A Touch of Gray and Ounce of Wisdom

Once again the breakfast bar at our kitchen counter was strewn with homework papers and books. There was no place for a cereal bowl or even a spoon. I was frustrated. How many times do I have to tell her to put her stuff away? It was late. I was pooped.  She’ll hear about this in the morning.

Yet, the morning came, and I was unusually chipper. Amazing what rest can do.

She stumbled down the stairs into the kitchen on her sleepy mission to prepare for school. I had a choice. I could conjure up my frustration from the night before and let it fly. Or I could pull her aside, place a loving arm around her shoulder, and turn her toward the breakfast bar. Then ask calmly, with a lilt in my voice and a grin on my face, “So my dear, how do you expect anyone to eat breakfast with all your stuff on the counter?”

I chose the latter. I chose it because I’m a bit older, grayer, and wiser these days. You see, I’m parenting for the second time around. I have four mostly grown and launched children who have flown or nearly flown from the nest. They were my guinea pigs. I tried all sorts of parenting experiments on them. Thankfully they’ve lived to tell about it.

Yet in the middle season of my life, with my nest appearing more empty than full, God brought me new test cases—three little girls. Sisters. Filled with pain. Needing a mom. And believe me, I feel woefully inadequate for the job. Most days, I shoot up prayers for wisdom on a moment by moment basis.

But on this morning, I had an extra ounce of wisdom.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“You are forgiven,” I said. “And loved.”

You see, I figure she can’t hear those words enough.

And truth be told, neither can I.

What words do you long to hear today? Perhaps your kids need to hear them too.

Is Perfectionism Wrecking Your Prayer Life?

I have always known that I suffer from a perfectionism complex. So when I heard the quote, “Perfectionism is the mother of Procrastination,” my ears perked up. Finally, I understood why I’d been putting off certain tasks that I told myself I wanted to get to.

As a storyteller, I have put off making a CD of my work. I thought about it once, but then it went to the back burner where it’s been for the last four years or so. Why? Because I’m worried that I won’t get it “just right.” I’m worried that it might be a flop. And how many times a day do I find excuses to delay working on one of my writing projects for the very same reason?

I spend hours Googling other storyteller’s CDs, listening to tracks here and there, reading articles about producing a CD or writing books, but despite all of this “research,” very rarely do I move myself closer to my goal. Instead, I lose valuable time and in the process find that now I’m even more concerned that I won’t be able to live up to my perfectionist ideals. So maybe it’s not worth starting.

This whole idea has been revolutionary to me in my professional life, but today I was shocked to find the same principle at work in my prayer life. I don’t feel like a very good “pray-er.” I’ve read about all sorts of different prayer methods – from the ACTS outline, which says that every good prayer is comprised of Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication in that order, to those who say that prayer is more about listening and being still before God than talking.

So when I think about praying, I have this feeling that I’m not going to get it right. And what does that do but make me less inclined to want to spend time in prayer! When I do sit down and attempt it, half the time I’m so worried about the form that the content suffers severely.

Today I realized that what I’ve been trying to do is “edit” my prayers. And honestly, it makes it hard to have an authentic conversation when you’re busy editing. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. It’s the difference between chatting with your best friend and delivering a speech to an audience of 3,000 strangers.

In the former, you let it fly. You trust that your friend “gets” you, and that even if it comes out all over the place, your friend will understand. In the latter, you plan for hours. You systematically order your points. You practice your enunciation. The strangers in your audience cannot be expected to try to follow your ramblings.

As a writer, both the form and the content are important to me. But the interesting thing is how the writing process is structured. Most writers agree that the content comes first. That is, you lay it all out there on the first draft. You pour your ideas onto the page. You don’t worry about going back to add a comma or fix a misspelled word.

You don’t edit as you go because editing stunts the creative process. It hinders the progression of the story. (Not to mention the fact that the act of creating and that of editing are handled by two different parts of the brain. So in some ways, to try to do both at once would seem to put them in competition with one another.)

So back to prayer. Today as I started praying, I felt like it was coming out all discombobulated. I felt the need to start again. Try to put it into a more coherent form. I felt the need to “edit.”

But then I stopped myself. I said, “God knows that I am discombobulated. He knows that my ideas are random. All over the place. So I guess it’s no small miracle that my prayers come out the same. But who better than He to help me make sense of it?”

I took a deep breath. I started again. I let it all out. I stopped worrying about “getting it right.” I told Him everything – even the silly little things that would make me sound petty if I said them to you. I figured He already knows, and if it’s irritating me, I might as well get it out in the open

I’m sure some would criticize my form, but I’m okay with that. Because I think my Heavenly Father got it. I think He gets me. And I think sometimes I have to worry less about “getting it right” and more about just getting to it. Maybe Nike was on to something. . .

So I leave you with this question: What are you putting off because you’re afraid that you won’t get it right?





