3 Things I Want My Kids to Know About Love

3 Things I Want My Kids to Know About Love

February is the month for l’amour, as the French would say.

We send cards both serious and sappy, we eat chocolates and strawberries, and decorate hearts to give to those we love. For many, Valentine’s Day is just another day for Hallmark to make its millions, for others it is an opportunity to show love and affection to those who matter most to us.

Our family loves Valentine’s Day.Our motto is, “The gaudier the better,” and I certainly don’t mind another excuse to go on a date with my man. But Valentine’s Day also promotes the concept of love, and gives us a wonderful opportunity to teach our kids (and remind ourselves) a few things about true love.

Most importantly when we talk about love we must begin with God because true love comes from God.

Three Things I Want My Kids to Know About Love

3 Things I Want Our Kids to Know About Love

1. True Love Comes From God

As much as I love romantic movies where everything is tied up in a pretty little bow at the end, it does not portray what true love really is. And while my kids enjoy fairy tales they need to know that those stories are simply that, stories.  

If we want a picture of true love we need our children to look to God.

In Him they will see love perfectly displayed. God is so very patient with us despite our sins, he is kind and encouraging in the midst of our failures and doubts, and he comforts us when we are hurting or fearful. Ultimately, it is his love that moved him to save us (Eph. 2:4-5).  

Christ died not in order to make God love us, but because He did love His people. Calvary is the supreme demonstration of Divine love. Whenever you are tempted to doubt the love of God, Christian reader, go back to Calvary.
-A.W. Pink

The reason we look to God for a true picture of love is because God does not simply show love, He is love. (1Jn. 4:16). It is a part of His nature and he cannot go against His nature.

2. True Love is self-sacrificing

Love is not just some fuzzy emotion that makes you feel all warm and gooey, as many Jr. High and High School TV shows seem to indicate.

True love is action and this action is done, not in order to get, but in order to give. True love exists on the opposite pole of selfishness. It is putting someone before yourself. It is giving up something so someone else can have it instead. It is sharing because you know the joy it will bring the other person.  It is sacrificing time in order to spend it with someone who is hurting.  

All of this is done without expecting something in return. True love does not need a “Thank You” card.

We see the craziest and best kind of self sacrifice in Christ laying down his life for us so we could be saved. It doesn’t get any more selfless than that. (Romans 5:8)

You can always give without loving, but you can never love without giving.
– Amy Carmichael

3. True Love is hard

Loving others is not for the faint of heart. Siblings can be annoying and self-centered, and  friends can be thoughtless and mean at times. To be loving in the midst of unkindness, inconsideration, or selfishness is hard. It’s hard because we are all these things as well. We are not the picture of perfection and so our sin gets in the way of loving others.

But showing love to others is also hard because it requires much of us. It requires that we do not retaliate, that we exercise self control, that we forgive and that we repay evil with good (1 Peter 3:9).

When we consider this kind of love, it is overwhelming.

In fact, this kind of love is impossible apart from Christ. We can only begin to understand love and love others when we first trust in God’s love for sinners. Only then can we love God, and only then can we love others who are just like us.

This is what I want my children to understand about true love.

Blessings,
Jen

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Proverbs 31:25,26

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Ten Lovely Things I Tell My Girls About Beauty

Ten Lovely Things I Tell My Girls About Beauty

I’m surprised that I couldn’t find anything on beauty.

That was her comment to me when we drove into town the other day.

My daughter, Vienna, kept her eyes on the road while she was driving, as I sat in the passenger seat looking out at the fresh snowfall that covered the countryside.

I wasn’t sure exactly where it was that she couldn’t find “beauty”, so I asked her to explain.

Well, I couldn’t find an article addressing beauty on your blog and it just surprised me, that’s all. You’ve talked with us about it ever since we were little girls . . . .

And she was right.

I am rather passionate about the topic of beauty. And I’ve often discussed it with the girls.

What beauty is. And what it is not.

