Motivate Your Kids Without Bribery, Candy, or Charts

LauraMotherhood11 Comments

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Back in the day when I only had one child, I motivated her by making colorful charts for the refrigerator and cheering her on while she worked on “going potty” or “saying please” or pronouncing “sh” correctly. I could affirm her and help her to reach each every great aspiration. I took photos and rewarded her with a little treat after a few weeks-worth of hard work.

These days, with five kiddos to keep track of, there are no more charts.

I’ve tried to use motivational charts – oh, I’ve tried –  but I’ve concluded that it must be humanly impossible to parent 5 children and consistently track and reward incremental growth in even one of those kiddos. I am just waaaaay too distracted.

So I moved on to candy: quick, easy, instantly-satisfying candy. This I could do with 20 kids.

“Mommy, I went potty!”

“Oh, good! Here’s an M&M.”

Easy-peasy. But then everyone had to start writing books and blog posts about how sugar is poison… how it’s more addictive than cocaine…. how being hooked on sugar is like living in a blur, but living without sugar is truly bright and vibrant living… how giving candy to children is the worst possible thing parents could do.

Erg.

What to do now?

Recently, I had to come up with something brilliant to motivate one of our children to finally get the whole bathroom routine…

Our well-rehearsed script just had to go. You may know it well:

Q: “Did you put the seat down?”

A: “Ooops…” (runs back to bathroom; loud crashing sound)

Q: “Did you flush?”

A: “Ooops…” (runs back to bathroom; flushing sounds)

Q: “Did you wash your hands?”

A: “Ooops…” (runs back to bathroom; hand-washing sounds)

Yes, it was time to move on. But I needed a new source of motivation because charts, candy, and bribery were out of the question.

That’s when I came up with the most simple solution in the world when I just happened to think “…kids love to ring bells…” (In fact, everyone loves to ring bells. Just think about the little bell-ringing system at Trader Joe’s. It gets everyone so excited to “Help!” “Dance!” “Wear a Hawaiian Shirt!”)

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce our successful chart-free, candy-free, bribery-free solution…

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This little sign and this little bell have changed everything about “going potty” in our house.

It totally works!

It’s a shiny reminder to follow each step. It’s a satisfying reward that the individual gets for him- or herself. It’s not poisonous! Not addictive! AND, I can hear it from across the house and know that all-is-well concerning toilet seats, toilet bowls, and clean hands. Even if I’m doing five other things, I can echo the little bell and say, “Hey, I heard that bell! Good job!”

(Do you want to know the best thing about it? Everyone uses it.

Including guests.

They excuse themselves for a moment and then we hear that endearing little, “Ding!”)

Who could resist?

 

Thoughts on Our Times: Is Evil Spiraling Out of Control?

LauraAll Posts2 Comments

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(The best of times: a grandfather holding his newborn grandson.)

The other night, I lay my head on the pillow, my mind weary from processing so many tragic headlines, day after day. The shootings, the violence, and the hatred seem to be spiraling out of control, don’t you think?

Earlier in the day, I tuned into CNN. A spokesperson against terrorism was asked, “What should we do about all this terrorism?”

The spokesperson said, “It does seem to be escalating, doesn’t it? I think we just have to try harder.”

Try harder?

To do what??

Human evil is unpredictable, hidden, and determined. Our proactive efforts may snuff out some evil plans, but we cannot anticipate every hateful and violent impulse worldwide.

“Trying harder” to eliminate terrorism feels like hiking Mount Everest. As an ant. Backwards. Blindfolded. Under a magnifying glass. In the sun.

Needless to say, it was a very depressing interview.

But what else could the spokesperson say, really?

That interview made one thing abundantly clear (if it wasn’t already): humanity will not solve the problem of hatred, violence, or terror.

Every day, current events evermore emphasize our human limitations and our desperation for God.

The real answer to CNN’s question, “What should we do about all this terrorism?”is “Petition God.”

Prayer is our thing to do.

God will respond to the sound of our voices and He always does what is good and loving. He is never surprised and He never loses.

(You’ve gotta check out this post by my friend, Sarah Mae, in which she ushers us toward praying for our enemies. It is exactly what I need to read these days.)

