Kids With Benefits

I was talking with a friend yesterday who has children the ages of my youngest grandchildren as we talked I realized how blessed my life has been because of children. First my own, now grandchildren. As I write this, I look around and the evidence of children surrounds me. The pile of family pictures I’m choosing from to create a collage for the Annual Anderson News You’ll Never Use newsletter, a calendar open to December messy with planned family events – a movie, concert, kids program, Christmas Eve. The family room still shows signs of a well-played out Sunday afternoon – a blanket fort (mostly collapsed), Barbie houses set up neighborhood style with the wardrobe and itty bitty shoes tossed all over (just like a real life bedroom). Kids create a lot of work. Kids also create a lot of joy.

On my phone, I have stored hundreds of pictures – most of them kids and grandkids. I also have cherished text messages – “love you”. I am neither a perfect parent, nor a perfect grandparent, but should I ever question my value as a grandparent or parent, I carry the written proof around with me 18 hours out of every day. Kids provide unconditional love, are forgiving and supportive.

I pay real money for great report cards. The truth is, the report cards would be great even without the incentive, but this is my way of wrapping my arms around each child and saying “I’m so proud of you!” in a tangible way. Education is important and being able to read well is one path to guaranteed success.  The monetary bonus is miniscule in comparison to the future it represents. Kids are the future.  Whether through education or life experience it’s our responsibility as parents and grandparents to prepare kids to make wise decisions and lead knowledgeable, productive lives. I also love to go overboard just a little at Christmas and choose gifts I know will be the source of happiness for many months after the season has passed. Kids are expensive and worth every penny.Christmas 2012

I never thought much about the verses in the Bible about children.  You know the ones about children being a heritage from the Lord; and blessed are the parents who have their quiver full; and a little child shall lead them.  What I have learned though is that kids come to us packaged with the same emotional, physical, and spiritual needs that we, as adults have. They need encouragement, love, acceptance, and they need physical comforts – and a few extravagances too.  Whether you have your own children or not, there is a child in your life who needs you. You might be an aunt, an uncle, a distant cousin, a childless neighbor – your experience with kids might be just what you watch out your window or listen in on parents talking at work. Maybe you don’t even like kids.  I’m not sure how that happens, since you were once a kid yourself. But let’s get beyond that.

This is the Christmas season. Take the opportunity to participate in the life and encouragement of a child. Here are some ways – please pick one and be a star in the life of a child. Local area toy donations, say ‘yes’ to one charity fund raiser, Salvation Army Red Kettle donation sites, Angel Tree, Toys for Tots, Goodwill, in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area there is Kids Food Basket, Mel Trotter Mission, In The Image, and many others.

See kids for who they are – young people, just like you, only updated to today’s version. We’re all used to updated versions of everything else, aren’t we?

Today I am thankful for smiles

I’m taking a few days away from social media to spend time with my family. Well …. let me rephrase that. I am only on social media when there are no family members present. As they sleep, I use these moments with friends. I see you lighting up the day over there where you are. Keep shining – everyone you meet will see the glow from within.

A few weeks ago while attending a small event I smiled when being introduced to a man I’d never met. He thanked me for smiling. What?!?! My face must have looked perplexed because he quickly explained that he’s constantly on the go and meets people every day. It’s rare that anyone smiles when he greets them. That made me think. Do I smile when I see people?20141125_121650-1

I think my grandma told me when I was 6 or 7 years old that smiles are free and if you see someone without a smile, share yours. I’ve had a lot of years (a LOT of years) to practice what I learned way back then.

Proverbs 15:13 in the Message it says “A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day.” Yes, I noticed how this says it takes a cheerful heart to smile and we might not feel all that cheerful. In fact we might identify more with the second part of the verse. We might be sad.

We can fix that in two steps.

1) Change our thoughts – Philippians 4:8 “Keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise.” Clear your mind of anything negative. If a negative thought return – 5 second rule – Let no negative thought contaminate your mind for longer than 5 seconds — just don’t! Change your thoughts, transform your mindset.

2) Do something for someone else. Psalm 112:4 gives us a hint of how we can affect someone else’s life by being kind. “They will be so kind and merciful and good, that they will be a light in the dark for others who do the right thing.” Keep it simple. Remember smiles are free and acts of kindness can be too. It’s when the room is darkest that the tiniest light illuminates.

