Saturday, May 1, 2010

The MTM blog is moving!

The Mom to Mom blog is moving! Please meet us over here at the new site and update your bookmarks to:
See you soon!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

How Do You Get Dad More Involved?

I promised to share with you some great “mom questions” I’ve been asked over the past few weeks. So here goes with the first one!

A number of moms have asked how they can get their husbands more involved in the parenting of their kids. Common complaints include: “He just wants to be a playmate, leaving all the discipline to me.” Or: “He really just wants to do his own thing and not get involved at all in day-to-day caregiving.”

Good question! And not an easy one to answer. As I thought about it, I happened to be visiting one of our sons, so I thought I’d get his male perspective on the issue. He happens to be a very involved dad himself. But I asked him what advice he’d give other moms as to how to get their husbands more involved.

His first response put things into stark perspective. “That’s really a hard one, because we all are basically selfish and want to do our own thing.” [BTW, by “we,” I don’t think he meant just men. All of us are basically selfish, though I do think moms get a lot of day-to-day practice in becoming selfless!] He went on to say that a lot of the men he knows seem to be a lot more focused on their own leisure pursuits than on their time with family.

An uphill battle, for sure—at least in some cases. And the hard part about it is that, as we say so often at Mom to Mom, the only person you have power to change is you. You really can’t make another person do anything.

Having said that, here are a few tips I’ve gleaned along the way—some from my own observation and experience and some from a great group of moms who dove into this question along with me:

  1. Pray about it—first, last, and always. Pray especially before speaking about it with your husband. How you approach it can make all the difference!
  2. Watch your attitude! Some of us women are particularly gifted with “attitude,” and if, like me, you are also gifted in sarcasm, watch it. Another point of prayer….
  3. Use “I ...” statements rather than “You …” accusations. “I feel,” “I need,” “I miss,” “I want your input” are far more effective than “You always …” or “You never …” But do tell him what you need, rather than “stuffing it” and letting it smolder.
  4. Use fewer words rather than many (and this from Linda!) When it comes to men and words, less is more, believe me!
  5. Help your husband see the difference he makes for your children—and you! For example, “Honey, he so looks up to you. “ or “She’s just watching for you to notice” or “We just love having you home—and a part of these projects.”
  6. Create opportunities for successful interaction. Sometimes we get so used to “doing everything” that we don’t even leave space for him.
  7. Avoid a constant critique of everything he does—e.g., he went to the store but bought the wrong brand, he put the baby to bed but put on the wrong PJ’s, he never sets the table right. (Ouch! But honestly, Woody does still get the fork and knife sides reversed—is it male dyslexia?)
  8. “Change your thinking.” This from one mom who said she finds she needs to refocus periodically to see what her husband actually does do to help, rather than only what he doesn’t do.
  9. Affirm whenever you can. Let your husband know, at every opportunity, the things you appreciate about him. One mom shared how an older wiser woman with whom she would sometimes share her “husband complaints” would always begin by asking: ”Have you made the list?” The list, that is, of all you love about him—even before the “complaint list” that may come more naturally to us.
  10. Pray some more. Let “Lord, change him” become “Lord, change me.” And sometimes—not always, but sometimes—he will change, too.
Not an easy question. But maybe some of you have something to add. We’d love to hear from you!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cute shoes, a Clutzy Speaker, and Great Questions

In the past 10 days, I’ve had the privilege of speaking to two groups of terrific moms — one in North Carolina and one in Wisconsin. My only regret is that I didn’t get pictures of each of these groups. (If I get to speak to your Mom to Mom group sometime, will you PLEASE be sure we get pictures? I always forget that!) But you can be sure they look a lot like you—and other moms you know.

My morning in North Carolina brought a new “first” in my speaking experience. I actually spoke sitting down with my foot iced and elevated! It was quite a scene—I really do wish we had gotten a picture!

