have devasted me. You should never make fun of him, to him or to anyone else (that goes back to the respect issue), but be careful about little teasing barbs and sarcasm as well.

10. Attack the problem, not the person.

11. Remember every Scriptural instruction about the use of our words applies to marriage, too. It’s easiest to drop our guard with those closest to us when those are the ones with whom are words should be most carefully guarded. There are too many verses to list here, but a good topical study would be to look up “words,” “speak,” “tongue,” and related words in a concordance or Bible search program. If it seems too much to look through the whole Bible, just look through Proverbs: there is enough there for us to work on for a long time. But here are just a few:

There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health. Proverbs 12:18.

Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt. Colossians 4:5b

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.  And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:29-30.

Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones. Proverbs 16:24.

The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness. Proverbs 15:2.

I’m sure I am forgetting some great principles in communication in marriage. Can you think of any others?

This post will be also linked to “Works For Me Wednesday,” where you can find a plethora of helpful hints each week at We Are THAT family on Wednesdays, as well as  Women Living Well.

Why Go To Church?

Many people have become disillusioned with organized religion over the years. Some accusations against church are that it seems all form, busyness and programs with little substance or real spirituality, or the people seem cliquish. With the availability of sermons and Bible study aids online, is there any real need to go to a building to hear a man preach? Since Jesus has promised He will be in the midst of two or three gathered together in His name, is it church if those three meet at a coffee shop? Why go to church, anyway? Is it outdated?

I don’t believe so, and here are a few reasons why.

1. Biblical instruction. Hebrews 10:25 admonishes “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” In some way or another, Christians are supposed to gather together regularly. While Christian fellowship can occur at Starbucks, that can’t really supplant “church” as I hope we’ll see when we consider the other points.

2. Bible “one anothers. The Bible instructs believers to love one another, forbear one another, bear one another’s burdens, etc. Sure, much of that can take place outside the church walls, but if you are not part of a church you likely won’t know many people with whom to exercise these. And since many of these instructions were written to churches, it seems obvious that’s the main context in which they are to be exercised.

3. Jesus’ example.  The Son of God attended the worship services of His day while on earth even though they were far from perfect.

4. God’s gifts to the church. “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). These people, the pastor-teacher especially, exercise their gifts mostly at church: to neglect their ministry is to neglect God’s gift to you. Every believer has gifts God wants to use in ministry, and though ministry can take place outside the walls of church, it’s clear that is one major setting in which they are meant to be used.

5. Consideration. The pastor, if he is a man worth his salt, has spent time studying for the message he will bring to the people. In Acts 6:1-6, the apostles placed importance on their being able to spend most of their time in prayer and the ministry of the Word. For me to lightly esteem his study, preparation, and preaching would be similar to grabbing a granola bar on the way out of the house while ignoring the meal someone has taken time and effort to prepare for me at home. And though I can listen to his messages online, I’m sure he prefers preaching to real live people.

6. The importance the Bible places on church. Search for the word “church” in a Bible search engine and see what you come up with. Sure, some of those verses refer to the church “universal,” or the entire body of Christ, but that entire body won’t meet until Christ returns again. In the meantime, segments of it meet together locally. It is obvious many of these passages refer to local assemblies. Here are just a few verses:

I Timothy 3:15: But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

Ephesians 5:25-27: Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

7. To be fed. I Peter 3:1-4intructs church leaders to “feed the flock.” Yes, we should feed ourselves in the Word during the week, but we shouldn’t neglect the “family dinner” available to us every week at church.

8. The church is a testimony. Paul says in Ephesians 3:9-10 that part of his purpose is “to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:  To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.” Somehow God’s interactions with the church display God’s wisdom and power even unto “the principalities and powers in heavenly places.” The church, for better or worse, is also a testimony to the world.

9. Not to miss anything. Every nutritional meal benefits us whether it is particularly tasty or not, but there are some meals that really stand out in our memories. So, too, though I might not remember every single message at church, they all benefit me if they are Scripturally sound. Even so, there are some where God did a very special work in my heart that I would have missed if I just hadn’t felt like going that day and gave in to my flesh. And yes, even though these days I can hear many messages online and God has worked in my heart through those, particularly at times when I could not attend church, there are still those times when God had especially prepared my heart for that particular time and message.