That particular night, when my mind was weary from the world’s groaning, I mostly prayed for myself.

Our times seem so bad, so extraordinarily bad.

I needed hope.

I felt afraid and helpless. I wondered, would evil continue to escalate? Would we all lose our bearings? Would everything fall apart?

In that moment of prayer, I remembered Charles Dicken’s famous introduction to The Tale of Two Cities… 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

I found comfort in the fact that 200 years ago, a man named Charles Dickens saw abounding evil in the headlines of his newspapers. He could write about “the worst of times” because they existed in the 1800’s. Evil seemed to be spiraling out of control in the 1800’s. His classic novel explores how evil seemed to be escalating in the 1700’s. And today, we can cut-and-paste his words into the year 2016.

Our current situation isn’t unique: “the worst of times” is timeless and universal.

But let’s not forget that “the best of times” is also timeless and universal.

The two occur at the very same moment. They always have. One glance in a history book or one scroll through Facebook shows this: birthdays mixed with obituaries, anger mixed with compassion, joy mixed with sorrow.

While we process the force and magnitude of  evil – “the worst of times” – let us not forget that goodness – “the best of times” – has a force and magnitude of its own.

A force that will not be overcome.

Goodness is a continual, escalating, abounding gift from God.

It spirals out of our control.

It surprises us at every turn.

It’s the red poppies blooming in the WWI battlefields.

It’s the sun rising after a night of violence in Philadelphia.

It’s the baby who is born a few days after a close relative dies.

Life swallowing death.

What would we do without “the best of times” to get us through? They are God’s grace lavished on us as we pilgrim through a sin-weary world.

They are God’s reminder – those daily beauties that help us bear up under July’s headlines – pointing us to the Cross of Christ that bears us up over death and sin.

And so, we keep celebrating birthdays, appreciating one another, and pursuing goodness. We keep living and loving because God graces our dark world with abundant compassion. God Himself will always be the “best of times” – the wisdom, the belief, the Light, and the hope – that sustains us through every day of history’s “worst of times”.

Count on this: if evil is spiraling out of control and escalating in intensity, surely God’s goodness is spiraling and escalating at an ever-more-astonishing rate.

Look for it.

Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

 

This Week’s Inspiration

LauraAll Posts1 Comment

I’ve been devouring many sources of inspiration lately. I always like to pass along some of my favorites to you.

A friend pointed me in the direction of a 5-part series aired on Revive Our Hearts way back in 2014. Erin Davis’ interview about her book, Beyond Bath Time, is just about the most encouraging thing a mother could listen to.

I get my daily dose of beauty from my country-lane walks and from my first reading of Anne of Green Gables. (I’ve loved the movie since girlhood and cannot believe I never read the book! It is charming and thoroughly delightful. I think I could read it every day and never tire of it. Anne of Avonlea is next.)

And, I have been podcasting everything available at The Read-Aloud Revival. These podcasts about how to build a family culture around books are intelligent and enriching. You’ll love the author interviews and the variety of topics ranging from Summer Reading motivation to how-to read poetry aloud… it’s truly an amazing source of encouragement for every home. I can’t get enough… and I kind of want to work for them. Or write for them. Or read with them! Or be their friend. :)

What’s been inspiring you lately?

 

“Be Glad You Are Where You Are”

LauraMotherhoodLeave a Comment

Perhaps it’s one of life’s profound secrets and blessings: to be glad about where we are in life. To be thankful for the work in our hands and the people within our reach. Surely only a few people stumble upon this blessing… for it is a mysterious mixture of attitude and circumstances. It’s a gift; one to be pursued wholeheartedly.

When it comes to enjoying the daily calling of home life with a husband and children, I’ve discovered that all things are sweeter when I hold a song like this in my heart and sing it aloud when holding a little hand, or raising the morning blinds, or sitting on the couch with a child who just wants to be close. This song is written by a mother and it’s sung in the context of motherhood, where it is deeply needed.

I don’t mean to be sappy or overly idealistic, but don’t you think people would change if they sang it at the office, too? Or out in the field? At the market? Or on the road?

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When Ministry Happens in Fits and Starts

LauraAll Posts, Marriage, Ministry, Motherhood

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 (“Women’s Ministry”.)