I didn’t start the morning with a foot injury. No, I waited until just moments before I was to speak and then I performed a feat (no pun intended) that would be absolutely non-reproducible, by me or anyone else! In walking across the room to get some water, I managed to catch the toe of my cute red shoe on the leg of a chair. Nothing really unusual for me about that. But read on: my big toe actually came out of the shoe and got caught on the front edge of the shoe—and bent backward! OUCH!!

“How in the world does such a thing happen?”, you may be wondering. I could never do it a second time — at least I hope not! It was all about the cute shoe . . . and I have my friend Kay to blame for that.

Kay is a real Southerner (she grew up in Alabama and now lives in Atlanta), and thus is my chief clothing consult when I speak in the South, where even moms always seem to manage to look really cute all the time. Or at least that’s my impression. Those of you who live in the South may take it for granted — but for us northerners, it can be a little bit intimidating.

So I ask my friend Kay about what to wear when speaking in the South. In the Fall, for example, where it is actually HOT in October. As I stand in my Wisconsin closet eyeing the woolens that hang there in ready protection against the winters which seem to start here in October, I think of Kay’s advice (only half tongue-in-cheek): “Just wear cute shoes and carry a cute purse. The rest doesn’t matter. It’s all about the cute shoes and purse.”

So of course last week when I was speaking in North Carolina I was wearing cute red shoes. Now these cute shoes are actually very uncomfortable. Very, very uncomfortable. I bought them really cheap at Marshall’s and only wear them for short periods of time — never, for example, in airports or when walking long distances carrying grandchildren.

Last Wednesday I obviously wore them too long—even though it was early in the morning! But the women there were wonderful, producing ice packs, towel wraps, a chair to elevate my very red big toe, plus lots of great mom-TLC. And, despite my clumsiest intro yet, we had a great morning together.

The best part, I thought, was their questions. They had asked if I would do a Q&A after my talk (which I love doing) and had submitted some terrific questions. A wonderful discussion grew out of both what I could share with them and the great, creative ideas they shared on various topics.

Then this week I had a similarly great discussion time with moms at a Mom to Mom here in Wisconsin. (Just for the record, some of those moms had cute shoes, too, I think. The only reason I’m not sure is that being a northerner, I don’t always tend to notice shoes.) These moms also had great questions.

And it got me thinking: one of the most important things in life is asking the right questions. It’s the starting point for so much learning—and growing. Over the years I have often agonized over what was the “right thing to do” in various situations. Often when I bring up these questions with Woody he will say, “Well, for starters, at least you’re asking the right questions.”

So I’m thinking that in the next few blog posts I would like to share a few of the questions these and other moms have asked me recently. And share some of our discussions in response to them. I say “discussions” because good, hard questions don’t tend to have easy answers. And I definitely do not see myself as an “”answer lady.” I am most definitely still learning as I go through my mom-life. And I learn so much from all of you.

But there are some great guidelines—from God, above all, and also from experience. And from other moms. So I hope you’ll stay tuned for some great mom-questions in the future.

And watch out for those cute shoes!

Monday, April 19, 2010

“My Mommy Has a Journal To Pray in”

Last week I was visiting our son Lars and family in North Carolina. Woody and I both had a great weekend catching up with Lars and Kelly and 4 ½-year-old Bengt and 11-month-old Hannah. And I got to stay on through Wednesday so I could speak at Kelly’s Mom to Mom group — a wonderful treat.

I set my alarm early for that Wednesday morning so I could pray and prepare for Mom to Mom. I knew Bengt would bounce into my room plenty early to “wake up Nana” (something I always look forward to!) and I wanted to be up ahead of him.

Of course this particular morning he was even earlier than usual. As his unforgettable smile peeked around the corner at me, he paused a moment — surprised, I suspect, that I was already sitting up in bed surrounded by books and papers. He was quiet a moment and then he said, “Oh, my mommy has a journal to pray in . . . Hers has a flower on the front.”

“My mommy has a journal to pray in!” Isn’t it interesting that that was Bengt’s first assumption when he saw me sitting quietly early that morning? When I told Kelly about it later, she was surprised that he even knew about her prayer journal. Though she often reads and prays during his “rest times,” she couldn’t remember ever talking about it to him.