There are some churches that should not be attended: Churches that do not preach the gospel or the whole counsel of God. Unfortunately there are some churches whose foundations are based on truth but whose emphasis has been sidetracked or whose people handle the truth harshly. But there are many good, gospel-preaching churches throughout the country, though none will be perfect because they are all made up of imperfect people. If there are none in your area, perhaps God will use your longings and prayers to begin one.

And what about those cliquish people? Most of the time there aren’t really groups of people who decide they are going to be fast friends and not let anyone else “in.” But many of them have had relationships for years and it will take some time to build up your own relationships with them. Some churches are better at welcoming new people than others (and on a side note, I have to say our current church excels at this), but even if they are not very welcoming, take the initiative. “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly” (Proverbs 18:24). You’re obviously not going to make friends if you’re not there. And when you are there, don’t sit on the sidelines and wait for people to come to you: mingle, introduce yourself, get involved in some of the ministries, come to some of the fellowships and other events, and talk to people.

When I was in college and attended Mission Prayer Band, I usually prayed for Slavic countries then behind the Iron Curtain. There were so many stories of Christians there and in other countries without true freedom of religion who assembled together despite great risk, because they not only wanted to, they needed to. When I first became a Christian living in an unsaved household, I had that same sense of deep need to be with God’s people. It’s not that we need it any less now: it’s just that we don’t realize because of all of life’s distractions.

I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.
Psalm 122:1

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. Revelation 3:22.


I love Thy kingdom, Lord,
The house of Thine abode,
The church our blessed Redeemer saved
With His own precious blood.

I love Thy church, O God.
Her walls before Thee stand,
Dear as the apple of Thine eye,
And written on Thy hand.

If e’er to bless Thy sons
My voice or hands deny,
These hands let useful skills forsake,
This voice in silence die.

Should I with scoffers join
Her altars to abuse?
No! Better far my tongue were dumb,
My hand its skill should lose.

For her my tears shall fall
For her my prayers ascend,
To her my cares and toils be given
Till toils and cares shall end.

Beyond my highest joy
I prize her heavenly ways,
Her sweet communion, solemn vows,
Her hymns of love and praise.

Jesus, Thou Friend divine,
Our Savior and our King,
Thy hand from every snare and foe
Shall great deliverance bring.

Sure as Thy truth shall last,
To Zion shall be given
The brightest glories earth can yield
And brighter bliss of Heaven.

~ Timothy Dwight, 1800

See also The Community of Believers on this blog and Lisa’s 7 reasons why I still go to church.

(Photo courtesy of the morgueFiles.)

This post will be linked to “Works For Me Wednesday,” where you can find a plethora of helpful hints each week at We Are THAT family on Wednesdays, as well as  Women Living Well.

The Ideal House

(The House Graphic is from Graphic Garden.)

Thirteen years ago our family lived just west of Atlanta when my husband accepted a transfer with his company to western South Carolina. If I remember correctly, we had one long weekend as a family to visit our new town, interview at Christian schools we were considering for the boys, and look for a home. After a flurry of house-hunting, we decided on a home that, at least to me, wasn’t a favorite, but it was the only one that had the rooms we needed for the price we wanted.

I had only seen the house that one time before we moved in, and the first few days in our new place revealed a multitude of flaws I hadn’t seen before and accentuated the characteristics I knew I didn’t like from the start.

We had just come from a newly-remodeled home, but our new house hadn’t been updated in nearly 30 years.

The driveway from our old house led to the side of the house which opened into the kitchen, but in our new house we had to drag groceries from the car through two rooms and up seven steps to get to the kitchen.

We came from a house that had three bathrooms to a house that had 1 1/2 baths, which made morning showers more complicated. Plus the old house had a master bathroom: the new house didn’t.

The old house had a carport: the new house didn’t.

The tinkering of the former owner which we had admired turned out to be not the best quality work.

The living room had a wallpaper mural on one wall which my sons loved but I hated.

The kitchen linoleum had a blue and pink design, which I loved, but blue and orangey-peach flowers on the wallpaper. Peach and orange are some of my least favorite colors. Just the presence of that color dismayed me, but the pairing of orangeish wallpaper flowers with pink floor design jarred me.

