The Power of a Village… THANK YOU!!!

Let me start this blog off by saying this: by no means is my son an Olympic athlete. He started running cross-country a couple years ago as a means to stay active and be a part of a team. Last week he had his first meet of the season. Up until then, he had regular practice each day and even ran some in the summer. He also grew quite a bit over the last few months and was excited about his new “man” strength! 😊 But somehow for the first time, before the race, I saw fear in his eyes. He was so nervous and spoke of pain in his ankle and shin, and just lacked confidence. Nonetheless, as always, we were on the sidelines cheering him on expecting a successful run.

After his race, he was near tears. He was so disappointed in his performance. He was passed by some of his underclassman teammates, finished with a lower time than his previous year and placed 56th overall. He was devastated. We of course, cheered him up, encouraged him and helped him refocus his attention toward the upcoming races as best as we could.

That next week went on like a typical week. The kids went to school, practice, church, and we had our normal family time each day. Oh yeah, we also had a little Labor Day get-together at our house, but other than that, the week was normal. Hindsight, I’ve come to reflect, that our week was anything but normal.

That Sunday, our pastor preached a message about the power of the Spirit. He talked about telling your body and your mind to line up with what God says about you. That Monday during our get-together, one of his great mentors went on a run with him, while some of the other fellas sat on the porch with him and watched a couple of his favorite shows. They spoke life to him and just treated him like the awesome young man he is. On Wednesday, he went to youth Bible study, where the pastor talked about “believing”/ having faith over fear and doubt.

By Thursday of this week, it was time for another race. On the way to school we gave him the typical pep talk, prayed and encouraged him to do his best. Later that day, as he stood at the starting line with 100+ young men, we weren’t sure what to expect, but we were hoping for the best. As always, I made the 1-hour drive to be on the sidelines, while his dad got permission to leave an hour early from work to be there as well. When the gun went off to start the race, I saw a difference in him. I saw a confidence. A determination. As he fought his way to get toward the front of the pack, I was excited about how this race could go.

For the next several minutes, I watched him run through the woods, up and down the hills, and on the track with boldness. It was nearly 90 degrees outside, the terrain was steep, rugged and rough. He reflected later that on his toughest hill, we wanted to take a break and just speed walk a bit. But he remembered what he learned that week. He simply “believed.” He commanded his body and mind to line up. He listened to the cheers of his teammates and his parents. He realized that for the first time in his cross-country career, he was the lead runner of his team. It propelled him further. He gained momentum. At the last few meters of his race, I saw the fierceness in his eyes. He flew across that finish line with the fastest time he’d ever run, the highest ranking he’d ever had and the proudest he’d ever been.

He later recounted all the small things that pushed him to be great. And though I’d like to think he has an awesome team at home, I fully understand that, as parents we couldn’t possibly do this journey alone. That it is not just the training, love, wisdom, discipline he gets inside the four walls of our house, but it is the weekly Word he gets on a continual basis from our awesome pastor. It is the pep talk he gets from his loving Aunt when he sees her in the summertime, or the love he gets from his Grandmother that cares for him in our absence, or the visit from his Grandfather and Uncle, the beautiful people he sees at church that impart love and affirmation, the teammates that cheer him on from the sidelines, the ladies that served in the nursery and youth department, the teachers that encouraged him to be great, my colleague who drives 3 hours to cheer from the stands, the babysitters that cared for him with love, the positive TV shows that line up with the things we teach him at home… are all forces working hand and hand toward his success.

As parents, we are called to the beautiful yet sometimes challenging task of loving and training our children to become all God has called them to be. It is indeed a journey that lasts a lifetime, however, we also need to remember that it is a collection of the amazing people who surround them, who impart knowledge, wisdom and love that will aide in that journey as well. As graduation draws near, I am beyond grateful for the AMAZING people who have loved on our children past, present and future. I see the fruit of their seed come to life daily. I am also intentional about putting these type of people in their path from birth throughout.

If you are privileged enough to be a teacher, coach, aunt, uncle, mentor, pastor, or any position of influence over children, never doubt the power of your influence. My son still has the trophy given to him by his 2nd grade teacher. He remembers the $100 his uncle sent for his fundraiser, or the encouraging card his Godmother sends each birthday. He remembers when his mentor came to his chess meets, or when his Uncle took the time to read his comic book. You have more power than you know. Your words and acts of love STICK.

Parents, I pray you SUMERGE your children with love and encouragement inside and outside the home. Recognize that this is not a task you can do alone. That every single fabric of their life will leave some sort of imprint. May their journey be filled with people, places and things that bring hope, inspiration and love. In the meantime, thank you so much to all the amazing people all over the country, past and present who have left a beautiful imprint on my son and daughter’s life. You mean more to us than you know. You truly have made a difference in their life and ultimately are the hands and feet of God.

