Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Best Friends Forever?

I always wonder about the people who remain "best friends forever," the ones who made promises to their friends in high school that they would always be there for each other, get together even after marriage and kids and basically be more faithful to their friendship than to anything else. But life is so full of change and growth and discovery that it would be very hard for anyone to truly remain best friends for decades unless either they both have the same calling on their life, or they choose to keep their lives as stagnant as possible.  Am I wrong in thinking this?

Life is so full of choices, and for those of us who believe in God, the one constant choice before us is always:  go with what's comfortable, or use your faith in a radical way?  Compromise or sacrifice?  You can begin with a group of friends, solid, caring friends who all believe in God just as you do.  In time each one makes small choices, slightly different from the others and before long you are heading in different directions.  What one has faith to do, the others don't and vice versa.  Each one has to be sure of her own choices and not allow the others to hold her back, that's the way it should be.

Mrs. Ross had a girls prayer group meeting in her home every Wednesday after school.  Her house was right next to our football field and we all looked forward to prayer-meeting day to sing and pray and talk about God with her.  She was an amazing and caring woman with a real heart to reach out to us young, 12 and 13 year old wiggly, giggly, slightly goofy girls.  My first experience with God, the first prayer I made of true surrender to Jesus as my Lord came about because of that group, and I know the path of my future was already marked because of Mrs. Ross' influence.

But as precious as that time was, each of us has grown and changed and taken different directions, though I'm certain, each of us loves God still.  Even the friends I have right now may not be on the same path as me in the years ahead, but what matters is, am I making the right choices for God right now?  Am I doing His bidding or concerned about the crowd?  Letting friends go can be sad, but nothing is worth letting go of God's leading.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Leadership Tips for Mothers

We're back again to topics on parenthood, for all you moms, moms-to-be, teachers and anyone else who needs a little help in getting the little ones to grow up well, here are a few worthwhile bits of advice.  Let me know what areas you'd like to read about.  I may not be an expert, but I've actually done all that I write about, so they're tried and true nuggets of wisdom - well, at least nuggets of common sense!

Dad is the head of the household, no doubt about that.  But because of work responsibilities and time at home, it’s normally mom who takes direct control of the day-to-day decisions when it comes to raising the children.  It’s a great honor to be entrusted with the molding and shaping of your little one’s lives, but at times it requires a will of steel to keep everyone in line.  Being a good leader does not always come naturally, and a few basic pointers can be very helpful for those wise enough to put them into practice.  Here are five of them that you can use right away:

1. Be the visionary – Promote a vision, a direction that you want your home to take and that the children can follow behind.  Do you want your home to be one where God’s Spirit and character are emulated?  That has to be a part of the basis for all you decide to do and make it clear that is the motivation for your decisions.  Getting a good education, doing well on even the smallest jobs, helping with the household chores and showing consideration to others all need to stem from this greater vision of your home.  You are the source of that vision, and if you stray from it, the kids will lose focus and motivation.

2. Be involved – For some mothers, this seems obvious, but sadly others don’t see the need.  Your children’s school and activities don’t exist merely for you to escape from the stress of child-raising, they all play a part in the shaping of your child’s values and character.  You need to be a part of their lives, see who it is they are befriending, know who it is that is influencing them, observe whether they are learning subtle lessons that you don’t approve of, and know about their successes.  Every child feels secure and proud to have mom on the sidelines cheering them on, and will be able to handle any corrections you give because they know that your actions already show how much you care.

3. Keep the Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Show this by your own example as you show kindness to your husband and children and everyone else you come in contact with.  Enforce it as a rule that is even punishable.  Rudeness and selfishness cannot be tolerated.

4. Criticize wisely – Parents who just fly off the handle and yell out of emotion often find that their kids just tune them out the bigger they get.  The pushier you are, the less they listen.  Think carefully of a rational and clear argument to present when disciplining your child.  You can be angry, but be logical and reasonable at the same time.  Most likely they will already know that they are wrong, and will have a harder time arguing back when you have solid facts that speak for themselves.

5. Be quick with encouragement and praise - Acknowledging even small accomplishments can do wonders for a child’s self-esteem and desire to do even better.  Don’t laugh at the mistakes they made while trying their best to do well (the painting of Daddy with six fingers…you know what I mean!)  Remember that every child longs for the approval of his or her parents, and loving praise given will be returned to you with a solid bond of trust.  

Monday, October 5, 2009

Etiquette and the American Teenager - Not a Pretty Picture

I had so much fun reading through my mother's old book of etiquette by the grande dame of good manners, Emily Post.  So many antiquated rules of behavior, like how to hold balls and dances, the duties of debutantes, proper table settings for teas and luncheons, are a lovely reminder of how refined we once were in some respects as a society years ago.  I found her first book online, originally printed in 1922, and had to laugh when I read this from her chapter on conversation:

"IDEAL conversation should be a matter of equal give and take, but too often it is all “take.” The voluble talker—or chatterer—rides his own hobby straight through the hours without giving anyone else, who might also like to say something, a chance to do other than exhaustedly await the turn that never comes...
No conversation is possible between others whose ears are within reach of his ponderous voice; anecdotes, long-winded stories, dramatic and pathetic, stock his repertoire; but worst of all are his humorous yarns at which he laughs uproariously though every one else grows solemn and more solemn.  
There is a simple rule, by which if one is a voluble chatterer (to be a good talker necessitates a good mind) one can at least refrain from being a pest or a bore. And the rule is merely, to stop and think."

There's no doubt that what was considered good conversation in 1922 would be quaint and funny to us today, but the basic principle of showing consideration to those listening to you, and choosing topics interesting to others, seems to be less than common among many young girls and women I  know.

Knowing how to converse with people of other ages and backgrounds, of different educations and professions should be a skill that continues, especially among Christians who carry the command to spread the Good News of the Kingdom of God.  Communicating and reaching out through words is essential!  But if I pick out a random sampling of young people in church under 25, nine out of ten will not know how to look me in the eye and say a simple "good morning" with a smile.  I know - I've tried.  Asking a simple question about what they think of the latest movie will at best get you a, "I dunno, I liked it I guess," while staring at the wall and fidgeting.  Makes you want to slap somebody, but then of course you don't because Emily Post would not approve,

Which makes me think its time to bring back the old finishing schools of the past that taught manners and polite behavior - Victorian England here we come!  Not that I feel that the world needs more debutantes and tea parties, but a fear that perhaps some Darwinian laws are actually coming into effect and the American teenager is devolving back into primordial slime...

For those young women whom I personally know (yes, you do come under the 9 out of 10 example), send me your feedback.  What would you think of some classes in communicating skills?  I eagerly await your response!