Red is another of my least favorite colors, and the family room carpet was a red and black plaid (with burn holes from the fireplace), which definitely did not go with my blue and pink plaid furniture.

Every house we had lived in before had either an open space or woods behind us, but this house was surrounded on all sides by other houses.

Certain times of the year when the tress were less leafy, from my kitchen window I could see straight into the family room of the house behind us where the neighbor sat in his recliner.

The kitchen was very small with inadequate storage: my husband had to put shelves in the living room coat closet to handle the overflow from the kitchen, and it was very difficult for more than one person to be in the kitchen at a time.

The dining area that seemed cozy when we looked at the house was actually cramped with our table and chairs.

It may not sound so bad to others, but, honestly, the first or second day on our new home, I shut myself in the bathroom and just cried, overwhelmed and dismayed. My husband and I had discussed some of the work that needed to be done, but I tried not to let him know the depth of my discouragement at the time because I didn’t want to discourage him and because we were committed to the house for the time being anyway.

We ended up living in that house for twelve years. Gradually we repainted, replaced wallpaper and carpet, and got the house cosmetically more to our liking. We could never do anything about the crowded subdivision or the small kitchen and dining area: even if we could have afforded a major remodel to enlarge those rooms, that side of the house was nearly up to the property line as it was: there was no room to expand. And for years I planned my grocery shopping to coincide with picking the boys up from school so they could help cart all the groceries upstairs.

As we prepared to move from this least favorite of houses, once again due to my husband’s work, I reflected that most of my children’s growing-up years took place in that house. The boys were almost 14, 11, and 5 when we moved in there; they were 26, 23, and almost 17 when we left. Among their memories will be Jeremy and Jason finally having their own bedrooms, playing on the trampoline with friends, the “bamboo forest” nearby, riding mattresses down the stairs, helping with the house projects, celebrating high school and college graduations of the oldest two, the first serious girlfriend, engagement, and marriage of one, twelve years of birthdays and Christmases and board games and pizza and movie nights, visits from friends and relatives. I think once we had as many as ten people crowded around the table. They likely won’t remember as much about the particulars of the house as they will the time spent there. Many of their “remember when” stories will have occurred at that house. They won’t remember the house as much as they remember the home.

I did have to wrestle with contentment with my home often and remind myself that we were very fortunate to have such a home. But we did learn from our earlier house-hunting experience when it came time to move again. We took our time, made multiple trips to our new town, visited many houses and took multitudes of pictures to remind ourselves what the houses looked like. Our realtor was very patient with us! We did learn that there really is no ideal home: we liked the bathrooms in some, the kitchen in others, the view of others, but no one had all the best features we wanted. But we found one that we love that we’re settling into very cozily. We won’t have quite the same memories of boys growing up here that we did there, but we’ll have memories of young men coming back home to visit, and, Lord willing, bringing their expanding families with them. We have a couple of years of savoring the youngest’s last years at home before getting adjusted to an empty nest. But I trust whatever house we live in, our family will always have fond memories of home.

This post will be linked to “Works For Me Wednesday,” where you can find a plethora of helpful hints each week at We Are THAT family on Wednesdays, as well as  Women Living Well.

Missing something? No, I don’t think so after all.

When we were preparing to move last summer, I unearthed a whole stack of family-oriented magazines from several years back. In more recent years I had marked and torn out what I was interested in (or checked and bookmarked the article online) and then passed it on to a friend, but this stack must have accumulated and then been forgotten before I started doing that.

I brought them with us to look through as I had time and just got to them last week. Many had turned-down corners noting something I wanted to consider doing with my own sons. I started looking at the dates of the magazines: many were from the time my youngest was in his toddler to preschool to early elementary years.

At first I started to kick myself and feel really guilty that I had never done all these neat activities with my children.

But then, I thought, “Now, wait just a minute!” We did do lots of things together:

We sat on the floor and made Lego creations.

We read books. Lots and lots of books. We made regular trips to the library and every library day afternoon was spent in happy reading all the new treasures.

We built tracks and loops for Hot Wheels cars.

We did puzzles.

We colored and painted.

We made various Play-Dough creations.

We had a multitude of Little People sets, thanks to my mom, and played seemingly endless scenarios with them.

We played untold rounds of a game called something like Memory Match (like Concentration from my childhood), Hi Ho Cheerio, Sorry, Candyland, and other games.