November 28: Today I am thankful for smiles.Christmas 2012

Today I am thankful for the gift of time

I know. We hear all these trite clichés about time, don’t we? “You have all the time in the world.” or “Time is fleeting.” or “Take your time.” or “On your death bed you will never wish you’d spent more time at the office.” Benjamin Franklin said “Lost time is never found again.” What do we believe about time? Do we really believe that time is a non-renewable resource? There are 86,400 seconds in a day. I find it curious that I remember that fact, when I’ve forgotten so many others that are more important, but when I learned it, it stuck. Attending to that 86,400 seconds reinforced the importance of using our time wisely so our projects wouldn’t overrun their allotted time. We all have the same amount of time every day, 86,400 seconds.

I’m not a time management expert. The truth is, I don’t even believe we manage time. We manage the activities that use up our time. These months, November through January, are busy; days are full and those 86,400 seconds are fleeting, and in the famous words of Dr. Seuss, we wonder “How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” Maybe I’m the only one who wants more out of life than a continuous string of things to do and the satisfaction of crossing them off the list. I want the story of my life to be more than checkmarks next to completed tasks. I don’t have it mastered, and I certainly don’t have it all together, but my life is a continuous thread until the spool is empty and God says to me, “Remember those seconds you were given? Well, they’re over now. You’re coming with me.” Until then, I still have time to work on life and you do too.

I choose to bookend my days with spiritual strength and commitment to finding joy in situations. We have to go in search of joy because it won’t come find us. Begin every morning with thanks to God for this new day, opportunities to breathe, and the gift of more time. Getting started with a new habit is tough so maybe Psalm 119 will help in forming this bookend to your day. Verses 17-18 “Be good to your servant while I live, that I may obey your word. Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”

I’m a very visual learner and an obsessive list maker; in fact, even my lists have lists. I have memory issues and find it necessary to write everything out so it’s where I can be reminded of things I must do and things I want to do. Am I spending my time – using it up? Or am I investing my time – creating something useful or growing memories? You don’t need to be a list maker to divide your time into slices of meaningful events and useful activities.

Make a conscious effort to include things that feed your imagination and create heartwarming experiences. These stories of our days are filling up the times of our lives. What do we want to be recorded? How do we want them to turn out? I read a book by Barbara Bush a few years ago. It was full of heartwarming experiences. In it she said, “At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.” What are some simple investments you can include in your day that will add joy, encouragement and significance to your life stories?

The final bookend to each day – end with thanks to God for your seconds and for the gift of this day. Psalm 34:1 is a good reminder. “I will praise the Lord at all times; my mouth will continually praise him.“

This morning, I got up early, much earlier than normal – and I did it on purpose. If the story of my day is going to be transcribed the way I want it to be, I have to be attentive and have the investment mindset. I’m a guest in the home of relatives for the next several days. As you can imagine, there will be a lot of family time and holiday spirit. This is a challenge to make the main thing, the main thing. How will I invest my time?

November 25: Today I am thankful for the gift of time.

And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

Today I am thankful for snow

I’ve been posting only on my Facebook page, but … today — well, today I am thankful for snow.

Today I am thankful for snow.

Before you remind me of the hazards and treachery of snow covered roads, let’s talk about why snow is something to be thankful for.

Snow is natural beauty decor. In spring, summer, and fall, we have green, pink, red, violet, orange, rust, and magenta. In winter, with the absence of vibrant color, we need the sparkling, crystal, shimmering blanket of snow. Snow is not a freak of nature, it’s an act of God. In Job 37: 5-6 “God thunders with his voice in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. For to the snow he says, ‘Fall to earth’”. Kim Boonstras field of snow

Think of a “blanket of snow” being like insulation in your house. The ground stays warmer because the cold air can’t get to it. This means your garden is protected, and the animals that live outside don’t have to run heat tape through their burrows. Psalm 147: 16 “He sends the snow that is white like wool; he spreads the frost that is white like ashes.” Snow keeps the ground from freezing so hard that plants and trees can’t extract enough moisture from the soil to survive the winter. Obviously snow melts and waters plants and supplies water back to the ground, rivers, lakes, and ponds.

Snow is pristine when it falls from the sky to Earth. On the ground, the more of it there is, the longer it takes to be contaminated by the dirt and grime of the environment. I wonder if this is one of the reasons God used snow in Psalm 51:7 to illustrate having a spirit, clean before the Lord. “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” We can clear the slate with God, we can confess to Him and ask forgiveness for our sin and we are cleaned up and white like snow. But then we walk in the environment of real life and get messy again. See how that works? Like the ground needs new snow for protection, to quench thirst, and for magnificent beauty, we need to be spiritually purified through confession, replenished and renewed.

November 22: Today I am thankful for snow.