Now just to clarify, the beauty Vienna was referring to was primarily physical beauty and the role it plays in a young woman’s life.

And we talked about it because I wanted our daughters to be aware of beauty . . . to feel beautiful . . . but not to get lost in the chase. Searching for some elusive, deceptive image out there. Seeking a kind of “pretty” that doesn’t exist outside of photoshop or plastic surgery.

Such an empty waste of time, energy, and gifts.

A potential trap, really, for all of us girls.

So I wanted – still want – our daughters to be free from such things. I hope that they will be happy with the way God made them and be content with their appearance.

And to know what it is to be truly beautiful—just the way you are.

(Below: our 4 daughters and my beautiful mother-in-law)

Savoury 2015

Vienna Jacobson in 2015

Our Girls with Avonlea

Pat Jacobson

10 Lovely Things I Tell My Daughters About Beauty

1.  Beauty can be seen in a genuine smile.

If there’s one real “beauty secret”, it’s a bright smile. Lights up your entire face and makes everyone near you feel special.  Maybe they can’t quite put their finger on it, but they’ll remember you as beautiful.

2.  Beauty is far more about loveliness than it is sexiness.

I suppose sexy has always been “in” – but now more than ever. It’s flaunted literally everywhere: posted all over the internet, splattered across magazines, and exposed in movies. But I suggest you save “sexy” for your husband and enjoy being simply lovely for everyone else.

3.  Beauty is cultivated with only a bit of care.

Look after yourself. Dress in clothes and colors that compliment you. Eat well. Get fit. Invest a little in your appearance – just don’t let it overly dominate your thoughts or budget.

4.  Beauty doesn’t draw attention to herself.

Your goal shouldn’t be to catch the eye of everyone else when you walk into a room. A sweet spirit and a warm heart have a longer-lasting impact – much more than high-fashion or pouty lips – on the people around you.

5.  Beauty is bringing out the best of you.

Maximize your favorite features—those qualities that are distinctive to you. The color of your eyes. The wave in your hair. These are your true “beauty spots”, so make the most of them!

6.  Beauty is not a standard set by celebrities or movie-stars.

The fame and good-looks of celebrities come and go, but God-given beauty is unchanging. Don’t look to Hollywood for your defintion of beautiful. Beauty existed long before the invention of cameras or film.

7.  Beauty is less body-conscious and more soul-aware.

The culture’s emphasis on the “perfect” body is incredibly deceptive. A beautiful woman is so much more than her outward curves. So much more. 

8.  Beauty based on youth fades, but true beauty stays until the end of your days.

Youth is fleeting, so don’t bank on being “forever young”. Take a long-term view of how you want to live and how you want to be remembered—aim for a beautiful life.

9.  Beauty embraces her imperfections.

Slim. Curvy. Crooked smile. Freckles. Big nose. Small nose. Short. Tall. We are all so keenly aware of what we consider to be our “imperfections.” But self-confidence is ten times more attractive than self-consciousness, so let go of those silly little things. They mean way less than you might think they do.

10. Beauty is about making the most of the very unique you.

And so that’s why there’s no need to compare yourself to others or try to look like everyone else. You are lovely because you are a gift from God.

So smile, my dear, because you are truly beautiful!

You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. ~ Song of Solomon 4:7

In His grace,

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{See also: I Peter 3:3-4; Proverbs 31:30; I Samuel 16:7}

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*Photo credits: Photos of Savoury and Vienna by Allison Harp Photography and the last two by Brenda Jacobson.

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Proverbs 31:25,26

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Handle-With-Care: Instructions For the Parent of A Challenging Child

Handle With Care - Instructions for The Parent of a Challenging Child
I get the shudders just thinking about it.

Even still after all these years.

How at only 8 years old, she would sit on our neighbors’ fence. Wait for their horses to come galloping by so she could make the jump. How she would ride bareback through their pasture and how the neighbors never even knew about it.

And neither did I.