We took walks.

We went to the park.

We visited friends.

We played in the sandbox.

We blew bubbles.

We went to the zoo.

Even going to the grocery store was considered fun at certain ages.

We may not have done some of those neat unique activities in the magazines, but we did a lot of fun things and spent a lot of time together. I’ve thought to myself that I hoped that my lack of keeping up with baby books as I would have liked was due to my actually spending time with my kids.

Were those magazines a waste, then? I don’t think so. I did use some ideas over the years, but even the ones I missed using had a positive influence. Just like visiting a craft store or craft show or craft blogs sparks my own creative juices even if I never do the specific crafts I see, I think family magazines and idea books and these days mommy blogs can inspire my own goals with my family. But they need to be kept as an inspiration, a creativity-sparker, a supplement to our own real lives, not a burden, a guilt-producer, a competition against other moms and kids, an addition to an already crowded schedule.

As long as we’re spending both quality time and quantities of time together, nourishing our relationships, learning and growing, we don’t have to worry that we’re not keeping up with whatever everyone else does. Attentive time together is what matters most.

This post will be linked to “Works For Me Wednesday,” where you can find a plethora of helpful hints each week at We Are THAT family on Wednesdays, as well as  Women Living Well.

Coping when husband is away

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The first time my husband was ever away overnight, I was a basket case. I thought I heard something in the leaves outside and frantically called my landlord, who patiently came over and checked the outside of the house for me. If I had to leave home while my husband was away, when I came back I wouldn’t feel comfortable until I checked every room and even every closet to make sure no one was lurking there.

Over the last thirty years, I have had to get used to him being away from home much more than either of us likes. Thankfully that’s not been as much of a problem since our last move.

Other ladies have sometimes commented to me that they could never handle having a husband travel as much as mine did. Believe me, I didn’t like it! And at the beginning of my married life, I would have despaired if I had known just how much my husband would be away. It is only the grace of God that has enabled me. I would like to share some things He has taught me along the way.

Acceptance

I used to pray that my husband would not have to travel as much. More correctly, I used to whimper and wail and and whine and tell the Lord it wasn’t meant to be this way, that husbands and wives were meant to be together. It seemed like the more I prayed, the more my husband ended up having to travel!

Of course, it isn’t wrong to pray that the Lord would change a difficult situation; but until He sees fit to do so, there has to be acceptance of the situation as allowed by Him. If He allows it, He will give grace for it. We may not like the situation, but focusing on that dislike can cause us to be stuck in discontent, resentment, even despondency.

Loneliness

Women marry for love, of course, but I believe the next biggest reason is companionship. Girls dream of finally being able to “be with” the man of their dreams “happily ever after.” It is a difficult adjustment to realize that the job, the children, and multitudes of tasks and commitments leave very little time to just “be with” each other. This is further compounded when a husband’s job requires him to travel.

While husbands and wives do need to be sure they make time for each other, most wives also have to realize at some point that their primary emotional and companionship needs are not to be fulfilled by their husbands. God has to have first place in those areas. No human being will ever be able to meet all of those needs all of the time. God does graciously give us husbands and friends, but our main fellowship and contentment must be from Him.

Once settled on that point, it is necessary for couples to keep in touch. I am thankful that my husband has been able to call me almost every night he has been away: in fact, sometimes we actually talk more when he is away than when he is home! For situations that don’t allow that, though, perhaps e-mailing or frequent notes would help.

A husband’s absence is a good time to focus on others, perhaps visiting an elderly neighbor or calling a girlfriend. Keeping busy, taking up a special project, or having specific goals of things you want to accomplish while he’s away can help pass the time.

Fear

One of the biggest things I have wrestled with when my husband was away was fear, though I don’t check closets when I come home any more (after 30 years of marriage and three children, there is no room in any closet for anyone to lurk anyway!) And once after checking locks and closets before going to bed one night, I woke up the next morning to find I had left my keys in the doorknob! All my efforts amounted to nothing, but God protected me anyway.

