Archive for March, 2011

A Timely Book for Moms


I just read a book I intend to send along to my daughter.  And I’d like you to know about it, too: Living with Less So Your Family Has More, by Jill and Mark Savage.

It seems perfectly tuned to our times.  Global economic upheaval, recession, job loss, and threat of job loss.  Downsizing has become almost trendy!   Yet this book is far more than trendy.  It’s good for families to read at any time.  All families.

The title got me first.  Less can actually be more when raising a family in our culture.  As I travel and speak to Mom to Mom groups, I am frequently impressed with how hard it can be in our materialistic culture to raise kids with solid, sane, Godly values.  In some ways it’s almost easier to do (in a strange sort of way) when we have externally imposed economic boundaries.  If the sky’s the limit, it’s a lot harder (though still necessary) to set healthy spending limits with our kids.

We also tend to get confused, in our culture, about what matters most.  Before we know it, the quest for the almighty dollar can squeeze the life right out of our homes.  All-important relationships—with our spouses, our kids, our God, and others—all too easily get lost in the shuffle.

In this book, Jill Savage, CEO of Hearts at Home, and her husband, Mark, share some very practical steps you can take to stretch your few dollars farther.  The last section of the book is full of down-to-earth strategies to help real-life families navigate tough financial times.

But the first two thirds of the book are even more important, in my opinion.  In Part One, the Savages help you identify what your long-term vision is for your family.  Then in Part Two, they discuss the attitudes that can help make that vision a reality.  I especially like their emphasis on contentment and simplicity and the counter-cultural mindset needed to foster these attitudes.

The book has the ring of authenticity.  The Savages live what they write.  Good to know!

But what I like best of all about the book is that it’s far more positive than negative in looking at family finances.  This is not a book about how to “grin and bear it” when your family feels the financial pinch.  Rather it is a ringing affirmation that “less” can truly be “more” when you have your values straight and get your attitudes aligned accordingly.

BTW, in her blog, Jill frequently shares new and fresh tips on living large with less.  You might want to check it out!

Another Great Question: Words To Live By


“When you’re in the trenches, what scriptures have carried you through?”

What a wonderful question!  But it would take a lifetime to answer—both my lifetime and yours!  For one thing, God’s Word provides “everything we need for life and godliness” (I Peter 1:3), whether we’re deep in the trenches or singing in the sun.  The Bible is packed, from beginning to end, with words to live by.  And the Holy Spirit individualizes it to each of us.  He knows precisely what words we need at any given time, and He brings them to mind when we need them.  And, as Moses reminds us, “They are not just idle words for you—they are your life.” (Deuteronomy 32:47)

With that caveat, here’s a (somewhat random) list of some of the Scriptures I live in:

  • Psalms:  All of them, at one time or another.  But some I call my “walking Psalms,” Psalms I memorized as a child but have re-memorized as an adult, Psalms I sometimes go over on walks or in the middle of the night: Psalms 1, 23, 100, 121, 46, 139, 103, 91, 34.  Food for the soul!
  • A Pattern for Godly Parenting: Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Ephesians 6:1-4
  • Parenting Prayers for Wisdom:  James 1:2-5; II Chronicles 20:12; Judges 13:8
  • Encouragement: Philippians—all of it, but especially 1:6 and chapters 3-4
  • Worth and Value as a Woman:  Isaiah 43:1-7; Zephaniah 3:17
  • Hope for the Future (and when I’m missing my mom): John 14:1-6; Revelation 21:1-5; I Corinthians 15 (all of it—but especially vv. 51-58); I Thessalonians 4:13-18

Believe me, this is only a start—the smallest beginning.  As I said, it’s a lifetime question.  Stay tuned…  And in the meantime, maybe some of you would share some of the scriptures you live in.  I’d love to hear from you!

Two final thoughts (final for now):

  1. A Daily Tip: Most days, I read Daily Light, along with my other readings for the day.   Here’s why: The compiled verses on a given topic often remind me of passages I’ve not visited in a while.  When a verse jumps out at me, I look it up in context.  It often leads me to wonderful places in God’s Word where I’ve not been recently.
  2. When you’re really hitting the bottom: Remember God’s lifeline promise that the Holy Spirit prays for us in “groans that words cannot express” when we cannot pray for ourselves (See Romans 8:26-27). Thank you Jesus!

Pajamas!

Take a look at our evening Mom to Mom group!