Romans 10:9-10 “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

Photo credit:  Kim Boonstra

My Mother, My Mentor – Pamela F. Lenehan

I believe all mothers are mentors. Whether they see themselves that way, whether they work at a job they get paid for or whether they stay home and work without a paycheck, every mom sends a message to her children; she is always teaching.

In her book, the author blends in-depth research of other families and her own personal experiences, to pull together data that seeks to answer the question, “Does being a working mom have an impact on my children?” The answer is, “Of course.” Was it negative or positive? This book doesn’t say kids turn out better or worse if their moms work outside the home. What this book does is brings out the role of moms as mentors and brings in every aspect of mothering I could think of. There are a number of charts and graphs used to illustrate findings of interviews and surveys from mothers, sons, and daughters, but that’s all I’m going to say about the collected data. This book was a lot more interesting than the numbers as you will see when reading this book review.  http://bizcatalyst360.com/my-mother-my-mentor-what-grown-children-of-working-mothers-want-you-to-know/

To get the full story you really need to read the book.

 

Today and Every Day

miliatrt wallToday is November 11th, the day all across America we celebrate Veterans Day. In case you’re curious here’s the canned definition of how it came to be: “Veterans Day was originally established to honor Americans who had served in World War I. The national holiday is celebrated on November 11, the anniversary of the day World War I ended in 1918. Today Veterans Day honors veterans of all wars for their patriotism and willingness to serve in the military and sacrifice for our country.”  This article From the Denver Post fully describes the unfolding of what started out as Armistice Day and has become Veterans Day.

I’m not overly sentimental, but there are times when my heart empties itself and I am overcome with emotion.  Maybe some of these have the same affect on you. Hearing the Star Spangled Banner, watching parades where veterans lead standing tall as they march, the car with Gold Star moms whose hearts were broken at the loss of a child who died while serving our country, listening to active duty men and women talk proudly of why they serve, hearing Taps played at the end of a military ceremony, reading quotes by military leaders who understand the sacrifices behind the words “freedom is not free”.

I sometimes think we romanticize the military, seeing it as all Dress Blues, clean CamoWear, and emotionless facial expressions. Right? It’s not like that. Being in the military means separation from family and friends, not for a few days but for many long months. Say good bye to sleeping in and lounging around in your jammies while watching cartoons or reruns of Seinfeld. Forget the freedom to jump in the car and go shopping or to the movies on a whim. That soft, comfy bed you sleep in at night? None will be found in the military.  The fluid schedule we love as civilians is traded for a stiffly regimented agenda. Most of all, for those who serve in any one of the five branches of the military, they have to be ready to detach from the familiar and go places where safety is non-existent and security evaporates with the ravages of a war that’s real.  That paragraph is a minimalist description and doesn’t come close to defining what it really means to serve in the military.

Today and everyday – be thankful for men and women willing to give up years of their life to assure the freedom of our country. If you know someone in the military, personally thank them for what they are doing for all who live in the United States. It’s never too late to write a card or email and send it to someone who craves the familiar of home but is immersed in the foreign.  Support is more than standing up for a parade or holding your breath through the stanzas of God Bless America. The next time we are at a ceremony where they pay tribute to each branch of the service, let’s stand and promise to honor, respect, and support our active duty service women and men. Then let’s find tangible ways to do that. If you need ideas, put a comment in the space provided and I will reply with a source to get you started.

The song for today Proud to be an American – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVhnaVAQeTo

I Hope You’ll Be One of the Many to Read “One of the Few”

Thanks to Kathryn Armstrong for writing this book review of One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview. I loved her review and wanted to share it with my readers. As I read the book myself, I was so impressed with the way Jason was able to weave his experiences as a Marine into his story of becoming a Christian and growing in his faith.

I hope you click over to Barnes & Noble (bn.com) or Amazon.com to get your own copy of the book. If you’re into audio, notice the offer to get the audio version free just by subscribing to Jason’s blog before December 31, 2015.

Summer Setting

Jason B. Ladd“There are many ways to die. There’s only one way to really live.” Jason B. Ladd is one of the few who grew up as the son of a marine and became a marine. In fact, Jason is one of the few marines who not only became a fighter pilot but an instructor pilot for both the F/A-18 and F-16. Still, that’s not the most courageous thing he’s ever done. One of the FewOne of the Few is a great read worth every minute you invest…not only in learning about how our military operates, but in pondering the core issues of life. It’s the fascinating, fast-paced autobiography of a young fighter pilot who recounts his life journey (so far) on both the physical and spiritual planes, including a look into the womb of darkness wherein a new spirit was conceived, dedicated, and brought to birth by God our Father. Jason writes with rare…

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