For years, I’ve aspired to be like the faithful Sunday School teacher who serves her post for 50 years, loving generations of children, sharing the gospel with countless young people who gather at her table week after week.

I’ve day-dreamed about looking back over the years and noticing that my faithful involvement in a community, or a person, or a generation actually had some impact.

So far, it seems impossible to live the ideal of a long-term ministry. 

Ministry seems to occur in fits and starts instead.

The trend is that a year or two after I sign up to help, lead, teach, or serve, circumstances require me to stop.

Most recently, I got all charged up about Women’s Ministry. I dog-eared every wonderful book about Women’s Ministry and listened to every podcast about Women’s Ministry. I prayed about and talked about and dug into Women’s Ministry with zeal. And then, I had to push “pause” on the whole shebang as I entered my third trimester of pregnancy and simply didn’t have the energy or focus to continue. Now, we are welcoming our sweet little newborn into our lives and I’m not quite sure when I’ll be able to return to the topic.

To be honest, I’ve wrestled with my tendency to “start and stop” ministry work. It has been disappointing to me. (And embarrassing at times.) I’ve heard people explain that these things happen “just for a season,” and yet I’ve wondered, Why can’t I stick with something over time?

Have you ever criticized yourself for the same thing?

I tearfully brought my regrets and shame before the Lord. I started apologizing for my fickle, short-term commitments. You can imagine my reassurance when I remembered that this is simply the nature of married life and motherhood.

Scripture is very honest about this.

“The unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband.”

1 Corinthians 7:24

In the context of the entire Bible, we confidently know that God Himself ordains a married woman’s work to love her husband and her children. She must realize that her home, now, is her primary ministry.

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” -from Titus 2

In light of this, I can see that sometimes I emerge into a season of energy and availability. Home-life thrives while I write, coordinate, teach, and serve. At those times, the Lord is gracious to open opportunities for me to work in the Church on a broader scale. Then, when a new baby arrives or a pressing need appears within our home, I must pull back into our home and hunker down for a while, focusing on our family and giving everything I’ve got to our home.

And it’s okay.

It’s more than okay… it’s just as it should be.

If I can faithfully serve my family over the years, all will be well.  Additional opportunities to serve – even in fits and starts – will have their value as I give what I can when I can.

My heart is full of praise to God who gives us good work to do at home and abroad, who allows for short-stints in several directions as well as a long journey on one enduring road.

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

 

Wooden on Motherhood: What the UCLA Coach Taught Me About Leading and Loving my Children

LauraAll Posts, Motherhood

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I recently read Wooden on Leadership by John Wooden and Steve Jamison.

John Wooden is known as the “best coach in history”.

Not only did he lead his UCLA basketball team to many victories (10 NCAA Championships), but he also – and more importantly – poured his life into teaching his athletes to thrive as human beings. Though the book never mentions “motherhood”, Wooden’s insights about effective leadership inspire me regarding my job as a mother.

Before I return the book to the library, I thought I’d share 3 of its many highlights with you:

  • Do your best.

    Despite his incredible winning record, Wooden never spoke about winning. Never. Winning wasn’t his objective, because it wasn’t in his control. Instead, he continually encouraged his players to do their best work at very practice and every game. He strove to offer his best every day, and he expected the same from his team.
    “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.” – John Wooden

    I want this mentality to be a part of our daily lives, too.  Instead of getting wrapped up in accomplishment, the status quo, or competition, I simply want us to do our best. As I sit at the breakfast table with our children and we prepare to begin the day, I want to remind us to do our best work today: each one of us, working unto the Lord and not unto man, being faithful with the gifts and opportunities God has given us.

    I hope I’m a mother who rallies the troops with, “Let’s all give today our very best effort!”

  • Don’t despise the little details, the daily grind, the fundamentals.

    The habits that form each day add up to shape a lifetime. Coach Wooden is famous for the time he invested in teaching his athletes precisely how to put their socks on. He cared about the shoes they wore, the laces they used, and the length of their fingernails. He cared about where their elbows were when they ran, where their eyes were when the passed the ball, and where their attention was when they scored a point (on acknowledging the player who assisted).

