Holidays

People who read this blog come from many countries, and have different backgrounds. Some are new Adventists, and some have been for many years or all their lives. Because there are a lot of different beliefs regarding how holidays are celebrated, I thought I’d share some quotes from Adventist Home, by Ellen White, that have helped our family and others understand how she thought they should be kept.

“I saw that our holidays should not be spent in patterning after the world, yet they should not be passed by unnoticed, for this will bring dissatisfaction to our children. On these days when there is danger that our children will be exposed to evil influences and become corrupted by the pleasures and excitement of the world, let the parents study to get up something to take the place of more dangerous amusements. Give your children to understand that you have their good and happiness in view,” (AH pg.472 & 1T pg.514,515).

We should not just let the days pass by, but provide something good for them. Specifically about Christmas she says, “As the twenty-fifth of December is observed to commemorate the birth of Christ, as the children have been instructed by precept and example that this was indeed a day of gladness and rejoicing, you will find it a difficult matter to pass over this period without giving it some attention. It can be made to serve a very good purpose… The desire for amusement, instead of being quenched and arbitrarily ruled down, should be controlled and directed by painstaking effort upon the part of the parents. Their desire to make gifts may be turned into pure and holy channels and made to result in good to our fellow men by supplying the treasury in the great, grand work for which Christ came into our world. Self-denial and self-sacrifice marked His course of action. Let it mark ours who profess to love Jesus because in Him is centered our hope of eternal life,” (AH pg 478 & RH Dec.9, 1884).

Let us take these days, especially holidays such as Christmas and Easter, and teach our children that these events in the life of Jesus (birth & death) are for our salvation, and we should share this with others.

In the U.S. we celebrate Independence Day, July 4, with parades and fireworks, and our harvest festival is called Thanksgiving because the pilgrims were thankful to have made it here that first year. What important days are recognized in your country? What are some holidays, Christmas and others, that you celebrate, and how do you celebrate them?

I invite you to share ways that you are teaching your children to give to others.

Another Mile to Share

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, or at least my posts, I’ve shared the journey that I’m on with my oldest, Ethan. He’s my prodigal son. I am the father left waiting to carry on with business. Each day, I watch the road.

It’s time for another update. In sharing my story, I hope to give hope! I hope to encourage! When we read these amazing stories of families who raise strong men and women of God, who finish their schooling with kudos and prizes and scholarships, it can be sad and disheartening to those of us with children who’ve gone a different direction.

We celebrate with you, moms and dads of those kids! But, our hearts hurt.

When last I wrote my blog post, The Prodigal, Ethan had left home, telling us that he didn’t want to live like he’d been raised. He loved us, but wasn’t interested in anything having to do with God or religion.

In fact, one conversation he and I had several months after he moved out had me questioning whether he had a mental illness. He was reading a book by a guy named David Icke (don’t even Google it — it’s awful) and according to him it was his new “bible” that he carried around everywhere. He demonstrated this by showing it to me.

David Icke proposes, among other things, that the government is run by an oligarchy comprised of inter-dimensional lizard people who brought the moon with them when they took over the world.

No, I am not kidding.

Yes, my heart was breaking as I listened to this intelligent, thoughtful young man speak so passionately about these new beliefs of his.

At this moment in time, I pause to allow one of three reactions:

  1. Ho hum…my children are babies and will never ever do anything like this. I’ll do my best to do things mostly right and we’ll live happily ever after. OR, a subset of this group is, “My teens are busy and involved in church and set to graduate at 16 years old with honors.”
  2. Good grief! I’m so thankful for my kids and the problems I am dealing with, with them! Perhaps I should just take a chill pill and realize that things aren’t as bad as they could be!
  3. WOW! I’m so thankful to know that I’m not alone! I thought it was only my kid that had gone off the rails!

If you’re in one of the groups that have no idea what it is to struggle with a child, at least not yet if your children are young, then you might not have even gotten this far reading! I know I wouldn’t have when Ethan was five and teaching himself to read and wise beyond his years!

My word to you is, “Enjoy it! Be thankful for it! Count your blessings!” And perhaps even, “Remember to pray for those of us who have more challenges!”

If you’re still reading, you probably have a measure of OCD and feel compelled to finish since you’ve gotten this far. Or, it seems like a train wreck and you just can’t look away! Well, stick around! You never know what you might learn!

