Previewing

Today isn’t going to be super deep, just celebrating getting something right and seeing the fruits of my preparation blossom, and I wanted to share this skill because I know I’ve seen how this improves our lives time and time again.

Something I have seen as a teacher is the importance of previewing activities. As a teacher, we preview to help students understand the objectives in a new lesson, to tie in previous learning to the new skills, and to clarify the purpose and procedure of the activity. Previewing is literally the best tool in my parenting toolbox because it prevents issues. Rather than be reactive to a crisis, previewing allows me to be proactive.

As a mom, I’ve learned that children really need to understand what to expect prior to a new activity. Kids naturally have concerns about anything unknown. The more we can preview upcoming events, the more smoothly things tend to go.

Yesterday was the perfect example of how my previewing new experiences helps my daughter cope. Yesterday, she had her very first dentist visit. She should have started going much earlier, but I became a walking medical emergency for the past two years, and finding a new dentist just got set aside for the more crucial crises, like spending months immobilized in a hip brace.

Around the age of two, I started previewing her trip to the dentist. I bought books about teeth and a trip to the dentist. We’ve read the book casually over the past two years. If I were planning for a more immediate event, I would read the book every week or everyday depending on how soon the new activity would be.

Every time Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood or Sesame Street talked about the dentist, I would talk to her about going, explain what the dentist does. The day of the dentist, we watched an episode of 19 Kids and Counting about taking all the smaller children to the dentist.

Then we got to the dentist. I had my visit first, so she could see that having my teeth cleaned was easy. She held my hand and asked me if it hurt or felt good. I smiled, told her it felt fine, that I wasn’t scared or nervous.

Then it was her turn. She was so excited, but a little nervous. She folded her little fingers in that big chair and prayed. “Dear God, please let me be brave and not be scared. Amen.”IMG_4500.JPG

And she was all smiles. After the initial check of her teeth, she yelled, “It worked. My prayer worked! I’m not scared!” She continued to sit quietly (which was a feat in and of itself) and still during the teeth “sparkling.” Her teeth were perfect, and so was her behavior.

The visit was a success. She was so excited. She told everyone all day about going to the dentist. In fact, she was so overjoyed that I joked she doesn’t need Chuck E. Cheese, we’ll just plan her birthday party at the dentist.

Previewing the trip to the dentist helped her be prepared for what to expect. I did the same thing with her last round of immunizations, and she did great. I held her hand, looked in her eyes, and she almost cried, but we smiled together. She laughed and smiled while we put on the band-aids. She was so proud that she got four shots and didn’t cry. The nurses even let her choose two prizes from the treasure chest.

I always preview with a cheery, hopeful tone. I always talk about the importance of what we’re doing and give her confidence in her ability to go through whatever the situation is. We’re already previewing school and riding the bus with how to act and what the experience will be.

Last year, I previewed going to the library for the first time, so she would know how to behave and what to expect. We even previewed going to a friend’s birthday, so she would understand giving her a gift and not helping her blow out the candles.

I may never know how she would have handled the situations without previewing, but I know that she was able to face many new situations with confidence and joy. We were able to enjoy lots of new experiences together.

We all fear the unknown. As a parent, giving my daughter the confidence and knowledge to face new situations will prepare her to face many new things in the years to come.

As a Christian, knowing that my salvation is secure, that I can trust in the future in Heaven, helps me face the unknown here.  My heavenly father previews the life of a Christian, that the world will be harsh and reject us, but that we can know we have eternal life through Jesus Christ.

1 John 5:13 ESV “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”

Reading the Bible, hearing God’s promises of salvation, forgiveness, and a home in Heaven for our eternity, helps us live with a peacefulness and grace even in the darkest times because we know we are not alone. God has already claimed victory.

Nothing has changed my heart, my life, my parenting than claiming this promise because it changed my entire perspective.

Seriously Harvard!? How I reset my parenting expectations

Seriously Harvard? God convicted me that my parenting expectations were way out of whack. Was I really parenting for Harvard or Heaven?

My parenting expectations were WAY out of whack. I realized this after a harmless Facebook post almost sent me into a tizzy.

A mom friend posted on Facebook. “My 6 yo daughter is so smart! Harvard should get ready.”

She was being quippy.

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But my mommy radar sounded an alarm, seeking some measuring stick by which to gauge if my daughter might also be in this very elite kindergarten predestined for Harvard group.

I began to type a long comment, but paused. She was being funny. Her daughter is super intelligent. Deciding I didn’t need to compare my daughter or have my parenting validated, I ‘Liked‘ and moved on with my day.

I needed to get a grip. AGAIN. Why was I so concerned with external success for my daughter? What am I raising her for?

Seriously Harvard? God convicted me that my parenting expectations were way out of whack. Was I really parenting for Harvard or Heaven?Seriously Harvard?! I needed to reset my parenting expectations! 

Man, that sneaky pride and mother’s love (fear/worry) is a daily battle. I think some of my fear comes from the tremendous challenges I faced to even become a mother.

While I struggled to deal with my own emotions, I was reminded of a Beginner’s Bible video I had stopped to watch with my precious girl, the story of Samuel.