    Details were important to Coach Wooden because they dramatically affected the way the game was played.It’s not hard to draw the comparison to motherhood: just think of all the little details that we notice and tend to throughout the day, from sun-up until sun-down. I’m often tempted to invest my time and attention on “bigger things” and lose focus on training my children in the “little things” from bed-making to apologizing. But Wooden’s coaching inspires me to notice the details of our day-to-day and not to give up reminding, shaping, and encouraging my children to build a beautiful life upon one small decision at a time.

  • Prepare and plan each day, making it your masterpiece.

    Every morning, Coach Wooden met with his assistant coaches to evaluate the previous day’s practice and plan the day’s upcoming practice. They talked about what worked yesterday, what needed more work, and what they would like to add. They looked for adjustments and refinements. Then, they’d format the new day – minute by minute – focusing on fundamentals, conditioning, and team unity.

    A year ago, I discovered the 5-minute Journal (glorious) and have been successful at incorporating the daily questions into my morning devotional time. I’m in the process of trying to figure out how to quickly and efficiently evaluate our homeschooling experience a day at a time using this format.

    Heading into the new school year, I may add a few questions specifically about motherhood. I think it would be beneficial to begin each day considering the basic character qualities, life skills, and family dynamics that I want to build in our home.

    • “What worked yesterday?”
    • “What needs more work today?”
    • “What would I like to add today?”

I appreciated Wooden’s insights about leadership so much that I plan on borrowing some of his other books in the future. In fact, I’d love to incorporate one as a family read-aloud at some point. I think our kiddos would learn just as much about “being a team player” and “following a good leader” as they will about leadership itself.

What have you read lately that impacts your view of motherhood??

 

Small and On the Earth

LauraAll Posts

There were moments in my childhood when I’d be sitting in the grass, spring or summer. The sky would be blue and high. I’d pull my knees up to my chest and balance on my bottom. Every so often, a distinct awareness would rush over me – an awareness that I was sitting on the earth.

In my mind’s eye, the grass would stretch out in every direction – farther and farther – wrapping itself around the enormous round planet, and there I’d be: sitting on it.

A girl, placed delicately on an immense, slowly-spinning globe.

Like a chess piece placed intelligently on a chess board.

Or a vase of flowers placed carefully on a table.

Like a housefly that lands nimbly on a countertop, or a bird that happily balances on a limb.

Years later – when childhood was my memory – I married a man and birthed our first child. Our daughter arrived 5 weeks early and weighed less than 6 pounds. I gently lay her on her stomach for a sponge bath and draped a warm washcloth over her back. I couldn’t help but think of a roaster chicken, those little elbows poking out like chicken wings. (I didn’t mean to think that. Some similes just rush through my mind without giving me a fair chance.) I dried her off and swaddled her up.

As it turns out, our baby was slightly jaundiced and the doctors wanted her to spend some time under the lights in the NICU. At our country hospital, the NICU is the size of a walk-in-closet with two or three incubators and a kitchenette.  I didn’t want to leave her side, so the nurses rearranged the NICU and pulled in a wooden rocking chair for me. It practically took up the entire room. I sat down in the rocker, scooting it close to her little bed, speaking and singing in a low voice so she’d know I was there.

I held her whenever the nurses would let me.

We both were brand new.

In that first week of life, I felt an awareness rush over me not unlike those moments in childhood when I’d be sitting on the sloping earth. This time though, I was holding a baby in my arms and balancing our bodies together in a large rocking chair.

And I remember: I felt our smallness.

In my mind’s eye, the rocking chair grew up behind me, massive and wooden, pushing its way through the ceiling, becoming as large as the universe. Yet, my daughter and I remained so small, swaddled together, on its large wooden seat. The holiness of the moment overtook me and I found myself appealing to God for help. Oh God! We are so small!

I think about that experience when I visit my parents’ church. There, hundreds of people gather on Sunday morning to worship God in a large sanctuary. Light streams in. The ceilings are vaulted high. The choir on stage is massive – one hundred? two hundred? – people stand side-by-side and sing glorious songs. An orchestra plays. Their faces are radiant and their sound is full.

The large building, the large crowd, the large choir with its glorious sound reminds me of that moment in the NICU rocking chair.

I sing along with the choir until something catches in my throat.