About 45 minutes prior to the moms’ arrival, our leadership team meets for devotions and a time of prayer for our evening. This is a super time to connect with my leaders.  The first one walked in wearing flannel pajama bottoms and a t-shirt, along with comfy slippers.  I thought she looked real comfortable and wished I were dressed more comfortably, too!  The second leader walked in—definitely in pajamas.  By now I’m getting suspicious 🙂  Then the first member mom arrived (very early) wearing flannel PJ’s and her robe.  I finally asked what was up?!!

Turns out that our moms wanted me to know how comfortable they are at Mom to Mom.  This is our first year together. I’d been away at our bi-annual Mom to Mom Ministries Board meeting and missed the prior week, so they’d had an opportunity to plan the surprise.

Our moms love the teaching, the encouragement from their leaders, and the fellowship with other. We meet from 8 until 10 p.m.  It’s late in the day, but our moms can feed, bathe, and some can even put their kids in bed before coming.  The dads are home, so babysitters aren’t needed. It’s the only time our community center is available in the neighborhood.   At the end of our evening, all of us are only 5 minutes from home!

Hoping your moms feel as “at home” at Mom to Mom as ours do!

—Tonya, in Texas

More Great Questions


Recently I had the fun of engaging with a group of women in a Q&A session.  And they asked some great questions!  I’ll share one of them in this post and at least one other in a future post.

“How can I get my husband to see that Scripture has more than negative rules—do’s and don’ts?  Growing up we tend to hear the ‘rules’ and not the love.”

A really important question.  But it made me a little sad—to think how easily our view of scripture can be distorted (depending on our backgrounds and early exposure).     For the Bible truly is God’s love letter to us.  Or, as Philip Yancey so succinctly put it, “In a nutshell, the Bible from Genesis 3 to Revelation 22 tells the story of a God reckless with desire to get his family back.”  (The Jesus I Never Knew, p. 268)  The “rules” are rooted in relationship.  They grow out of our relationship with God.  And they facilitate better relationship with others.  God’s ways are, as some have put it, user friendly.

So how to help someone see the true message of the Bible?  My first thought was, “Invite him to read it!”  But then another part of this woman’s written question got me.  “How can I get my husband to…?”  The short answer?  You can’t “get your husband to” do anything.

Bulletin:  We wives are not called to be the Holy Spirit in our husbands’ lives—no matter how good we might think we could be at the job!  So maybe our starting point should actually be on our knees.  Step one would probably be: “Pray that the Holy Spirit will open his eyes and heart to God’s message of love to him.”

Then think about how your husband might best be able to see the scripture for what it is.  Maybe there’s an opportunity to attend a class or join a small group that could help him hear God’s message of love to him.  Or, if he’s a reader, books like Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God or Philip Yancey’s What’s So Amazing about Grace? might be useful.

Perhaps best of all, try showing him the love of God in the way you love him.  After all, our children often best come to understand how God loves them by the way we love them.  May be that could help a husband, too.

Mama Prayers—and Two Books You Should Know About

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of mama-prayers. These are not new thoughts. For me as a mom, prayer is a way of life. I begin my day—every day—praying for my kids. And their spouses. And their kids. And at Mom to Mom, we constantly encourage moms to pray for their kids. Prayer is, as we often remind one another, “the main event.” But recently I’ve been reminded how very powerful, and how very long-term, praying for our kids must be.

The other weekend I had the privilege, at a retreat where I was speaking, of renewing friendships with a number of women I had not seen in many years. I heard stories of the wonderful work God is doing in the lives of many of their children. We rejoiced together.

But there were other stories of children, many now young adults, who are struggling. Some because of what life seems to have dealt them, others seemingly because of their own poor choices. Kids who seem to be taking the long way around to faith—or back to faith. I came home with many of these stories on my mind.

And I thought of you—any of you reading this blog—and wondered what your stories are just now. I also thought of two books I’d like all moms to know about than can provide great encouragement to us as we wear out those “knee pads” for our kids.

The first is a long-time favorite: Prodigals and Those Who Love Them, by Ruth Bell Graham. It is a beautifully written book full of encouragement for moms who (as the inscription to the latest edition quotes a prodigal’s mom saying) “wake up every morning not from a nightmare, but to one.” It may not be that dramatic for you. But the hope-filled authenticity of this mom, wife of Billy Graham, as she writes about her years of waiting for prodigals to come home, will encourage any mother to take heart, hold on to hope, and keep praying for her kids.