But four-year-olds are very observant—and so are kids of all ages. Their earliest memories are imprinted by what they observe us doing. And I believe they notice these things far earlier than we ever realize.

My mind races back to my own childhood. How vividly I remember the chair in our tiny living room where I would often find my dad on his knees when I got up in the morning. And I can still see my mom with her Bible open at our kitchen table — a Bible that was full of markings and underlinings in various colors. As a child, I remember taking note especially of all those markings. At least it wasn’t a library book!

Another thing Bengt told me about during my visit was some of the things they do when, on occasion, they can’t get to church due to sickness or scheduling issues. They have “Anderson House Church.” Bengt proudly showed me the array of instruments he uses to provide music for these worship services (drum, tambourine, castinet — and even a trumpet, which I think is his favorite).

Of course there are Bible stories. And, following in the Anderson tradition, they also act out the stories. Yesterday, Lars was telling us on the phone about their latest home church. Apparently the stories of Daniel in the lions’ den and David and Goliath were the big hits.

Laughing as we remembered some of our own adventures with the “Anderson Players,” Woody said, “I’ll bet you didn’t have a lampshade for Goliath’s helmet!" (Some of you may remember some pretty funny stories about this from Mom to Mom.)

“No,” Lars responded. “But we did have a light saber for a sword - and a stuffed chick worked pretty well as one of David’s smooth stones.”

What does all this have to do with you as a mom — or grandmom? It’s just a reminder, isn’t it, that our children are watching. They are paying attention to the rhythms and habits of our lives. They know what’s important to us.

Even the smallest and simplest traditions you begin and habits you keep can make a difference. Little hands folded in prayer on a high chair. Bible stories introduced in age-appropriate ways. Weekly time set aside for church. People you pray for, make cards for (as one elderly widow in their church told me Bengt had done for her), or bring meals to.

Your children are watching . . . What memories are they making?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Do We - and They - Have More to Tell?

“Nana, we’re having Easter at our house on Sunday and—Can you come over?” That’s what I heard from the sweet little voice on my cell phone one afternoon just before Easter. Of course it brought tears to my eyes. For many reasons—one of them being that, since we live in Wisconsin and Soren lives in New Hampshire and we weren’t traveling this Easter, I couldn’t “come over.” And how I wished I could!

When I told Soren this, his next words got me even more: “But I could come to your house!” Realizing it would be difficult to explain to a 3-year-old the unfortunate distance between our homes, I shifted the conversation to what we celebrate on Easter. And I reminded him of how we shared the story when I was with him last Easter. “Remember, Soren, how you and I said ‘Jesus is alive—YAY!’ and we threw our hands up?”

“But Nana,” Soren replied, “I’m older this year and I can tell more about that.” He proceeded to tell me the whole Easter story. Of course I was reminded of his father, Bjorn, when he was 4, telling the Easter story to his friend Mark and directing their own little “Passion Play” in our back yard many years ago. Soren may be ready for that before long . . .

But it was that one sentence that stuck with me: “But Nana, I’m older now and can tell more about that.” Isn’t it cool, I thought, how children learn a little more each year about the stories of Jesus and the love of God? It’s such a developmental thing. It makes me thankful—oh so thankful—that my children are telling these stories to their children. It’s just what God intended, isn’t it? It’s Deuteronomy 6, and Psalm 78, in action. In real-life, everyday life, ordinary life.

But Soren’s comment took me deeper, into my own life right now. Having been blessed by parents who introduced me to Jesus at an early age, I have walked with Him many years. Do I have more to tell each year about Jesus and what it means to walk with Him? Do you? Do you have more to tell your children about Him as you grow in your own walk with Him? Your grandchildren? The younger moms God has given you to mentor—in Mom to Mom, or in your church, or in your neighborhood?

