Archive for November, 2012

Unlikely Thanks

I just returned from the North Central Hearts at Home conference in Rochester, Minnesota.  Loved it!   What could be better?  2750 moms.  Great speakers.  A hilarious improv comedy team.  The opportunity to speak to hundreds of moms in workshop sessions—and to speak with many face to face at our Mom to Mom table.   A chance to see my sweet husband “working” the table and telling lots of moms about what Mom to Mom meant to husbands—a first.  Thank you, Woody!

I always come home from such weekends with my head—and heart—full of stories.  Yes, lots of smiling moms and funny stories and good laughs.  But also stories of  hard places—very very hard places.  Stories of struggling kids and gasping marriages and leukemia and hospice and moms (yes, even moms) making bad decisions to leave families for old flames or imagined love.

Maybe that’s why the pilgrims on my dining room table are so important to me this week, this week before Thanksgiving.  The pilgrims belonged to Woody’s mom.  They were always on her dining room table.  Thanksgiving was Mom Anderson’s holiday.  Most years we traveled to spend it with her, especially in the years after Dad Anderson died.

Which brings me to what the pilgrims most remind me about.  It’s Psalm 34.  And it takes me back to one Fall many years ago when Woody’s dad was in the hospital for 9 weeks, dying by inches of a rare and never-diagnosed blood disease at the age of 52.  Every day, Mom drove from her home in the suburbs into Chicago to sit by his hospital bed all day long.  And nearly every day they read together a paraphrase of Psalm 34.  This paraphrase was read at Dad’s funeral.  That Christmas, we commissioned an artist friend to do a beautiful calligraphy of Psalm 34 which hung in Mom’s living room till she died.  Years later, the same paraphrase was read at her funeral—the day before Thanksgiving.

“I feel at times as if I can never cease praising God.  Come and rejoice with me over His goodness!”  That’s how the paraphrase starts.  An unlikely place to begin when you’re sitting by a hospital bed.  Or worrying about a sick child.  Or how you’ll make the money stretch to the end of the month.  An unlikely Thanksgiving Psalm.  But a good one.  A psalm for all seasons of life.  For all those twists and turns . . .

So I share it with you as my Thanksgiving Hymn this year.  I hope it can be yours, too.

I feel at times as if I can never cease praising God.
Come and rejoice with me over His goodness!
I reached for Him out of my inner conflicts,
and He was there to give me strength and courage.
I wept in utter frustration over my troubles,
and He was near to help and support me.
What He has done for me He can do for you.
Turn to Him; He will not turn away from you.
His loving presence encompasses those who yield to Him.
He is with them even in the midst of their troubles and conflicts.
He meets their emptiness with His abundance
and shores up their weakness with His divine power.

Listen to me.  I know whereof I speak.
I have learned from experience that this is the way to happiness.
God is ever alert to the cries of His children.
He feels and bears with them their pain and problems.
He is very near to those who suffer and reaches out
to help those who are battered down with despair.

Even the children of God must experience affliction,
But they have a loving God who will keep them and watch over them.
The godless suffers in loneliness and without hope;
The servant of God finds meaning and purpose
even in the midst of  his suffering and conflict.
From Psalms Now, by Leslie F. Brandt

Not-To-Miss Messages: Three Good Books

I’m currently preparing to speak on “Top Ten Messages You Want Your Kids To Get”  (at the Hearts at Home conference in Rochester, MN).   And I’ve been reminded that it’s been a long time since I shared any book recommendations.  I’ve been reading some good things, especially on the topic of communicating with your kids.  Here are three new favorites:

Five Conversations You Must Have with Your Son, by Vicki Courtney:  As the mother of two sons, I really wish I’d had this book long ago.  I love the clarity and intentionality with which Vicki and her husband approached key messages they wanted to give their sons.   The book is straightforward, realistic, and immensely practical.  But most of all, I love the author’s emphasis on the heart.  Relationships always triumph over rules, even while boundaries must be clearly communicated and enforced.  The focus throughout is capsulized in the last chapter: “Godliness over Goodness.”  With sons, as with God, it’s always the heart that matters.

Five Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter, by Vicki Courtney: If Vicki’s book about sons goes to the heart, this goes even a few levels deeper.  Wonderfully transparent, it is written from the heart of one who’s been there in the harder places where girls today find themselves, and is willing to help others learn from her experience.  The five chapter titles (the recommended conversations) reveal how “on target” the content is:

  1. “You Are More Than the Sum of Your Parts”
  2. “Don’t Be in Such a Hurry To Grow Up”
  3. “Sex Is Great and Worth the Wait”
  4. “It’s OK To Dream about Marriage and Motherhood”
  5. “Girls Gone Wild Are a Dime a Dozen—Dare To Be Virtuous.”

Of course, these conversations, as well as those with sons, are not individual one-time talks, but ongoing communication.  Some conversations are much harder than others.  But Vicki will help you find the words, the courage, and the grace to have even the hardest ones.

Six Ways To Keep the “Little” in Your Girl, by Dannah Gresh:  Doesn’t the title grab you?  What a needed word for our culture!  This little book is a great complement to Courtney’s (above) by offering specific strategies for connecting with your daughter in ways that count, and will help you guide your daughter, age-appropriately, from her tweens to her teens.  I love the author’s emphasis on listening well instead of doing all the talking.  She even gives very specific guidelines about how to do that (“Listening So She’ll Talk,” p. 60).  Gresh also provides practical helps for dealing with multi-media in our plugged-in world.  But perhaps my favorite is the illustrated guide to “Truth or Bare Fashion Tests”  (pp. 110-112), which will help you teach you daughter modesty, pro-actively and preemptively.

All three of these books are great one-chapter-at-a-time  “snatch books” which work for busy moms because they can sit on your bedside table or accompany you to waiting rooms or on carpool runs to read just a little here or there when you have time.  And believe me, they are worth your time!

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