Then I just finished reading When Moms Pray Together, by Fern Nichols and others. Many of you may recognize Fern’s name because she is the founder of a marvelous organization called Moms in Touch International. The book is filled with stories of different moms who prayed for their kids with a Moms in Touch prayer group. The stories are tearful, sometimes triumphant, sometimes still waiting—but all faith-filled because of the hope we have in Jesus. He never gives up on our kids!

You may find this book to be just the encouragement you need right now. But even more than any book, I encourage you to keep praying for your children. It may help you to seek out a Moms in Touch group you can join. You can search for one in your area at www.momsintouch.org. A few months ago, I had the privilege of joining my daughter-in-law in praying with her Moms in Touch group. It was a powerful experience.

But even if you cannot join such a group right now, God is ready to hear your prayers for your children no matter where you pray them. And no matter how long you’ve been praying them! As I read in Streams in the Desert for March 5, “The greatest challenge in receiving things from God is holding on for the last half hour.”

Remember, He loves them more than you do. And he never, never lets go.

Moms Encouraging Moms


Did I ever have fun this last weekend!  Mom to Mom had an exhibit at the Hearts at Home National Conference in Bloomington, IL, so two Mom to Mom friends and I got to spend two full days just listening and talking to moms.  What a privilege.  What a ride!

You know how I love moms.  And to hang out with over 4500 of them over a period of two days—that’s what I call a little bit of Heaven.  Of course we had fun talking about Mom to Mom.  We met moms who had never heard of Mom to Mom, moms who are currently in a Mom to Mom, and moms who are thinking of starting Mom to Mom in their church or community.

We even had a little mini-reunion with four moms from Vermont who are now in their fifth year of Mom to Mom.  They’re going through the curriculum a second time, with lots of new moms and some who’ve been there from the start.  It has grown into a wonderful outreach in their community, as the vast majority of their moms are not from their church.   I just love hearing Mom to Mom stories like theirs!

But in addition to talking Mom to Mom, we had wonderful opportunities just to listen to moms.  To look into their eyes and listen—really listen.  There were physician moms and farmer moms, single moms and blended family moms, biological moms and adoptive moms, moms of all sizes and shapes and ages and circumstances.  Each has their own story.  But they had one thing in common:  They all needed encouragement.  They all needed to know that “You mean I’m not the only one who…?”

Of course they got tons of encouragement from the conference speakers and singers and emcees and humorists.  But I also watched them encouraging one another.  And I watched my colleagues, Karen and Tonya, pour encouragement into moms with their big smile, bright eyes, and listening ears.  It’s what Mom to Mom is all about, really.   And Hearts at Home, too.  (Check out their website for future conferences, and come see us again!)

So here’s my takeaway: Encouraging another mom is one of the best things you can do.   And as much fun as it is to hang out with thousands of moms, you don’t have to be at a conference to encourage another mom.  You can do it right in your own backyard.  Or preschool.  Or supermarket.  Or via email, text, twitter, or Facebook.

It’s what Paul was talking about when he said “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”  (I Thessalonians 5:11)

Encourage another mom today!

Ash Wednesday


“Do you ever look inside yourself and see what you are not?”   A crippled daughter hurls that question at her spiritually crippled mother in a Flannery O’Connor short story (“Good Country People”).  And G.K. Chesterton wrote about the Christian faith as the only religion “that dares to go down with me into the depths of myself.”

These are quotes I came across this morning, on this first day of my Lenten readings.   They strike at the heart of what we’re called to during Lent, don’t they?  At least part of it.  It is a season of reflecting and remembering.  Of self-examination.  A season of looking into what Walter Wangerin called “the mirror of dangerous grace.” (Reliving the Passion, p. 25)   Pretty scary, if you ask me.

That’s why I’m thankful that we’re called to even more than just looking inward during Lent.  I am so thankful that we are also called to look upward.  To look upward to Jesus on the cross.  And even as we gaze at His outstretched arms, even as we remember that “we carry His nails in our pockets” (Was it Luther that said that?), we also remember that He did it for us.  That His grace is far greater than our most hideous sins.   That it was His love for us that held Him there.

But only for a time.   For even as we journey through Lent, we know where the end of the journey will bring us.  To that “whooping joy” (Wangerin again) of the resurrection.  Jesus alive.  Our redemption accomplished.  Heaven ahead.  What a mysterious mix, this Lenten season, of sad/glad feelings.  Of horror (at what I see in me if I look closely enough) and hope.  Of despair (of where we would be without Him) and ecstatic joy (we’re not without Him!).  A season of remembering.