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Cover photo: Quotesnew.com
Text photo: Jenni Dixon

TIME DOES NOT HAVE TO FLY… A Back to School Reflection.

Ok, so both my kids are in high school!!!!! 😲😲😔 WHAATTT???!!! This blew me away!!! I mean, it seems like YESTERDAY I was nursing them and teaching them how to use the bathroom!!!! I remember waking up in the middle of the night to feed them, or getting them bundled in alllll their layers of clothing in order to weather the cold, and carrying them in their car seat and wondering “how in the world was I going to get through this????” I mean, it seemed SOOOOO hard and because they were only 19 months apart, it seemed there was no relief. Something as simple as getting ready for bed meant individual baths, and getting them dressed and keeping one entertained while the other was being attended to… it was literally EXHAUSTING!!!!

I remember some of the elders, (ie. WISE, BRILLIANT people we tend to ignore because they just don’t understand our specific situation) used to tell me, “enjoy these moments because they fly right by…” I remember WISHING they would… 😂😂lolol!!! Now that those beautiful babies have grown into amazing 14/16-year old’s right before my eyes, I’ve learned that time does indeed FLY by and I have come to appreciate allllll those tough times as fond moments in this AMAZING journey. Because I have come to value each phase of parenthood, I have also learned how to seize the moments and literally slow down the time.

How in the world can you slow down time, you say? It is actually quite simple: Make each moment count. BE PRESENT. Adjust your perspective and see the joy in that perfect place of the journey. Especially you new moms, or moms of toddlers, or moms of those goofy pre-teens, and OMG… MOMS OF TEENAGERS!!!! YIKES!!! Know that each phase brings about a new terrain. It can be tough, especially when you haven’t tread that path before. It completely sucks when they learn the word “no”, or when they THINK about talking back, driving, dating, or wanting to go on field trips, or getting a new cell phone, or starting HIGH SCHOOL!!!! OMG!!!! IT’S A LOT I KNOW!!!! Each phase brings new challenges indeed, but they are times you will never get back. Ask any empty-nester what they wouldn’t give to put that perfect part in their daughter’s hair with pigtails for the first day of school. How they wish they could sit through just ONE more basketball game. How they wish they could watch one more Disney movie together…

I remember my daughter being rushed to the hospital because her appendix ruptured. We had no idea, but it actually ruptured days before she was admitted, which put her in a critical position. Infection had spread through her body and we were in the hospital for several days. I was still working during that time. I remember actually wrestling with the idea that I had 150 final exams to grade and report cards to post while my daughter had a tube sticking out the middle of her stomach!!! 😦😦😦 It dawned on me then, that my job was taking WAAAAY too much of my attention. That it hindered me from fully focusing on the monumental moments of my children’s lives. I considered how much of my attention COULDN’T be on them, because I was trying to be excellent at my career. That was my last year of teaching. We downsized our lives, I retired from my job and am at home to fully serve my family. Now, I am by NO means suggesting anyone quit their job. For me, I HAD to, and it has made all the difference. But there is surely a way you can slow down the time in your life right now. Whatever way God leads you specifically to enjoy your journey, be sure to adhere. Realize that though we have our entire lives to indulge, chase after dreams, seek promotion, gain advanced education, get overtime hours, one thing we can’t get back is the time that passes and the events that happen throughout. Figure out how YOU can be present for your kids and get to it ASAP.

It doesn’t even have to be super deep. Being present in the moment looks like this: Attuning fully when they show you their 7,456th completed page from their coloring book, listening like you are at a concert when they ask you to hear that song they learned on the flute in band class today, sitting with them while they struggle through that English project, putting your phone down and talking to them in the car on the way to EVERY WHERE, turning off the TV and listening to them during dinner, helping them make that sign for their student council election and the like.

Parents have a tough job. We seem to constantly need relief from the weight it bears. However, if we adjust our perspective a bit and see each phase as a once in a lifetime moment on an amazing journey, we are sure to savor the time. When we purpose to enjoy each day of their childhood, we will never have to answer that horrible question, “Where did the time go?” Because we were right there in the middle of each one of those precious moments with them. Today is tomorrow’s “good old days…” so get out there and Carpe Diem!!!!

THE SLUMBER PARTY POOPER: A Quick MUST- READ for EVERY Parent…

It’s the end of summer… the kids are getting older, they want to kick it with a few friends on the weekend, or perhaps you just need some well-deserved RELIEF… Tis the season for a good old fashioned, harmless sleepover. I mean, you’ve known this family for years, or better yet, they ARE family, and your daughter has a cell phone in case of emergencies… AND you have equipped her well with “the talk!” Surely, all things will be fine right????… Not so fast.