Children & Prayer: Two Lessons

Recently I remembered an extraordinary day 25 years ago. I call it the day the children prayed in church.

There was no junior church that day. The pianist was out of town, the song leader had a scheduling crunch, the children’s “preacher” had to work. So after Sunday school the third through sixth graders filed into the sanctuary. Some sat with their parents, some with a teacher. The parent helpers for junior church positioned themselves behind a row of boys.

The junior choir, previously scheduled to sing that day, stood in the choir loft, ready to offer their worship in song. The three who played the triangle, hand drum, and tamborine didn’t miss a beat.

Just before the sermon, the minister stood to lead in prayer. As he always did, he first told the congregation of some of the needs that day: the family flying to Africa to attend a missions conference, the beloved widow recovering from an extended illness, the injured police officer slowly regaining his strength but needing encouragement. Then he asked if there were other concerns.

That’s when it happened.

Katie leaned over the choir loft rail and reported that one of the sixth-grade girls, who had diabetes, had just been hospitalized. Then Ricky, seated with the row of boys, raised his hand. He wanted to praise God because one of the other boys was out of the hospital.

A man in the back asked for prayers for a new church plant. A woman asked for healing for someone who was ill. Then Chrissy, seated up front with her mother, suggested that we pray for her Sunday school teacher’s husband, who was facing serious surgery.

And then we prayed, adults and children together.

Memorable moments. Children had never participated in our services quite like that before.

Thinking back on that day emphasizes two lessons for me.

First, that children belong in the “adult worship service” more often than we sometimes allow. Children need to worship with adults at least part of the time–it’s one way the spirit of worship is “caught.’

Second, the impact of good training. The children who joined our service that day had been taught by example and through practice how to care about the needs of others and to ask God for his help. They did it each week in children’s worship. It could just as easily have been taught in their homes and reinforced at church.

We need to remember that our children and grandchildren are living now, not just getting ready to live. And that what they are taught–or not taught–affects their lives today as well as in the future.

“Let the children come to me,” Jesus said.

They did–and he blessed them.

A recommended book: The Lord’s Prayer, illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson (Zonderkidz, 2011)


Visit Diane at www.dianestortz.com
© 2012, Diane Stortz

Packing a healthy lunchbox for your child

Now that we’re a few months into the school year, are you running out of ideas for packing your kids’ lunchboxes? The trick is to find healthy foods that your child likes, but also include a well-chosen treat so he or she isn’t the only child at the lunch table without a cookie or chips. That’s hard for a kid!

I usually recommend the 4-to-1 rule for lunchboxes – four nutritious foods and one treat. So you need a main entrée, fruit, veggie, drink and a small treat. Many kids open their lunchboxes and gobble up the treat first, so keeping it small leaves room in their tummies for the good stuff.

The main entrée can be whatever your child likes – a sandwich, cold chicken, hard-boiled eggs or a thermos of soup.

Throw in fresh fruit or perhaps the packaged fruit cups with no added sugar. If your child eats raw veggies only if she has dip, pack a little container of dip. (Better to eat veggies and dip than no veggies at all.)

Good drinks are milk, chocolate milk and water or occasionally a 4-ounce 100% fruit juice in addition to water.

The treat can be a tiny candy bar or small bag of snack food such as animal crackers or tortilla chips. A homemade cookie or muffin is even better.

If you choose a store-bought snack, read packages very, very carefully – so few are worth eating. The most important thing is to avoid giving your kids snacks containing trans fat, so avoid any food with “hydrogenated” oil on the ingredients list.

Of course these are just suggestions, and you know your child best. So … what do you pack in your kids’ lunches?

Beth Bence Reinke, MS, RD

Everyday Thanksgiving

In the month of October three new members were added to my extended family. Our nephew and his wife had a beautiful baby boy.  Our niece and her husband adopted a son from Korea and brought him home to meet his four-year-old brother who was adopted from the Philippines. Finally, a cousin’s son married a wonderful girl on a beautiful Arizona Sunday evening.  All these happy occasions made me reflect on my life, and how quickly the time passes.

We celebrate happy events like these, taking pictures to remind us of special moments in our lives. But let’s face it, most of life isn’t made of big, celebratory moments. They’re lived in the ordinary.

But isn’t that what makes life truly beautiful?

The everyday things we never even notice are really our richest blessings…a child with dirt all over his face, sun streaming through windows, the crunch of leaves beneath feet, the whir of the washing machine, the dog snoring nearby, the sound of your loved one coming home. All these things add meaning to our lives and without them our souls would languish.

So today, challenge yourself to look at the mundane through different eyes. Breathe in every aroma, feed on the sounds around you, savor the taste of your food. In short, feel the goodness of God in the ordinary.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Psalm 34:8 (NIV)

Make a list of your ordinary blessings. What are you thankful for today that you may not have noticed–or perhaps even grumbled about–yesterday?