To those in the second group, my advise to you is, “Take a chill pill!” Okay, I’m mostly kidding. It’s hard to relax when it’s your child and your struggles. You might possibly read to the end. Because there is hope! And, the struggle is real!

My brothers and sisters in the third group, you need to settle right on in, grab a cup of whatever you enjoy drinking hot, and take a deep breath! We are in this together and this is the “keeping-it-real zone!” I’ll share my story, warts and all, and somehow, someone might find hope and blessing from it!

The first time Ethan and I talked, he shared all about this guy Icke’s ideas, and I sat there with a mildly-interested look on my face, a stone in my heart, and a roiling in my stomach. I didn’t challenge, I didn’t argue, I didn’t reason. I simply gave him the gift of listening quietly but engaged. I didn’t ask him any questions because I didn’t want to hear the answers!

What I’d learned about my son is that if I disagreed, he would become more solidly lodged in that opinion. If I questioned or challenged, he would hear disapproval. I was going to give him neither of these things.

And so we talked about this and that as if it were the most normal thing in the world. And, my heart broke and I wanted to weep.

The second major conversation we had, I did the same while his behavior was, again, very odd and left me thinking that perhaps I was dealing with some kind of a mental illness. What a hopeless feeling; even if he were, what could I do? He wasn’t living with us, and should I do anything at all, it would likely put a wedge in our relationship that might be irreparable!

Our interactions, though infrequent, went much like this over the course of the next six months or so. Never once did I disagree with him or challenge him. I simply listened and smiled and nodded and left him with no doubt whatsoever that I loved him more than life. Period.

At a certain moment in time, I can’t pinpoint when, he stopped talking about Icke. He didn’t look up at the stars suspiciously. He stopped insisting that oil wells were not what they seemed. And, he referenced the Bible. He referenced it like, “The Bible says so too…” And though it wasn’t completely accurate, I thought it interesting that he brought it up at all.

While relaying my story and my struggles, I’ve always tried to propose that there is a different way to approach things than makes logical sense. In dealing with soon-to-be-adult children, it makes sense that we resist behavior that we feel is wrong. It makes sense to argue with someone who seems to be making poor decisions or entertaining beliefs that are not in line with what we’ve taught.

What I’d like to put out there for consideration is that we drive our children away with our rightness, our arguments, even perhaps our subtle emotional blackmail or manipulation. I’m not talking blatant blackmail or manipulation. Many times it is much more subtle and harder to see, especially when our intentions, our motives, are only for their best!

What I can tell you is that he’s no longer talking about lizard people. He’s starting to comment about how events seem to be pointing to all the things found in Revelation. He’s beginning to talk about praying. In fact, he alluded to the fact that the new job he had is making him work on Sabbath when he preferred to work on Friday and Sunday. He’s still working on Sabbath, but being aware of it? That gives me hope, right there!

Just last month he texted me this picture, excited about his thrift shop find. I about fell over! Of course, responding to him I played it cool, “That is cool! Great condition!”

I can’t tell you how this story ends. He’s still living with his girlfriend and making dubious choices; I don’t point them out. He still believes that the earth is flat. Sighs.

But, we’re a mile further on and I thought I’d share.

Story Time!

We are very blessed where we live to have a wonderful network of public libraries. They have been a source of extra reading material for us for a while now. But, it wasn’t until this year that I really started taking advantage of the extra services and programs that our libraries provide.

The library provides computers with ABC Mouse and other learning softwares free of charge.

They provide several different story times each week, and family story time coincides with one of my days off. This summer we participated in our first summer reading program, and Serenity earned two new books for her personal library. Story time isn’t just sitting and listening to the librarian read books, though. The program is designed to help parents facilitate learning at home. Now that summer is over, the program has shifted to kindergarten readiness, with emphasis on learning ABCs, numbers 1-9, colors, shapes, and rhyming words.

Storytime

Serenity has gotten to do several fun projects at Story Time over the last few months. She has done science experiments, made artwork, and met new people (socialization, y’all!).

Science: learning how vinegar and baking soda react.

She was very excited about all the bubbles that the vinegar and baking soda made.

She made her own “lion mane” and practiced doing her most ferocious roar.

She can write her own name tag for story time now.