For this blog post, I will address a subject that is near and dear to my heart. It may be difficult to receive, or even believe. But if it slows you down, or helps you consider your decisions more thoughtfully, well… mission accomplished.

As a friend, teacher, and parent I have counseled many young women who have been the victim of rape, molestation or sexual assault some time in their life. Studies show that 1 in 5 will have some experience in their lifetime. Contrary to popular belief, it is rare that a stranger off the street, will kidnap and violate his victims. But more so, it is the distant cousin, uncle, family friend, neighbor etc. at which the innocence is compromised. Too many times, it happens during the sleepovers/camps/weekend trips/family reunions, when our children are most vulnerable. When our guard is down because of the trust we have given to the people in our camp.

Here’s a typical example: You let your daughter go to her cousin’s house for the weekend. I mean, this is your sister!!! She would NEVER let anything happen to your daughter. Besides, her daughter is your daughter’s best friend. They are the same age and have grown up together. This situation seems completely harmless. However, you didn’t consider the fact that your nephew is now 16. It’s Friday, and he has a couple friends over. Maybe they aren’t perfect angels, but they are boys… they are teenagers… and… well… You get my point. Or perhaps your brother-in-law has a few guys over to play pool. They are drinking a bit, but nothing crazy. I mean, your sister is right there. TRUST ME… I get it.

But as a victim myself, I can tell you, it only takes 10 minutes to steal the innocence of a child. As a matter of fact, one touch, one look, exposure to sexual sin, can completely obliterate your child’s image of God’s holy, beautiful, sacred act forever. Furthermore, many former victims of a sexual violation/deviation, have changed their entire perception of themselves, others and their sexuality; leaving them with bouts of depression, low self-esteem, promiscuity, and a disgust for heterosexual relationships and intercourse all together.

With the level of pornographic images on TV, magazines, the Internet at an easy grab, it seems to only exploit the sexual appetite, which promotes a stronger drive for sexual deviance now more than ever. We must be super proactive in our awareness of this potential threat and let it govern our decisions regarding overnight/home-alone/babysitting experiences. I am certainly not trying to scare you. But perhaps increase your awareness to avoid potential unwanted behavior.

As a parent, here are some simple ideas to help:

  1. Of course, give your child “the talk.” No matter their age or gender, they should know that there are areas of their body that are OFF LIMITS!!! NO EXCEPTIONS!!! That if anyone were to EVER touch them there, they should get away and get help IMMEDIATELY.
  2. You should maintain an open line of safe communication where your child knows they can come to you and freely ask questions and seek advice at any time. Create this exchange by giving them your undivided attention, time and concern at will. A safe place where they can share their most sacred thoughts without judgement or penalty.
  3. Be mindful of your child’s whereabouts at all times. Not just where they are. But who else is there? Make regular check-ups to evaluate the security of this place. This includes after school practices, pick-ups and drop-offs etc.
  4. Let your presence be made known. Your child and all parties involved should know and feel your presence. Be active in calling-in, asking questions, and showing up. Even if the kids are playing in the basement, there should be a natural understanding that you are on the scene and will make an appearance in some way shape or form. Of course, you shouldn’t be “Stalker-Mom” or anything, but you must be “there” if only through a FaceTime, phone call, drop-in exchange.

There are so many great benefits to giving our children some time away from home. There are so many great social experiences to be had and memories to create. Nevertheless, we as parents must be aware of the potential threats that can bring harm to our children and act accordingly. If we are mindful of these simple steps, we can help prevent a lifetime of heartache.

WAIT!!!! Did You Just Say, “I’m Bored????” A Super Summer Schedule For Your Kids.

A Super Simple Summer Schedule For Your Kids:

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Ok. Well by now, most of your children have received their awards, cleaned out their lockers, collected signatures in their yearbooks and hugged their favorite teachers goodbye. IT IS SUMMERTIME!!!! For most kids, the greatest time of the year!!!! For most parents, you are stuck wondering what you will do with them during the next 3 months of time. Some will go to camp, others will go to daycare, summer school or some sort of “holding ground” until they move on to the next grade in the fall. That is a TON of time. And for the parents whose kids will be at home, this can be difficult to manage. As a former teacher, I can attest to how long it takes to crank up the idle minds that have laid dormant for the past 2 months. How long it takes to review important material covered just a few weeks prior in order to prepare for the new material to come. If you struggle with how to keep your super awesome kids at their awesome-ist during the 8 weeks of summer, FEAR NOT. I bring you tidings of comfort and relief!!!!

I have created a summer schedule for my own kids that they have been following for the past several years. Now that I have my chalkboards in the main area of the house, I decided to put the vision up on the wall for all to see, so we all know what is expected. Now, I will humbly share this super simple schedule with you, with hopes that it will foster ideas for you and your family.