I pause under the weight of reality: we are so small.

What if I could look at all of us – the singers, the standers, the hand-raisers, the cymbal players – under a microscope? We’d look like a sampling of streptococci. (Have you ever seen the beautiful arrangement of strands and circles that appear at 5,000 x strength?)

Under a microscope – the tall, the petite, the fat, the thin, the old, the young – would mostly just seem… small.

Though we are hundreds of worshipers gathered under vaulted ceilings, we are a tiny gathering of tiny creatures expressing our wonder and thanks.

Psychologists say that we inadvertently seek this experience. They say people visit places like the Grand Canyon in order to feel… small. They say we make the trek across town, or across the country, or across the world in order to gaze upon something bigger than ourselves.

They say it’s good for us to remember our smallness.

Someday, I hope to pack our bags and seek out those big landmarks that people talk about – the Grand Canyon, the Redwoods, the Desert. My husband, our children, and I will look over the expanse, peer into the depth, and gaze upon the height of things that are bigger than we are.

And we’ll wonder.

(I also day-dream of buying a plane ticket for each of our teenagers: the gift of a few hours in a seat far above the earth. What will they realize when they look out the window and see the true size of clouds, houses, cars, people?)

In the meantime though – while I’m still birthing babies, swaddling them, and rocking them – the Grand Canyon comes to me in a million ways: in a child’s smile and an elder’s wisdom, in a nesting bird and a growing puppy, in a sunrise and a sunset, in every mundane, stereotypical, already-been-said wonder.

The bigness of every little thing in the universe…

These just-glimpses of God…

They overwhelm me with the assurance that it is a gift to be small on the earth.

 

Approach Motherhood Like Med School

LauraMotherhood

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“It’s about life. It’s about every single day being a new day, and each time you wake up, you look at the sky you’ve got as a gift. The day is here. What are you going to do with it?” – from The Talent Code

Approach motherhood like med school, but with more love.

Aim to give it your all every day. Study and learn about yourself and your children, because life depends upon it.

Look to the top instructors. Search out the best resources.

Think deeply and well about motherhood. If you are a mother, it is an essential part of your identity. It is also an essential part of your children’s identity. You and your children are worth thinking deeply about.

Always keep in mind that there is infinitely more to the subject than the handful of viral articles about helicopter parenting, simple living, safety precautions, and not spoiling kids. The articles that catch your eye are simply spring boards into understanding why their argument may be true or false, and what their ultimate effect will have upon your family and society.

Read widely concerning motherhood: leadership, sports, education, nutrition, counseling, history, and literature all have something to offer our understanding and experience of motherhood.

Experiment with new approaches, discard the things that do not work, and try again.

Be a hard, hard worker and really dive in.

Don’t get distracted by perfection, comparison, condemnation, or unreasonable goals. These will steal your joy. Instead, immerse yourself in the subject matter and learn what it means to love the art of motherhood itself. In doing so, you will learn what it means to love your children.

Motherhood is an altogether worthwhile pursuit and your work today matters.

 

Christians are Not a Dying Breed: Full Article at TrueWoman.com

LauraAll Posts

I know people say things like “the younger generation is leaving the church,” and that “Christians are a shrinking minority.” I know that polls point to the sure disappearance of Christians, but I also know something to encourage our fainting hearts—Christianity is thriving in God’s hands, and Christians are not a dying breed.

We never will be.

Continue reading at TrueWoman.com…

 

How to Begin and Nurture a Mentoring Relationship: It’s a Blessing We Can’t Afford to Miss!

LauraAll Posts, Marriage, Ministry, Motherhood

To complement my post at Revive Our Hearts True Woman Blog today, I thought I’d write about a way in which God has used biblical mentoring in my life. Many, many women have enriched my life over the years – my own mother being at the very top of the list – but I thought that today, I’d share one specific story of how God has blessed me with an enduring friendship.  This is the story of how one “older woman” in the Church has encouraged and equipped me to live for God’s glory.