Originally the fears had to do with someone breaking in, but then I developed a couple of health problems which have required five emergency room visits between them; so new fears developed about the possibility of something happening to me when my husband was away. The Lord has dealt with me and helped me from His Word many, many times in regard to fear. Though He uses husbands to protect us, ultimately our protection is from Him. One moment that crystallized that truth for me occurred when I was lying in bed and realized that even if my husband was right next to me, I could fall ill or even die, and he would not be able to do anything about it. Now, that may not sound like much comfort! But it helped me realize as never before that my health and safety are of the Lord, not my husband.

Incidentally, God did allow one of those emergency room visits when my husband was away. When I needed to go, I was able to call a friend who was nearby, who also graciously stayed with me til the early hours of the morning when I was released. My oldest son was old enough at the time to watch the other two; my youngest was already asleep, so he was spared being frightened by the situation. My friend’s husband offered to come and stay with the children. Another friend called while I was at the hospital, and, upon learning of the situation, offered to come over or to come and take the kids to school the next day. God took care of every detail.

Children

I think perhaps a mother with young children at home has the hardest time with a husband’s absence. She looks to him not only for a little relief in giving the children care and attention, but also for adult conversation. When he is away, perhaps trading off babysitting time with another friend would help, or little excursions like going to the park or even for a walk with another friend.

A mother also needs to keep things consistent even when Dad is away. Standards and punishments should be the same: nothing should “slide” when Dad isn’t there. “Wait until your father gets home” doesn’t work when Dad won’t be home for three days and Junior is young enough to need immediate dealing with to reinforce the principles you want him to learn. I am about the most indecisive person I know, and so many situations come when my husband isn’t there that I have really wrestled with knowing what to do. When I can, I wait until I can talk with my husband; but God does promise wisdom when we ask Him for it, and He has given it many times.

It can be easy for Mom to spend even less time with the children when Dad is away, either because there is just more to do with one less person in the house to do it, or because she is keeping extra-busy to keep her mind off his absence. Depending on the children’s ages, perhaps Mom can do some fun things with them to help them with their loneliness while Dad is away: play games, read together more, rent a special video. In our case, there is a nearby pizza restaurant that my husband doesn’t care for but my children love, so sometimes we’ll stop there for a meal when Dad’s gone. This relieves another problem: it used to be that, when my husband was gone for several days, I would be ready to get out of the house and go out somewhere when he came back. He, on the other hand, having been away and eating out for days, was ready to stay home and have a home-cooked meal. So now I try to take the children out if Dad is away for an extended time so we get that out of our system before he comes home. There are also some very simple meals that my children love that my husband isn’t crazy about that we have when he is gone.

Danger zones

Every individual has his or her quirks that make for adjustments in marriage. When one spouse is away, sometimes those adjustments have to be made to some degree all over again when he returns.

We have to be careful not to let resentment build up against our loved one. We need to guard against stray thoughts that can lead to a root of bitterness: “He could have gotten out of that trip if he tried.” We may feel that is actually true. Or, “Why doesn’t he find a different job where he doesn’t have to travel so much?” We have to help our children with disappointments when Dad can’t be there for the big game or the recital. Life doesn’t always work out like the family movies where Dad leaves his company in the lurch to get home at a crucial time. We may wish it did. We, or the children, may not understand why Dad could not be there for the special occasion. It is hard, but we have to accept it and not resent it or him. Beyond just trying to “grin and bear it,” perhaps we can think of fun ways to include Dad in special occasions he has to miss: a video recording of the event (possibly even styled as a news report), or an e-mail write-up including a picture.

Though naturally we will be lonely and maybe even tearful when a spouse is away, we have to be careful not to just give ourselves over to grief and pine away the whole time he is gone. On the opposite end of the spectrum, when we realize we’re not to be so emotionally dependent on our husbands, we can tend to pull back a little too far and become almost aloof in an effort to insulate ourselves from loneliness, or we can get so busy that we’re hardly aware he is gone — and then hardly have time for him when he is home. Our Lord can help us find the right balance.

A friend once told me it was easy for her to get a little too independent when her husband was away for a long time. Though we have to make decisions and direct the family when he is away, we need to remember we are still in submission to him and try to make decisions in light of what we think he would want us to do — and not resent a possible reversal of that decision when he comes home. Once when my husband arrived back at home, one of my sons was due to attend an event soon. My son was displaying a bad attitude, and my husband told him he would not be able to attend that event if he didn’t change his attitude. Immediately I began to think, “That’s not fair! You haven’t been here; you don’t know the circumstances; you don’t know how he has been looking forward to that event!” But I had to rebuke myself, because my son was sinning with his attitude, and even though I would have handled the situation differently, my husband was still in charge. Happily, my son changed his attitude and was able to attend his event, and happily, the Lord set a watch before my lips and prevented me from creating an even bigger problem!