“I’m older now and can tell you more about that.” It’s actually the very essence, isn’t it, of the whole “Titus 2 model” around which Mom to Mom has grown? And even more profoundly, what Paul instructs “older women” to do for younger women in Titus 2.

“I’m older now and can tell more about that.”

Oh, how I hope that is true of me, every day of my life between here and eternity.

Friday, April 2, 2010

What Are You Looking Forward To?

That’s the question our small group leader started with last night. “As you look ahead to this Easter weekend,” he asked, “what are you most looking forward to?”

There was a brief silence as we all thought about the question. And I admit it: My very first thought was: ”Well, I’m not sure. This is the first weekend in maybe four years when we won’t be with any of our kids.” My mind raced back over last Easter with our kids in New Hampshire, two or three Easters before that with our family in North Carolina — even an Easter six years ago visiting Erika in Ireland, where she was then doing a missions apprenticeship. This Easter we are blessed to be celebrating with extended family, but we won’t be with any of our children or grandchildren.

After this brief reflection on Easters past and present, I suddenly realized what I really am most looking forward to this Easter. And I also realized that it’s what I most look forward to every Easter, whether in the midst of family or not. I’m looking forward to finishing the last few chapters of the book I read every year at Lent and finish every Easter weekend, the book that — next to the Scriptures — most takes me back into the First Easter and thus into the Easter I am now celebrating.

The book is Reliving the Passion, by Walter Wangerin, and I truly wish I could give a copy to everyone I know. Walter Wangerin is a powerful writer, and in this book he is at his very best. In forty “Meditations on the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark” (as the subtitle reads), he takes us back into The Story in a way no other author has ever done for me.

The introduction is worth the price of the book. Wangerin recreates for us his perspective as a young boy in his church in North Dakota, where his pastor father preached through the passion of Jesus for the six Wednesdays of Lent. As his father preached, Wangerin found himself in the story. He was there, at the arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. In a way almost reminiscent of the little boy in the movie “The Never-Ending Story” (Any of you remember that? Great story!), Wangerin climbed into the story.

And that’s just what he invites each of us to do in Reliving the Passion. We see the passion of Jesus from the perspective of Peter, of the Pharisees, of Pilate, of the centurion, of various women who interacted with Jesus—and especially of Mary. Some of the readings (there are forty of them to match the days of Lent) are more theological/philosophical and lift us even above the earthly story to the amazing redemption plan being orchestrated from heaven.

His words are powerful. Words are powerful. I’m reminded of something Frederick Buechner (another writer of powerful words) says somewhere in commenting on the power of words: “The magic of words is that they have power to do more than convey meaning; not only do they have the power to make things clear, they make things happen.”

Words definitely “make things happen” for me. They always have—since I was a small child. I remember a period in first grade when I was sick for a long time and out of school a lot. I spent hours reading through a giant Bible Story book, transported into the stories as I read. I especially remember reading of the Passion of Jesus and sobbing my way through the pictures and words. I was horrified and deeply moved at the same time. “If this is really what happened to Jesus,” I thought, “how can people speak of it so complacently, how can it almost sound ho-hum in some retellings?” I remember pouring out my love for Jesus amidst many tears.

I guess that’s why I’m looking forward to finishing Reliving the Passion, even as I also re-read the Gospel accounts yet again this year. I’m looking forward to celebrating His resurrection with the “whooping joy” Wangerin describes. Having entered into the total blackness of Good Friday and the quiet despair of those first disciples on Saturday, I will be ready to celebrate Easter morning with Mary, shaking with excitement as she shares with Peter what she has just seen—and heard.

Last night we concluded our time in our small group by reading powerful passages from Scripture which not only took us back into The Story but also gave us, through Colossians 1 and Revelation 19 and 21, a stunning glimpse into God’s great redemption plan, including a look into the future (what I’m most looking forward to, really — when “He will wipe every tear from our eyes.” ) Talk about powerful! Is there anything more powerful than God’s Word read aloud?