My favorite part of the story starts with Hannah who desperately wanted to be a mother. She prayed and wept, promising if God gave her a child, she would dedicate his life to God. Her story so closely mirrors mine: lots of prayer, tears, and . . .

I had needed to surrender each step to God.

My story started in 2004, when for medical reasons, I had to undergo a hysterectomy. It was a heartbreaking decision, but the right one for my health.

A few years later, and I’m newly married, settled in Texas and ready to be a mom, but the finances to pursue adoption weren’t available. Prayers started then for God to make a clear way possible if adoption was His plan for us,  so we weren’t going into debt or jumping through hoops for our own desires over His.

When waiting on answers to prayer, it is always better to wait on God than force our own way. Click To Tweet

Two more years passed, and we had saved the money, thanks to frugal living and God’s provisions. But we couldn’t find an agency. It just seemed like it wasn’t going to happen.

I remember laying on our bed, sobbing, asking God if I wasn’t fit to be a mother or if it just wasn’t His plan for me, but to let me know so I could quit waiting, quit aching for a baby.

That was the moment I really surrendered my desire for a child to God and prayed for Him to make a way or give me strength to walk away.

Then a talk with a social worker led us to the right agency that we just clicked with. It took months of paperwork, fingerprints, background checks, home study visits, then more paperwork, but we were finally approved by as a waiting family March 1, 2010.

The sweetest moments in my life are when I surrendered my desires in exchange for God's gifts. Click To Tweet

Then it really was about waiting. A birth mother selects a couple to raise her child. You could wait a day or forever. After a few days of nervous excitement that we were finally approved, the newness wore off. The real waiting began.

Everyday could be the day, or we could be waiting years. With a traditional pregnancy, you have some sense of when it will be over (even if it starts to feel like the never-ending hallway nightmare around month 7).

Emotionally, I just had no way to prepare my heart for this.

A friendly colleague asked me fairly regularly if we had heard anything in the first two weeks. I finally told her, when we got the call, no one would have to wonder. I’d be shouting from the rafters. But while I tried to be patient, I was watching one of my closest friends get closer and closer to her due date, being surrounded by all things baby.

Again, I finally brought it to God’s feet.

Lord, let me be patient and wait for your timing. Let me enjoy the time we have left as a couple.

Let me accept if the answer is no.

Seriously Harvard? God convicted me that my parenting expectations were way out of whack. Was I really parenting for Harvard or Heaven?

The last one, really giving it up to God felt like pouring my heart out onto the floor, but I remember the morning I prayed it and truly meant it. I let go. God, I’ll wait until your time is right, if ever. Until then, I will enjoy spending time with my husband and being a couple.

That was 7:30 a.m. My cell phone rang at 9.

“We have a match for you. We have a baby for you.”I could scarcely breathe.

The next two days was a blur of squeals and phone calls. We officially accepted the placement for a baby girl due in June. That moment is one of the deepest moments in my life of feeling God’s presence and love, less than two hours after I surrendered my heart’s desires.

Hannah’s story in Samuel resonates with me because when I chose to put God’s will over what I wanted, deciding to be the mother God wanted for a baby, then God gave me this most precious gift, when I was ready to raise her for Him and not myself.

This week I remembered again that I can worry if she attends Harvard, or just make sure I’m teaching her to love God. The rest really will go according to plan, His plan for her life, of which I am a handpicked part. He didn’t just pick her for me, he picked us for her, and why parenting for Heaven, not Harvard, is so much more important.

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Pray ceaselessly

The other night, my daughter’s bedtime slid backwards a few minutes because her glow stick bubble bath ran a little long. It is her favorite thing. We turn off the lights in the bathroom and let her imagination run wild. She played until the water got cold, and her fingers were tiny raisins. By the time I was finishing her second story, asking her what was special about her day, and preparing to say her prayers with her, sleepiness turned her into a tiny ball of hysterical giggles. I snuggled her and kissed her nose, letting her laughter rise up into my heart like champagne bubbles, treasuring every moment.

After a few minutes. I tried to get her to calm down so we could say her prayers, but even as I was explaining to her why she should stop giggling and close her eyes, I felt God tell me not to stop her laughter. That prayer wasn’t something He wanted her to learn was serious and stodgy all the time. That unwittingly, I was teaching her to only pray at certain times in certain mindsets. I pictured Jesus asking the disciples to let the little children come to him, as they were, not as the disciples thought they should be. I could almost hear God sadly telling me that her precious, infectious, baby laughter was music to His heart, too. I felt so convicted.

And woefully unprepared. How do I teach my daughter to pray? Certainly, quiet-folded-fingers prayers have a place, but what does God call us to do? 1 Thessalonians 5:17 reads, “Pray without ceasing.” Pray constantly. In every moment.

Wow. I think about this verse all the time, about what we’re supposed to do as followers of Christ, but how do I make that part of who we are as a family? How do I demonstrate my humble attempts at constant prayer? How do I put prayer in my parenting that doesn’t just involve pleas for my sanity?