Not until later when she confessed.

Oh, child of mine.  What am I supposed to do with you? 

Savoury-135

Except she’s no longer a child anymore.

She’s all of 20 and quite grown up.

She’s a lovely, caring person. A dreamer and a writer. Talented and smart.

But how could I have known all that back then?

Back when she was a screamer. A fighter. An unpredictable phenomenon.

I kid you not.

She was a challenge. What some might call “a handful.” A high-maintenance child.

And she was mine.

She’s the one who would fall off her chair in the middle of the room. Plop! Onto the floor. For no apparent reason. She’s the one I’d say, “Focus, Savoury. Focus!” numerous times every day.

Her happy place was sitting deep in a mud puddle. I would look out in the backyard and feel that twinge of guilt. “You really should call her in,” I’d say to myself.  But I’ll confess that I didn’t want to. She was safe. And better yet, she was surprisingly content there.

And it gave me a break.

I used to ask God about her. Mostly wondering what He could possibly have been thinking to make me her mom? And ask Him why she didn’t come with set of instructions? A guidebook of some kind?

Why would He give this no-rules, all-heart, free-spirit child . . . to a structured, organized, pull-it-together mom such as me?

I loved her, of course. But at times I struggled to like her, if you know what I mean. I had to pray about that one. Plead with God to help me understand her. To accept her. To truly enjoy her.

But just so you know? I do like her now. Like her and love her. A lot.

She’s one of my very best friends. 

Something I couldn’t have known when she was sitting there happily splashing in the mud puddle. Spontaneously falling off her chair. Or freely riding bareback around the neighbors’ property.

How could I have known back then?

Avonlea at Hospital

Coming Home

This is also the same girl I called last week to say that her young special-needs sister was going into emergency surgery. Just to update her so she could pray.

But that wasn’t good enough for her.

She told me, “Mom, I’m going to get someone to cover my shift at work and I’m coming home.”

I tried to protest, “Oh, I don’t want you to jeopardize your job, Honey.”

But she ran right over the top of me (see? a wonderful quality at times). “I can always get another job. I’m coming home because you’re going to need help.”

And it turned out that she was right. We did need help and she was there for us.

She sat in the hospital room with her sister for hours. Even when we brought her home, Savoury slept on the lumpy couch that night, so she could be right there in case her sister woke up and needed something.

These are all things that you don’t realize when you’re a mom and your kid is happiest sitting in a mud puddle. And you wonder if she’s ever going to get along in the “real world” or if she will ever learn to stay in a chair.

So if you’re a parent of a challenging child, I thought I’d pass along a few things I wish someone would have told me. A simple set of instructions for you and for that child. 

Our daughter Savoury

Handle-With-Care Instructions For the Challenging Child

Accept your child for how God made him/her.

Don’t try to change your child. Sure, guide them and instruct them. Secretly scratch your head over them, but embrace their quirky, out-of-the-mold selves. Don’t express disappointment or disapproval. Instead, point out the positives and look for bright points. Believe me, there are lots of them!

Gently help your child to learn to function in the “real world.”

Gently. Your child might need some help in the social graces or relationship skills or even the simple basics of doing what needs to be done. So a loving parent will patiently teach those things – possibly stuff that comes more “naturally” to other children. Just don’t squeeze them so hard to try and make them “fit in.”

Determine to laugh more than you cry.

Quite honestly? I wasted tears over this child. Now that we have a younger son who has some similar characteristics, I mostly laugh and hug him a lot. I’m excited to see how his strong personality traits will play out as he grows older—convinced that he’s going to do something really wonderful some day!

Never give up on your child.

I recently asked our dear girl what was the hardest thing when she was a child? She said it was when I threw up my hands over her. When I said things like, “I give up” or other such expressions of despair. And it nearly broke my heart to hear it.

I was so focused on my own frustration that I didn’t realize the impact it would have on her own young life.

So if you have a challenging child? 