So, this Easter, wherever you find yourself — with family or not — I hope you will let words transport you into THE STORY. Read the Gospel accounts aloud, read the Wangerin book if you have it. Listen to Fernando Ortega’s “Sing To Jesus” and let music magnify the words. If your children are young, read the Easter story aloud to them from an age-appropriate book. Last year, when our grandson Soren was just 2 ½, it was summed up in a single sentence: “Jesus is alive — YAY!” Powerful words, even at two.

Happy Easter!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Expectant Easter Living

This morning as I was reading about Holy Week in The Message, one sentence jumped off the page at me. It was Mark 15:43, where Mark describes the man who was courageous enough to go to Pilate and ask to bury the body of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea. “He was one who lived expectantly, on the lookout for the Kingdom of God.”

Living expectantly. Wow! What would that look like, I began to ask myself.

For starters, what did it look like for Joseph on that Good Friday so long ago? We don’t know a great deal about this Joseph. But as we piece together the various Gospel accounts (he appears in all four narratives), we learn these facts. He was a wealthy man who was a respected member of the Sanhedrin. He is described as a “good and righteous” man who did not go along with the decision to crucify Jesus. (Luke 23:50-51) John tells us that he had been a secret follower of Jesus because he was afraid of the Jews. (John 19:38)

Yet now Joseph goes to Pilate and makes a bold request. One that could get him in trouble with the Romans because criminals executed for high treason (as Jesus ostensibly was) were not given the right to a proper burial. One that would certainly get him in big trouble with the Jews, jeopardizing his place and standing in the religious community. He wants the body of Jesus released to him, so he can bury him lovingly and respectfully in his own tomb.

What gave him the courage to do this? Was it partly at least because he lived expectantly? Because he was “on the lookout for the Kingdom of God”?

Joseph, it seems, was searching for God, even though as a member of the high Jewish council he could have complacently felt as though he already knew everything there was to know about God. Or, if he wasn’t actively searching for God until Jesus came on the scene, at least he was open to seeing Him when He came along.

It makes me wonder how expectantly I am living. Am I “on the lookout” for God? Am I asking Him to show up in my life and show me more of Himself? More of who He is calling me to be and what He is calling me to do—as a wife, as a mother and grandmother, as a neighbor, as a teacher and Mom to Mom leader, as a follower of Jesus?

And am I willing to be surprised by how He appears and what He says? So often God doesn’t show up in the ways we most expect. Joseph of Arimathea, wealthy man in the community and respected member of the Sanhedrin, surely could not have expected the Messiah to show up as carpenter from Galilee (Nazareth, of all places!) who turned everything upside down by healing the sick and raising the dead and upturning the tables of the money-changers in the temple — and got the Jewish rulers so frenzied in their fury that they wanted him crucified!

Yesterday, on Palm Sunday, our preacher spoke of the varying expectations that people in the Palm Sunday crowd had of Jesus. And he asked a penetrating question, one that echoes in my heart on this Monday morning: “What kind of Jesus are you expecting? What kind of Jesus do you have — one Who submits to what you want Him to do? Or One to Whom you need to submit?”

It’s an important question this Easter. It’s an important question every day of our lives, actually. Because Jesus often shows up in places and in ways we least expect. Just ask Joseph the next day after he had buried Him. Or ask Peter or John or those first women at the tomb. They surely had not expected their Messiah, their Lord, to die on a cross. And once they had buried Jesus, what did they expect? Probably not what they got on Easter morning! But (praise God) He showed up anyway — and changed the course of history (and our lives!) from that moment on!

Expectant Easter living. What would that look like for us, for you and for me, this Easter? I’m not entirely sure. I just know I’d like to try it. I’d like to ask God to show me Himself in new ways. I’d like to be open to surprises. I’d like to be willing to act on what He tells me to do — to follow Him even when I don’t understand what He is doing, to go with Him through the dark times toward the joy that comes in the morning.

“She was one who lived expectantly, on the lookout for the Kingdom of God.” Expectant Easter blessings to you this Holy Week!