Pray for him

Once when my husband was out of town with a colleague, they stopped to eat dinner. Some time during their conversation, the other man noticed two girls and said, “There are two chicks just ripe for the picking.” My husband explained that he wasn’t interested in pursuing women. That incident jolted me to the realization that I needed to pray for his protection from temptation.

Pray also for his witness. People in secular jobs have an opening with folks who would be unlikely to darken the door of a church, and long hours of travel with a colleague can naturally open the door to talk about the Lord.

Of course, it is natural to pray for his safety, but we can also pray for his health (our family has learned from experience that falling sick while traveling is a trial!), for his business, meetings, etc. to go well.

Conclusion

Some years ago my pastor preached through a section of the Psalms that men sang on their way to Jerusalem. There were a few times a year men were called to go to Jerusalem, leaving their families behind, and those particular psalms were sung by the men on the way. My pastor pointed out the faith it took to go away, trusting God to take care of the loved ones back home. My thoughts, as the “loved one at home,” considered the situation from that angle, trusting the Lord to take care of us at home as well as the loved one on the road. That sermon also helped me realize that, in the providence pf God, He sometimes does call a husband to be away: it isn’t just circumstances or the job. That helped me immensely to trust that He had all things under His control, and to trust that Him for the sufficient grace He promises in His Word for all things: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work,” (II Cor. 9:8) and “He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (II Cor. 12:9.10)

This post will be linked to “Works For Me Wednesday,” where you can find a plethora of helpful hints each week at We Are THAT family on Wednesdays, as well as  Women Living Well.

Parenting Teens

Some time ago I began jotting down some thoughts in regard to parenting teens as a possible post one day. It’s been incubating, because every time I think about posting it, I think I should wait because there will probably be more I’ll think of later. But this isn’t a book: it’s just a blog post, not meant to be exhaustive. So I thought I’d go ahead and share these thoughts.

Let me quick to say, though, that I am no expert, that neither my children nor their parents are perfect, and that there is room for differences of opinions in many areas. But as my boys are 26, 23, and 17 now, these are just some helpful things I’ve learned along the way.

  • Don’t dread the teen years. A wise older mom once told me never to dread any stage, whether the “terrible twos” or the teens or anything in between. If you come into it with negative expectations, that will color everything about it.
  • Don’t “expect” rebellion. Modern media makes teen rebellion sound like a given, and all you can do is hang on and hope for the best. They are journeying toward independence, and that will raise a difference of opinion sometimes, but that does not have to include rebellion and disrespect. .
  • Don’t be afraid of their questions. For many this is a time when they begin to examine what they believe, and, hopefully, when they begin making the truths they have been taught their own rather than just following along parroting what they have heard. Though scary, this can be a good thing as they come out of it stronger and more fully convinced of what and Who they believe in. Don’t be afraid to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t have an answer for that now, but I’ll get back to you on it.” Josh McDowell has some good resources for some of these types of questions.
  • Discipline in early years will carry over, but if you haven’t disciplined well til now, stop and have a frank discussion about how and why things need to change
  • Give them opportunities to try various things, yet keep balanced so as not to over-pressure and over-schedule and have both the teen and his family running ragged. On the other hand, don’t keep pushing one area that you want your teen to excel in (living vicariously through them, perhaps?) if they’re not interested.
  • Listen. Someone once said, “If you want your children to listen to you when they’re 15, you have to listen to them when they’re 5.” Listen without pouncing on things that need attention or things you disagree with. Listen without demeaning.Keep the lines of communication open.
  • Let them begin to handle situations and make decisions so they can gain experience.
  • Encourage service toward others, probably best done at first with you or with school or youth group.
  • A lot of what makes for a good relationship with your teen is built on the relationship you’ve had when they were children. Those foundations of respect and discipline are so important.
  • Don’t think they don’t need you as much. Their needs are different from when they were small, but they still need you.
  • Stress that the Christian life is not just a set of dos and don’ts: let them see the relationship you have with Christ by how you talk about Him and to Him and acknowledge Him through the day.

