Friday, April 30, 2010

The Nurturing Life

I love to spoil our babies; hold them, cuddle them, sleep with them.  I think our last baby did not actually get set down for, something like, 13 days after he was born!  Not coincidentally, our babies are happy, bright, and responsive to training.  I do not believe you can nurture a baby too much.  In fact I do not believe you can over nurture ANY child, or person for that matter.  Can you imagine your spouse saying, "Really honey, please!  Cut back on all the affirmation and special attention, back rubs, and making my favorite dinners." I don't think so.  I vividly remember the time of my engagement to Brian.  We lavished each other with attention, gifts, thoughtfulness, and affection.  It was a marvelous time for us. Likewise, I think a person's childhood memories should be slathered with recollections of great and grand nurturing from their parents.
The world teaches us (quite wrongly I might add) that when a baby begins to toddle, he is becoming independent and we should allow him to continue to move toward living independently of us. Truthfully, as a child grows he is able to function more independently physically, but at the same time has a GROWING NEED for emotional and spiritual guidance.  Therefore, we have a responsibility to make a deliberate pursuit of our growing children's hearts. We must not let them go their own way (READ: “separate from us“) making little, if any, effort to strengthen the bonds we had when they were babies.  How terrible it would be to live in such a way!
People need to be nurtured, and I believe you cannot over do it.  A child needs love, not from a distance, but up-close and personal.  They need constant affirmation, consistent loving touch, real conversation, and real relationship.  A teen or pre-teen needs your attention and care just as much as a baby, and if you don't give it to them, they will go out and find someone who will... perhaps in the form of a surrogate parent, or more often in a boyfriend or girlfriend.  God MADE people for relationship, how dare we deny it of our very children?
Our own experience with teens is primarily a sad case of “love starved young people“, who are eager to have a relationship that is real.  Brian and I have been in charge of a teen summer camp for a few years and that is precisely what we see.  Here’s a typical picture of what happens in my relationship with girls at camp: First, I learn their names, I tell the girls they are beautiful, give them good morning hugs, and show interest in their lives.  Within the first day, for the most part, they start calling me "mom."  Many of them sit on my lap while we talk.  After a few days, most of them will openly talk with me about their lives.  It is sad that there are so many who are desperately love starved, and not surprising that many of them will give their purity away, in an effort to gain the love they haven't gotten at home.
 We must be deliberate about pursuing the hearts of our children.  I fear that boys are particularly at risk of losing the loving touch of a parent. Why shouldn't we hug on our stinky 12 yr old?  Why not hold your breath and give him a good squeeze a few times a day! High school boys, whom we have gotten to know at camp and on our son’s wrestling team, greatly appreciate affirmation, a high five, and homemade food for their always hungry stomachs.  Nurturing comes in many forms, one of which is providing good food, and another a good atmosphere; one of caring for their needs, like laundry, ironing, clothes shopping.  More nurturing comes through feeding their soul with Scripture, reading Proverbs every day together, listening to an audio Bible together, and talking about convictions, doctrine, practical Christianity and life.  No wonder God told us in Deuteronomy 6:6-9 that it is a full time job, one that requires you to be attentive to nurturing your children at all times of the day.  Doesn't leave much time for self, and I think that is the way God planned it.
Living a nurturing life as a mom means starting each morning with loving words, good morning hugs, and a good breakfast.  It is well known that people accept teaching more readily after they have been fed. Working together (as opposed to independently) at household chores, such as washing dishes, provides opportunity for praise and conversation. Our family has moved toward cleaning the kitchen together as a group, cleaning floors and doing laundry as a team.  For one thing, we have a bigger house, but also because children work better when they are alongside another person.
  Attentive schooling, although difficult when you have several grades, is really important.  I have learned that it is a mistake to give my older children an assignment and let them have at it (As in, "read this chemistry book this year, it will be good. Let me know when you are done.").  In doing such, a great opportunity is missed, and perhaps, some critical lessons in your child’s character are lost.  A better way is to have an older student orate what they learned in their individual study every day; listening, making note of areas to affirm, making a comment, making corrections, showing approval, and giving a “good job” hug at the end.  This approach is more relational, requires more integrity of both parent and student, and yes, takes more time.  But, the fruit of such is priceless.  My children are the only eternal things in my house (beside my husband and I), why not spend the time?  I must keep my focus where it belongs, on my children and their hearts, instead of the self gratifying obsessions that beckon us away.
You needing your children is also a crucial aspect of nurturing.  We NEED one another.  I need slave help, I need help with the baby, I need help opening plastic packages J.  I need their encouragement too, and they realize it. They actually like to be needed, most of the time J.  The dinner table is a crucial part of the day for a nurturing mom or dad.  It is a great time to enjoy God's provision of food, good cooking and each other.  Our family sings together at dinner, we each share something we are thankful for, sometimes we complement the person sitting next to us, all around the table.  We pray together, we are silly together, we talk about the day's activities, all done TOGETHER.  We believe that table time is one of God's appointed time to teach and disciple your children.  If you haven't already heard Doug Philips' sermon on the Family Table, I urge you to acquire it and listen well.
Our nurturing day is not done until we have read to, snuggled with, kissed, hugged and prayed for our children.  Not just the little ones, all of them.  It is often the time when our older children are most desirous to talk to us.  We would miss so much if we failed to take the time to tuck our children in each night.  Our day is done, and we are exhausted, but able to go to sleep with a smile on our face, knowing we have done our best as unto the Lord.
I encourage you to do your best to "over-nurture" your children and just see if i am wrong.  dedicate yourself to it for whatever time you have left before they are married or on their own.  i dare say the results could be of eternal value.