EVERY MENTORING RELATIONSHIP BEGINS SOMEWHERE…

I met Lois 11 years ago when Ryan and I moved into our first home. I was eager to meet people in the neighborhood, so when I discovered that our next-door neighbor sold Pampered Chef, I threw a Pampered Chef party and invited all of the ladies in the neighborhood. Lois attended with her two teenage daughters. I was immediately drawn to her friendliness and approachability. I was also quite impacted by the sweet interactions between Lois and her two daughters. I was pregnant with our first child and I was already thinking about the type of relationship I wanted to have with my children: I saw something beautiful in how Lois included her daughters in conversation and respected them, not to mention how they seemed to love and respect her in return. A week or two later, when the Pampered Chef items arrived at my door, I organized them into delivery bags and wrote a little note to each person as a means of continuing our budding relationships. On Lois’ note, I wrote something about how I appreciated her friendliness and was looking forward to spending more time with her.

Our friendship developed quite naturally after that. We’d take walks around the block, meet up at the park, or enjoy meals together. Because she lived right around the corner, I often stopped by for “neighborly visits” mid-day… I was clueless that I was interrupting a homeschool day. When Lois opened her door with a smile on her face and invited me in, I assumed that she had just been waiting for me to arrive!  (Little did I know at the time, homeschooling 4 children is an all-consuming task…) However, Lois consistently demonstrated that people are more important than tasks. She prioritized me over her to-do list. Now that I am homeschooling 4 children of my own, I deeply appreciate her compassionate and Christlike worldview.

Very early in our relationship, Lois would ask me for my prayer requests. She wrote them all down in her annual spiral notebook and faithfully prayed for me. Then, she’d follow-up on those requests over the days and weeks to come.

I experienced pre-term labor at 32 weeks of my pregnancy, putting me on bed-rest for several weeks. Lois and her children cleaned and cooked for us, and visited me often. Toward the end of my bed-rest, they organized a neighborhood baby shower for us. When Vivienne was born in May, they visited us in the hospital and took wonderful care of us at home. Lois led all of her children in loving Vivienne. When I returned to teaching a few days a week, they watched Vivienne for me and loved her like family. Even Lois’ 12 year-old son took a special interest in Vivienne and actually became dear friends with her. (He’s a very funny person and he’d undergo the wildest antics just to make her laugh. To this day, I attribute Jonny with Vivienne’s adorable sense of humor.)

WHY MENTORING RELATIONSHIPS ARE IMPORTANT… 

I didn’t realize that God was putting Lois in place to be a comfort and help during a very hard season of our lives.

When Vivienne was a few months old, Ryan and I experienced a major blow to our marriage. Deep, complicated issues surfaced that caused us to separate.  I thought we were heading toward a divorce, but God surrounded us with a team of 4 people who would not let us go until they saw God’s powerful redemption in our lives.

Lois and her husband Mark were two of those people. As if they had nothing else to do, they spent hours counseling us and praying for us. It was during this time that Lois and I truly became dear, dear friends. In the beginning of the separation, she was a prayerful support and listener. Once I was strong enough to consider my own responsibilities in our weak marriage, Lois spoke directly to me, “You need to stop acting like you are Ryan’s mother.” Because Lois so rarely corrected or advised me in this manner, her words went straight to my heart. I learned a great deal from her correction and God began to change me – and our marriage – from the inside, out.

After a 40-day separation, Ryan and I came back together. We were new people. And our marriage was new. The transformation that God had begun in each of our hearts was miraculous. To this day, Ryan and I often talk about how thankful and amazed we are by the great work God has done.

For the next 5 years, Lois faithfully mentored me, teaching me how to love my husband and children. My learning curve was gradual, but I was an eager student and Lois was a faithful, consistent teacher. (There was no reason I shouldn’t have known these things; my life had been saturated with wonderful examples and encouragement! But once I was actually married, I didn’t have a clue about how to actually be a wife or a mother. My sinfulness, immaturity, and the surrounding feminist culture had really taken a toll on my worldview.)

During every casual encounter, Lois shared the scripture and insights that she was learning in her marriage. She’d pass along favorite books and magazine articles and give me recordings of helpful sermons. She invited me to a homeschool conference and helped me to navigate the homeschooling world. My bookshelf is full of resources that Lois has given me… this doesn’t compare to how my heart, mind, and attitudes are full of instruction and encouragement that she has given to me over the years.