Those of you who know me will know that, of course, I began once again this morning reading my favorite Lenten book: Reliving the Passion, by Walter Wangerin.  And of course I re-read that marvelous preface that is well worth the price of the book.  Somehow it is just as wonderful year after year.  Walter Wangerin, as a small boy, climbs into the story of Jesus—and we join him.

Such a dramatic reminder of the power of story.  Especially this True Story.  This most important story ever told.  For our children.  For us.   Remember it well this Lenten season, as we prepare for Easter.  Tell it to your children in age-appropriate ways.  Remember.  Reflect.  And prepare to rejoice!

Lessons Learned from Little Ones


Do you learn a lot from your kids?  I know I did.  And now I’m learning just as much—or more!—from my grandchildren.   Here are two of the latest examples:

“You’re Mrs. Beaver.  You make the decisions.” That’s what my 4-year-old grandson told me when we were “playing Narnia” last week.  Soren’s parents had been reading him one chapter each night from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis.  The child was completely entranced by the story.  While I was visiting them, his favorite game was “Let’s play Narnia,” and we each had assigned character parts.   We were to call each other by our Narnia names—even his little 1-year-old brother whom he had named, interestingly, Aslan.

One morning when Soren (Peter) and I were playing in the basement, his “Kangaroo Climber” was serving as the beaver den.  Trying to figure out what toys (plastic food, etc) we could use to serve “breakfast,” I asked him, “Peter, what do you think we should have for breakfast?”  That’s when I got his response: “Well, you’re Mrs. Beaver. You make the decisions.”

Hmmm…food for thought (no pun intended!).  I wonder if that’s not what a lot of kids are thinking when struggling parents may be being having difficulty “being the parent.”  Kids need to know who’s in charge, don’t they?  Actually, they instinctively know who’s supposed to be in charge.   All the more reason to step up and, as we say at Mom to Mom, “be the parent”!

“Time out!  Time out!  Time out!” This story came to me from “Gigi,” the grandmother with whom I share grandchildren Bengt (5) and Hannah (21 months).   Once when she was visiting and watching the kids, Hannah ventured over to grab a lamp cord she wasn’t supposed to touch.  “No, Hannah, you can’t touch that,” reminded her big brother.  Looking him straight in the eye, she turned around and grabbed hold of the cord, exclaiming in her powerful (I’m not kidding!) voice: “MINE!!!!”  Enter Gigi.  As her grandmother approached the scene of the crime, Hannah immediately began shouting “Time out, time out, time out,” and took herself right over to the time-out chair.   Her mom tells me she doesn’t always do that, but it was an instructive moment.

And sometimes we wonder if they really “get it” when we tell them no, or follow through with discipline.   Think again!  As I was often reminded as a mom, our kids are always smarter than we are!

Your Husband: Assistant or Companion?

It’s happened again.   Someone in an audience asked a great question.  And now, over a week later, I can’t get it out of my mind.

Woody and I were speaking at a Mom to Mom Couples’ Night in Massachusetts which was followed by a brief Q&A.   We had talked about the huge challenges of Woody’s schedule (as a medical oncologist) in our parenting.  I mentioned how much I had wished Woody could be home earlier in the evening.

Afterward a man in the audience asked,” What were you looking for in wanting your husband home?  Were you looking for an assistant?   Or a companion?”  Great question!  After a moment’s thought, I answered, “yes—and yes.”  Both.  I really needed both.

Certainly I needed help at the end of those long days with three kids five and under.  Every mom reading this will resonate.    But I also longed for adult company.  No, more—I longed for Woody’s company.  He’s a really great guy—intelligent, thoughtful, interesting, and just plain fun to be with.  And he makes me laugh.   After all, I married him because I like to be with him.  I still do.  Yes, even after over 40 years of marriage!

But the question got me thinking.  And I asked myself another question: Did my husband know, in those days, how I longed for his companionship as well as his help with the kids?  Does he know I still do?

How about your husband?  Does he know you like being with him?  Does he know that your need to have him home is not solely for parenting assistance?  That you see him as much more than just the “rescue parent” at the end of the day?

I’m just asking.  It’s a hunch, but I’ll bet his knowing that could make a big difference in your marriage.   Let me know what happens when you tell him!

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