If you have teens or remember something helpful from your own teen years that your parents did, please share!

This post will be linked to “Works For Me Wednesday,” where you can find a plethora of helpful hints each week at We Are THAT family on Wednesdays, as well as  Women Living Well.

 

Help for the “winter blues”

I’ve mentioned and I’ve seen others mention having trouble with the “winter blues.” The excitement of Christmas is over and the landscape is drab and dreary for the next several weeks. What can we do to lessen “the blues” this time of year? Here are a few ideas:

  • Start a project — building, sewing, some type of craft.
  • Bake cookies.
  • Curl up with a good book and a cup of your favorite hot drink.
  • Plan what you’ll plant in the spring.
  • Write — a letter, a blog post, an article. Or start that novel you’ve been dreaming about.
  • Look up your family history.
  • Do something with all those old photos you took before you got your digital camera.
  • Volunteer — check with hospitals, nursing homes, crisis pregnancy centers, etc.
  • Meet a friend for lunch or invite them over.
  • Experiment with a new recipe.
  • Work through a DVD series of a favorite program or one you missed.
  • Do a Bible study on “cold” or “snow” or “winter” or some topic you’ve wanted to study out.
  • Write a letter to one of those people you only hear from at Christmas.
  • Go through that stack of old recipes.
  • Start organizing….whatever it is you need to get organized. Just choose one area lest you get overwhelmed.
  • Color in a coloring book. Incredibly relaxing.
  • Take an online course.
  • Play uplifting music.
  • Start a fitness program.
  • Buy fresh or artificial colorful flowers.
  • Hang a birdfeeder and watch its visitors.
  • Count your blessings. Literally.
  • Choose a composer or artist and look up their work as well as information about them.
  • Sing
  • Look for the beauty in winter. Janet shared once a poem from John Updike’s A Child’s Calendar whose lines have come back to me often this winter. This particular poem is “November,” yet everything except the “oldness of the year” applies to January:

The stripped and shapely
Maple grieves
The loss of her
Departed leaves.

The ground is hard,
As hard as stone.
The year is old,
The birds are flown.

And yet the world,
Nevertheless,
Displays a certain
Loveliness –

The beauty of the bone.

Remember the benefits of winter:

  • relief from the extreme heat and humidity of summer
  • rest from working outside (for most)
  • fewer bugs
  • fires in the fireplace
  • oven meals
  • winter sports
  • snow
  • some plants need the cold weather to develop in their life cycle
  • anticipation and greater appreciation of spring

Here are some quotes about winter:

The tendinous part of the mind, so to speak, is more developed in winter; the fleshy, in summer.  I should say winter had given the bone and sinew to literature, summer the tissues and the blood. ~John Burroughs

Spring, summer, and fall fill us with hope; winter alone reminds us of the human condition.  ~Mignon McLaughlin

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire:  it is the time for home. ~Edith Sitwell

One kind word can warm three winter months. ~Japanese Proverb

Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter. Psalm 74:17.

Any other ideas for combatting winter “blues”? Any other benefits of winter you can think of?

This post will be linked to “Works For Me Wednesday,” where you can find a plethora of helpful hints each week at We Are THAT family on Wednesdays.

Works For Me Wednesday: Wedding Tips

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Works For Me Wednesday is hosted by We Are THAT Family as an opportunity for bloggers to share the tips they’ve learned along the way with others. Be sure and stop by to peruse a plethora of tried and true tips.

We’ve just had the first wedding among our kids. That doesn’t make me an expert, but there are some things I observed along the way (not just at our wedding but at weddings in general over the years) that might be helpful:

For friends of the bride and groom:

1. The bride in particular is getting bombarded on every side with wedding advice and expectations on several fronts. Avoid saying, “You should…,” “You ought to…,” “Why don’t you….?” Sometimes sharing something really nice you’ve seen at another wedding can be shared simply that way, “At my cousin’s wedding they did this really neat thing where they…” The idea is out there, the bride can think about it or not as she sees fit, but she doesn’t feel pressured.

2. If you use a gift registry to buy a wedding gift, be sure to follow the instructions so that the store registers that particular gift as having been fulfilled.