HOW MENTORING RELATIONSHIPS CHANGE OVER TIME…

Six years ago, we moved out of our beloved first home to Ryan’s family farm in the country. Though the move changed the frequency of my visits with Lois, it didn’t change the depth of our friendship. Shortly after we moved, Lois’ daughter was married at our farm. It was a beautiful and blessed day…  precisely what Ryan and I dreamed would happen on our property. We were so thankful to have something to offer our dear friends in return for their faithful love over the years. I treasure this memory.

Lois’ family has loved and cherished each one of our children – and we love them in return. Lois sends a personalized birthday card to each child. When she visits, our children think she has come to visit them personally. Without fail, she gives each one time and attention… and they love it! Art projects and musical instruments come out of hiding, games are suggested, bedrooms are shown, new “tricks” are demonstrated… I usually have to provide an interesting distraction for the kids just so I can have some time with her to myself. 

Despite the distance between us, Lois and I have maintained our relationship over recent years. She always seems undaunted by my tendency toward independence and introversion. She consistently overlooks my fear of rejection. (Like many women, I am very sensitive to resistance and I back down quickly if I think I’m a burden or obligation to someone.) Though we both have full lives, we try to connect with one another monthly. To tell you the truth, usually, our get-togethers are initiated or scheduled by Lois. Just when my little family is in the doldrums of “getting through life,” Lois will call and schedule a game night, saying, “I’ll bring the games AND the food!” She and her family come in the door with smiles and light hearts; we have a wonderful evening together, always ending in prayer for one another. Every Christmas, we try to get our families together for a Christmas party, complete with a feast, games, and the annual “Find the Christmas Pickle” game.

A few years ago, when we were still living at the farm, Lois invited me to a 12-week Bible study on being a godly wife. I said, “yes!” and made the weekly trip into town to meet with a handful of other young wives in Lois’ living room. We encouraged one another in our marriages and prayed for one another. I think that each and every one of us saw our marriages blossom because of that study. It had been 7 years since Ryan and I experienced our marital trauma… Seven years of God’s restoration and transformation in our lives! How wonderful it was to return to the same basic biblical principles and to continue to grow in my calling to love and honor Ryan.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF GODLY MENTORSHIP…

I can’t begin to describe the impact that Lois has made on our lives, but I do know a few things:

  • God uses her to teach me His character, His ways, and His love for me.
  • God uses her to teach me how to love Ryan.
  • God uses her to teach me how to love my children.
  • God uses her to teach me how to love and celebrate people.
  • God uses her to teach me how to pray. (Instead of giving specific advice, Lois’ typical heartfelt response to my questions, problems, and trials is “God will show you what to do.” Though a pat answer with a prescribed formula would be easier, Lois consistently ushers me into God’s presence, reminding me that I do not live and work “unto man”, but “unto God”. I am deeply grateful for her confidence that God will personally care for and guide me.)

Years ago, Lois and I were sitting on her front step when she encouraged me to smile at my family members throughout the day.  I thought about how my own mother’s cheerful disposition deeply blessed my childhood and decided to give it a try. To this day, I believe that besides prayer, smiling is the single-most important thing I do to build a happy home.

Lois has helped me to consider home life as a stimulating area of study and lifestyle. Over the past 10 years, she has encouraged me to read and study extensively about nutrition, exercise, childhood development, education, gender roles, communication, conflict-resolution, prayer, marriage, and theology.

The wealth of study, apprenticeship, experience, and trial-and-error that I have gained in the context of mentorship are far greater than any college degree I could have received in any of those subjects.  

I’m convinced that the time and energy we invest in our homes will not result in “empty nests”.  God intends for a woman’s heart and home to be full and always becoming fuller… with the help of many mentors.

I love this about God’s design.

I am continually blessed by women of all ages who love me and offer their attention and wisdom to me… I don’t know who I’d be or how I’d be living if it weren’t for other women teaching me how to live for God’s glory.  

The Titus 2 model is one of God’s greatest blessings to His daughters.

What would I do without older women?

And now, my prayer is to become one myself.

(Take a Summer’s Challenge! Invite another woman to work through these 100 Questions to Fuel a Mentoring Relationship. This could be one of the best things you add to your Summer 2016 Bucket List! Click over to the True Woman Blog to get started.)