Make sure you communicate how thrilled you are with your child. They need to know that you believe in them and have confidence in the plans God has for them. And they need to hear it more from you than from anyone else.

Remember to handle their hearts with care. 

In His grace,

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Help for the Exhausted Mom with Young Children

Help For The Exhausted Mom Of Young ChildrenAre you a mother of young children?

If so you are probably feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and frustrated. Perhaps even stuck in a rut and a little depressed? You wonder,

Does anyone else feel like I do? Am I normal?

The answer is “yes” and “yes!” I remember those same feelings.

Because we had five kids in seven years including a set of twins, I operated in a state of chronic exhaustion. Not one of our children was a sleeper and when we counted we realized that we went approximately 10 years without sleeping through the night on a regular basis.

In my exhausted state it helped me to recognize that there can be 2 kinds of fatigue- depressive fatigue and euphoric fatigue.

 Depressive fatigue occurs from the routine caring of little children day in and day out. We get them dressed, fed, the house picked up and then it’s all undone by the end of the day. Perhaps your husband comes home at the end of the day and says,

“Hi Honey, what did you get done today?”

With a glazed-over look you simply respond, “I just got through it.”

Your husband on the other hand may be exhausted. He’s been working around the clock to finish a project, to meet a deadline. Now it’s finally finished and he’s exhausted.

Yet with his exhaustion comes a sense of euphoria. He has something to show for his exhaustion whereas a Mom doesn’t have anything immediate to show but survival!

It helped me to recognize the differences in these 2 kinds of fatigue and to talk them over with my husband. It enabled him to understand why I sometimes felt “blue” in my state of exhaustion.

Eating healthy also helped my depleted state. Too often I simply ate the remains of the kids’ PB&J sandwiches. I needed to be more intentional in developing good eating habits, especially snacking on protein.

Exercise also made a big difference. Many times I’d hire a neighborhood teen to watch my kids for a half hour in the late afternoon so I could simply go for a run. I never wanted to do it and I remember on several occasions going in tears. But that half hour gave me the boost I would need to get through the dinner, bed and bath routine looming ahead.

Finishing one small project like cleaning out one cabinet, one closet, etc. can also help turn depressive fatigue into euphoric fatigue.

The good news is this depressive exhaustion doesn’t last forever! The kids do grow up.

Blessings,

Susan Alexander Yates

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How to Be A Happy, Romantic Empty Nester

How to Be A Happy Romantic Empty Nester

This is me, reporting live from the other side of taking our baby to college three months ago. Now everyone approaches me gingerly and asks quietly, “So, how are you and Matt doing? Are you okay?”

At first I felt guilt for my cheerful, “We’re doing great!” response, but now I’m starting to explain to people why.

Why are we happy, after both kids have left home? (I did not say BECAUSE they have left home.)

It started a few years ago.

I want you to stop and think about that. A few years ago Matt and I started looking ahead to our kids leaving home. We started talking about it and planning for it.

“We have to get good at this,” he said to me. “We have to practice enjoying each other now, so that we don’t end up as devastated, lost parents who have no idea how to have a relationship with each other when the kids are gone.”

That was the most fun practice ever.

We started dating in earnest, and he practiced flirting with me even more than usual –just like in the old days when it was me and him sharing a pizza over a Saturday night Star Trek episode.

And I started flirting back.

Kids? What kids?

Eyes met across the room. Wink, wink.

It started to come back to us –how much fun we had when we were dating and in those early years of marriage, before the first positive pregnancy test changed everything. We really liked each other –enough to get married!

Something else we did before the kids left was to find great meaning in our labor for the kingdom of God.

We fell more in love with the church family we were ministering to. Matt grew in sharing the good news of Christ in his sermons. I grew in sharing the good news through blogging.

I got a job teaching Spanish to high school students in a Christian school, and I decided I could spend the next 20 years (Lord willing) investing my life in these teenagers, now that my own were out of the house.