Though, most kids are allowed to stay up late and wake up late, I find that ALLLLLL kids thrive when they have structure. They generally spend 16 of their hours awake, so, I have found this a healthy way to help them balance their time. Each day, both of my kids must complete the following:

  • 1 hour of physical activity: You must keep that body moving. Unlike the days of old, kids can be found regularly sitting down, watching TV, playing video games, laying around on their phone and the like. They need to get up!!! They need to move their bodies. When I was a kid, we would play outside until the street lights came on!!! We were playing basketball, riding bikes, climbing trees, skating, swimming ALL DAY!!! It is important that kids stay active, get up, and get their heart rate moving. Have them go on a family walk, go to the gym, ride their bikes etc… whatever the case… KEEP IT MOVING!!!!

 

  • 1 hour of academic-ish stuff: Just as important as keeping their physical muscles in shape, their brains need a daily workout as well. I like to take my kids to either the book store or library once a month. You would be surprised how much they get into reading when they are able to have their choice of what they can read. It gives them ownership over an area otherwise governed by teachers (who in their eyes pick boring books!!! Lol) They can read each day. Do a puzzle, play chess, build a robot, write a letter to Grandma, or even play on the various academic websites to help their minds stay active.

 

 

  • 1 hour of chores/help: No matter how young or old your child is; they are stake holders in your home. They live there, use resources, make messes and add wear on their space. Not because YOU need help to manage or maintain, but because as a parent you are training them for their adult life, they need to participate in the general management/care of the home. In other words, THEY NEED TO HELP!!!! Give them a general task or tasks to complete each day. Show them how you want it done and make sure you are loving and forgiving if it is not done EXACTLY how you would do it. Redirect them. Help them feel like they are an important part of the overall care of their home. Even if your child is 4, he/she can learn how to sort clothes, put toys away, etc… Do their future spouses, roommates, colleagues a favor…train them early to care for their space!

 

  • 2 hours of media/electronics/TV/video games etc…: Though electronic devices reign supreme in most kids’ lives, they need to learn how to temper their time, attention and desire for them. Just like a great tub of ice cream, without obvious health consequences, most kids would eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, if allowed. They are even more attracted and attached to their devices. Unfortunately, whether on social media, TV, YouTube or the like, if given limitless access, those sources will become the vessel that shapes and governs our kids’ ideals and beliefs. We must be actively involved in balancing their time. I know it is tough. For many parents, technology is a way to keep children out of your hair for large amounts of time. In essence, though it serves as temporary relief for you, it will produce greater challenges in the future. Put the limits on them. Your kids may not show their appreciation for limits on their media time, but they will thank you for it later.

 

  • 8-10 hours of family fun: Though it sounds that with all this structure, the kids will seem to be back in school, I promise, there will be plenty of time for meaningful activity both individually and as a family. As a mom, I use summertime as an opportunity to love on the kids, come up with creative ways to keep them involved all while building their character. This doesn’t require a ton of money, or for you to be at home fulltime, but each day, you can look for ways to include them. Examples are family walks with the dog, a trip to the mall or the movies (they have a ton of spots that offer dollar or even free summer movies.) vacation bible school, baking cookies and cupcakes, making crafts, journal writing, building, gardening etc… Whatever the case, kids know and love when their day is filled with a creative, intentional, thoughtful agenda. It trumps TV, video games ANY DAY!!!

 

  • Daily devotional/prayer: I believe prayer, meditation and time with God is an essential part of every person’s life. What better time to instill these practices into their lives than when they are children?  There are super daily devotionals for kids of all ages. The content is suitable for each age level and gives super biblical reflection and annotations for each day. There are great praise and worship collections, videos, TV shows, radio stations and even movies that can help give kids a way to connect with and help develop a relationship with God. Though I don’t like to govern that space for my kids, I certainly encourage it and make the resources available to them, while modeling time with God in my own life. Praying and studying together as a family is even more meaningful for everyone.

 

  • Dressed, washed, groomed by 10:00am: Though I can TOTALLY appreciate sleeping in, as an adult, you can attest to how much more productive you are with your day when you are up and at em’, rising and shining earlier than later. It gives kids a false sense of reality that they are able to just lay around in their bed until 2:00pm after staying up all hours of the night. It makes it very challenging to make the transition when school starts back up when they have formed these sleep patterns. Besides they can’t engage in all there is to offer in a day by sleeping it away. Up and at em’, the world awaits you!!!

So there you have it. Nothing overly complicated, but super effective. Know that your kids are looking for structure. They need to keep their creative minds and bodies moving. As parents, utilize these next couple months, not to keep them entertained, but to help develop them physically, spiritually and mentally. In turn, we will be cultivating little people that will make an impact in their world while making meaningful memories throughout. In the meantime, HAPPY SUMMER EVERYONE!!!!! 🙂