3. Include a gift receipt in the card or with the gift if possible: most stores do provide them. Sometimes the registry still doesn’t “register” for various reasons, and duplicates do happen. A gift receipt makes it so much easier if the couple does have to return something.

4. If you order something online to be delivered to the bride or groom, be sure to indicate that it is a gift if there is a place to do so in the ordering process. Usually there will be a little space for you to type in a note if it is a gift. My son and daughter-in-law did receive a couple of gifts that way that they have no idea who sent them. You could also let them know ahead of time that a package is coming from you via whatever store to their home so that when it comes they’ll know it was from you. They sincerely do want to send thank yous for the generosity of their friends and loved ones.

5. Attach your card firmly to the gift you are taking to the wedding. Most wedding gifts aren’t opened at the reception: they are at least taken back to the bride or groom’s family’s home: they may even be taken across the country before being opened. The couple wants to get the right thank-you card to the right people, and, of course, the gift giver wants the right card on the right gift. So use a lot more tape than you think you need, or, better yet, put the card inside the gift and then wrap it.

6. I saw many ways that friends or church family helped out, ways that had never occurred to me before:

  • Helping clean the bride’s family’s home before guests arrived.
  • Bringing over food.
  • Offering to house guests.
  • Picking up out-of-town guests from the airport.
  • Helping to set up, clean up, or serve not only for the wedding but for events before the wedding.
  • Running errands.
  • Bringing light snacks or something to drink for the rooms where the bride and bridesmaids or groom and groomsmen are getting ready before the wedding.
  • Being available the hours before the wedding to get items, run messages, etc.

7. If you see any member of the bridal party dashing by before the wedding and you try to speak to them, please don’t be offended if they don’t stop at that moment to talk. There are a multitude of things that come up at the last minute that have to be taken care of. Most everyone relaxes a lot more and has more time after the wedding or at the reception.

For the bride and groom:

1. Do as much as you can ahead of time. Things have a way of snowballing at the end with unforeseen details, plus you want to have some time to just relax with guests if possible.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

3. It’s a good idea to check your registries every now and then in case some of the items have been discontinued since you made the registry. It’s frustrating to go to a store and print out a registry and start shopping only to find that half the registry isn’t available. You may not want to peek at it because you don’t want to see what people have bought yet: perhaps a friend or family member could keep an eye on it for you. And if you receive something from another source or change your color scheme in a room, etc., be sure to adjust your registry accordingly. It saves a lot of time in taking things back later.

4. Consider your guests. My son and daughter-in-law did a great job with this, and I commend another young couple in our church who scrambled the day of their wedding when the weather turned blisteringly hot to change the venue from outdoor to indoor. But one wedding we attended a few years ago was outdoors — in the South in August — and the bride or groom or family, I forget who, got upset that some of the older people stayed inside a nearby lake house to watch. As it was the wedding coordinator fainted and my youngest son got violently ill after running around in the heat.

5. Don’t fret if something goes wrong. There are probably very, very few events that go off absolutely perfectly. The little (or big) things that go wrong are what make for funny stories in years to come.

6. Keep prespective of what the day is all about: celebrating your union together. No matter what else happens or doesn’t happen, if that happens, the day is a success.

WFMW: Need craft organization tips

wfmwbannerKRISTEN

Works For Me Wednesday is hosted by We Are THAT Family. General information about WFMW can be found here or by clicking the button above, but the basic idea is to share a tip that you’ve found useful that you’d like to share with others.

Today I don’t have a tip: I need tips for how to store and organize crafts items, particularly scrapbooking supplies, so that they’re easily accesible. I have things scattered and tucked hither and yon and would like to make it more usable. I can use suggestions about store-bought organizing tools or made or “found” ones — I have a gift card to Michael’s that I could possibly use for this.

I do have one of those accordion file boxes with dividers for different colored scrapbook paper plus some of those clear plastic drawers. But some of the stuff is just jumbled together in the drawers.

So…what are your best ideas for storing

Ribbon
Cricut cartridges
Cuttlebug templates
Scrapbooking paper and card stock
Stickers
Embellishments for scrapbooking and card-making
Stamps (the kind you stamp in ink with, not the kind you collect)
Ink pads
Artificial flowers

…and any other crafts you can think of.

Thanks!