Friday, April 16, 2010

vacation

Our family is on vacation.  Only we are not sure what we are supposed to do on vacation, since we are not in the habit of doing this.  Our usual idea of vacation is to go camping, where we sit around a campfire, or fish, or body surf, or shoot things.  This time, however, we are staying in a house on Camano island, WA.  The house is a respite home for Village Missionaries.  Ours is the big house, a 3 bed, 2 ba 2 1/2 story house near the ocean.  There is a rec room with a play kitchen, perfect for Bethany, a loft above the living/dining area with a desk and tv.  The weather is beautiful today.  The younger children are riding bikes up and down the driveway, Daddy, Anna and John are getting rich playing "Cashflow," and the rest of us are just hanging out.  If we can all be well at once, (see previous post ) we plan on visiting the zoo, aquarium, and science center, as well as attend the Christian Heritage Homeschool Conference in Kirkland.  We will be here for two weeks, so there will lots of time for rest.  I am looking forward to sleeping a great deal.  However, I am still a bit perplexed about not doing anything on rest days.  Do I wear a watch?  makeup? Make all the beds everyday?  It seems quite weird not to.  In fact, there are more than a few weird things about this, like eating cold cereal for breakfast, not having chores, or following a "to do" list.  Somehow, I think I will manage. :-)

tending sick lambs

The stomach flu is making the rounds through our church body, and did not fail to visit our household.  Yours truly was affected first, which may explain the absence of recent posts.  Illness brings out the nester in me.  I do not score highly in compassion or mercy when taking a spiritual gift test, but as a mother of many, I do have reserves of both which do show up when my little lambs are sick.  I remember reading Edith Schaffer's book ,"Hidden Art" in which she describes the days of her childhood illnesses as being some of her most fond memories, because of the loving care of her mother during those times.  This had a great impact on me.  Nobody likes being sick,but everyone likes a bit of special tlc.  Family illness is a great time for the well members to take extra special care and attention to the ones who are ill.  Edith pointed out that fresh sheets, books being read aloud, extra pillows, and other simple acts of thoughtfulness are good for both the ill and the well.  I see this as being a great training occasion for our children who are well.  Therefore, although I especially enjoy tending to the ill ones, the other children can help me and learn ways to ease the discomfort of their siblings.  i must take time to praise my wonderful husband, who does most of the icky cleanup during times of illness.  he is known for having a a"cast iron stomach" which is able to deal with just about anything.  I, on the other hand, if neccessary, can cleanup, but will likely be sick myself during the process.  :-(
Sickness is a time to slow down, to think of one another, put our own agendas aside for a time, and serve each other.
Laying a towel on the couch or daybed, then a clean sheet, comfortable pillow, more towels around the floor, and a large bowl, is the usual temporary home for our sickies.  The little ones need to be close to where we are, so they usually don't stay in their beds.  Sips of water every 10 or 15 minutes keeps them hydrated even if they are spouting from both ends.
We managed to make an 8 hour trip to get to our vacation house with only one remaining sickie, who did very well in announcing her needs, so as to not make horrible messes in the van.  Today, our poor daddy is sick, our first day of vacation.  He is just glad it wasn't yesterday.  There is always something to be thankful for.