She enjoys being at story time with her best friend (and neighbor) Audrey.

She makes new friends almost every week. 🙂

The most exciting thing that our libraries offer are special programs. Over the summer they had jugglers, Lego master builders, singers, and paleontologists come to different library branches and do free programs for the kids. We got to see a very entertaining juggler who talked about cause and effect and how to be a good citizen.

The other program that we got to attend was a husband/wife duo who sang songs about wild animals. Through their songs you learn about animal homes, habits, and physiology. They brought a box turtle and American toad for the kids to see as well.

Learning how to move like different animals

Public libraries are such a phenomenal resource to homeschool families. What is a favorite resource that your local library provides your family?

Modeling Grace: Connection and Learning

I began to identify in September’s post why it is important to enter into connection with our children. This is not only helpful for the relationship, but also to facilitate a safe emotional environment for learning. I want to expand a little further on the three points that were identified as suggestions for starting out with your children from a place of connection.

Not that long ago I was working on something in the kitchen and felt very rushed. In the midst of my hurry, I dropped something all over the floor that needed to be cleaned up. I sighed very loudly and was ready to become quite frustrated. Our 4-year-old was watching and quickly came up to me and said, “It’s okay, Mommy. Accidents happen.”  In that exact moment my own frustration was met with grace and understanding.

“And a little child shall lead them.”

Sometimes our children can be the very best examples of what we are trying to also teach them. I thought about that moment quite a bit that day, because I recognized that in the situation, had it been reversed, I might not always respond as kindly to her; and, that had I been scolded or met with criticism, it would have also changed my attitude and ability to feel loved and accepted.  These daily interactions seem so small to many, but it is those tiny moments met with grace that open us up to training and guidance as we continue.

As we have been working on preschool skills at home, I am focusing a great deal of attention on simply being present, answering questions like, “Why does the moon go away?” and “How come the birds do that?” In the early phases of learning and schooling, it still feels like the most important thing I can do is be present to her questions and respond as best I can — if I don’t know the answer, telling her I will help her find out. I need a great deal of grace every day, and I’m grateful that she is able to give that to me, even on the days where I am struggling to give it to myself or in my interactions with her.

Sometimes when we sing about the wise man and the foolish man building their house on the rock, it reminds me of the Rock (Christ), but also the connection to the foundation that we as parents are trying to achieve. The goal ultimately for modeling grace is that it also continues to build the relationship and foundation for lifelong learning and love of Christ, and bringing that light into a world that desperately needs it.

Service Can Be Fun And Exciting

A fun way to keep children stimulated, entertained, and engaged is to tell them stories about missionaries. The sense of danger and intrigue will give them a desire to want to know more, and you will plant a seed that could produce a harvest not only in this life but the one to come.

I grew up hearing amazing stories about missionaries, every Friday evening after family worship we would gather around our father as he told stories of extraordinary escapes or protection of missionaries in faraway places.

Following those stories, I would to go to bed content and excited. As we matured my siblings and I never formally verbalised a love for or any intent in becoming missionaries. Nevertheless, my sister has been serving in South America for the past five years. My children get to hear stories of God’s exceptional protection and provision from their aunt, and they love it.

As my children grow, they are each developing a servant’s heart. I taught them to love and respect people no matter who they are. They have a particular burden for the homeless. While living in the city, they joined a homeless ministry and took part in serving food to the homeless once per week. We relocated, and they miss the opportunity and talk of it often.

One Saturday night on our way home from a speaking appointment, we passed a fun fair and a football match, and our eldest son, the self-appointed spokesperson for the children, asked why we could not attend football matches and fun fairs. He expressed feelings of boredom. We prayerfully and patiently explained being stewards of time and money, and the environment that will be conducive to developing healthy Christian characters.

An Opportunity
We went shopping, and as we left the store, we passed a homeless couple. Forgetting their previous conversation of boredom, they asked for money to give the couple. However, my eldest son wanted to do more, and Dad accompanied him to speak to the couple to identify any needs that we could meet. They were able to purchase the requested items. The children were content for the rest of the evening and forgot their earlier complaint of boredom.

We learned that…
• Opportunities for service are all around us.
• Teaching children early to serve will encourage service to be a natural part of their character as they grow.
• Service can be fun and exciting.
• Service benefits both the one receiving and the person doing the giving.