When we dropped off our baby at college (with a big gulp of tears, I have to admit), we came home to do meaningful work.

We do love and miss our kids terribly. My daughter and her husband just came home from college, for the Thanksgiving holidays, and I could not stop hugging her. And oh how I miss my son’s size 11 shoes cluttering up my kitchen floor. I cannot wait to greet him at the airport next month, even though he flies in at midnight. My plan is to shamelessly kiss his cheeks right out of the gate.

We miss our kids, but we have a life.

We have practiced a romantic, thriving marriage relationship, and we have centered our joy around loving and serving the Lord with all of our strength.

So if you’re a year or two away from having an empty nest, NOW is the time to start working toward your own happy next stage of life.

Time to start flirting more with that man of yours. Remember how you used to look at him, as if he were the only one in the world? Practice that.

And time to start spending long hours with the Lord every day. Make Him the center of your life. Ask Him how He would like you to serve his kingdom, as you enter this next season.

Don’t let the empty nest sneak up on you. Plan to be happy!

Blessings,

Christy Fitzwater

Christy Fitzwater and Family

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How to Build A Sweet Home Life {In A Most Surprising and Simple Way}

How to Build A Sweet Home Life - In A Most Surprising and Simple Way

*Every year I receive numerous requests to share our “Sweet Home” experience. So here it is. The following is a true story….. 

That’s one memory I’ll never forget.

That’s how the conversation began.

“I’ll always remember that sugar-cube castle,” our teenage daughter told me.

My mind did a quick shuffle, sorting through thousands of files, until the right image came up.

Oh, yes. I remember now.

But why? Why did that particular memory stand out so?

The children were young – six of them under the age of nine years. The youngest babies weren’t too much trouble, but the “older” ones were giving me grief.

They had picked up the very bad habit of picking at each other.

A little snide remark here and a slight put-down there.

It was a very destructive habit and I knew it.

How to Build a Sweet Home Life

The Sugar-Cube Castle

So one night as I lay there crying out to the Lord for wisdom, this idea came to me.

It wasn’t one that I’d read about in a book or article; it just popped into my head out of nowhere.

The nearest thing to a vision.

And in this dream, I pictured a little house made all out of sugar cubes.  It was beautiful and sweet, made with the hands of my own dear young children.

Along with the picture came this particular verse:

The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands (Proverbs 14:1).

With that a plan was set in motion . . . .

The very next day I announced enthusiastically that we were going  do a craft together. What great  fun!

So all that morning we built a lovely home made out of nothing but sugar cubes and frosted mortar.

We were like sugarplum fairies in a storybook.

And, oh, when it was done – such a charming sight to see!

As we worked, I shared with the children that we were like the wise woman who builds up her home, adding a caution that we should be careful not to tear it down. To this they happily agreed and we all drifted into the kitchen to fix some lunch.

But good intentions are not always enough to overcome bad habits.

And, sure enough, the little tearing-down remarks soon started up.

I didn’t say anything this time, however, but merely walked over to our Sweet Home and carefully . . . deliberately . . . pulled one of the cubes out of its special place.

A dark, gaping hole was left staring its ugliness at us all.

A horrified gasp! 

Once again, I gently explained that every time one of us “tears” at each other, we are essentially tearing down our house. The reverse is true as well: each time we lift each other up, we are building it up.

So if that “hole” in the wall bothered them—and believe me, it did enormously!—it would help them remember what they were essentially doing to our own home. 

That if they wanted to build up, to create and to make beautiful, they would need to say something kind and uplifting instead.

After that, I rarely said a word. I would either quietly remove – or add – blocks as was necessary.

I can’t say how long this went on—maybe a few weeks? But this picture did more for them than all my lectures and corrections seemed to have done in the months previous.

I really do wonder now if it was a heavenly vision after all.

My hope is that it brings Good Memories – and a Sweet Home – for many years to come. 

And I hope the same for your home too. 

In His grace,

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Proverbs 31:25,26

 

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