I don’t want God to sit on a shelf like a dusty Bible no one reads, or be put away and only brought out during important times. I am a little new at doing that out loud, at portraying prayer in an obvious manner for my daughter. I have tried to make prayer something we do together several times a day. We have a good morning prayer that we do sleepy-eyed and fuzzy brained to thank God for another day to be alive, we focus our prayer on having the right heart for the day, on being obedient and open to God’s word. A focused morning prayer helps me remember my goal in parenting her for the day is to point her toward heaven, not Harvard as well as remind her to start listening to God’s voice for her life. We pray over lunch or over dinner and before bed, sometimes while we’re in the car. But to model a running dialogue with God is a little daunting. I’m not sure how to do that.

My daughter is three and very silly. Today she wore a play grocery basket on her head like a hat, but with her baby doll stuffed into it. I asked her what she was playing, and she said, “magic bunny hat.” How she walked around like that for 30 minutes with a straight face, I’ll never know, or why she didn’t use a stuffed bunny??? but I really don’t know how to teach her to pray all the time. The only thought I have is to model it. To pray out loud whenever the mood strikes, to be in an attitude of prayer while I’m having Bible study or even in the little things.

I’ve prayed over the laundry. A few months ago, there was a specific moment I felt called to pray. I had a whole load of my husband’s army uniforms which for the uninitiated includes the most horrible socks to fold. He had left the load in the dryer for days. It was aggravating me, and I felt God nudge me to fold it for him instead of grumble at him about it when he came home, but when I dragged myself to do it, I wasn’t being very joyful in my service. I summoned some joy and when my daughter came in to help, I told her we were going to pray and thank God for this laundry that meant that Daddy is home and not deployed again, thank you that his service is allowing me to be home and care for him and our child, thankful for our family, and thankful that God gave us a family to love by helping with the laundry.

It was a moment that felt right for a lot of reasons, not the least of which I got to model a great attitude of being a helpmate and joyful giver in front of my daughter, but also of how prayer can be eyes open, in the moment, and just conversational.

In fact, there have been a couple of times this year, I’ve caught her talking aloud to someone most definitely not visible, but I hear her call God or Jesus. Once she was sitting at the kitchen island holding up a tiny scrape. I asked her what she was doing. She replied, “I’m telling Jesus about my boo boo.” And I listened to her finish telling Jesus how she got the scrape and how her wonderful body would heal that scrape. She thanked him for her body and asked him to help her feel better. She chatted animatedly just as she would if she were talking to me.

Hmm, maybe I’m the one who is really learning how to pray.

Heaven Not Harvard: Faith Focused Parenting & Living

Parenting with a Kingdom mindset, focusing on Heaven not Harvard has become the definition for more than just my parenting-And changes me more daily.

Heaven not Harvard was a cute blog name brainstorm, but now, it means so much more. Parenting with a Kingdom mindset, focusing on Heaven not Harvard has become the definition for more than my parenting journey.

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God is encouraging me to strip away more and more worldly fluff and focus on Him. As I went from full-time teacher to staying at home to home-schooling, God is changing my focus and my heart.

What should we focus on? Sending our children to Heaven not Harvard, giving them a kingdom mindset
My little at 2 1/2, nothing beats a swing.

As a teacher transitioning to SAHM, I thought I understood what staying at home entailed since I had been home weekends and vacations. I thought I was prepared. I thought it would be easy.

As a former teacher, I thought staying home would be easy, like summer, but nothing has been more challenging. Click To Tweet

Well, um, yeah. Best laid plans and all that. How was a super driven, type-A personality going to handle a job without any external validation? How would I gauge success or failure?

I created this idealized image of a stay at home mother.

Was I parenting to please people or God? I had to shift focus to Heaven not Harvard

I imagined this breezy, carefree, yet impeccable, June Cleaver existence. My house would be clean. My child would be sweet and smart and kind. All poor behavior would be quickly and lovingly addressed. I would somehow be the perfect juxtaposition between Martha Stewart and Carol Brady.

Then life got in the way. Medical crisis after medical crisis left me struggling to just parent at all. And, I found having a strong willed child threw quite a monkey wrench into my perfect picture.

The reality of parenting 24/7 was harder than I could have imagined.

I’ve called my mother a few times just to say thank you. When she asks, “For what?” I simply answer, “For allowing us all to live.”

We both laugh, but we know how it feels inside when the threenager has been screaming from timeout for ten minutes.

We wonder how we’re going to make it one more minute, or to dinner time, and holy crow, please hurry up bedtime!

I couldn't meet all the world's demands. I had to parent for Heaven not Harvard

I’ve been growing in my walk with Christ, understanding who I am and whom God has called me to be. As I grow in Him I realize how I parent will have significant impact on her faith in Christ, her walk with Him on this earth, and her eternity.

But worldly pressures seep into my head about what is important for me to consider as I parent. Different ideas and values surround us on social media.

Before I started blogging, I read a Parents article that stated three year-olds without a specific daily bedtime scored lower at seven on reading, math and spatial learning tests.

Argh, are you kidding me??

For being so type-A, I thought I was winning over my demons by being laid back about schedules and bedtimes.  My child slept enough and went to bed within a 60 minute window, but inadvertently, I might have damaged her intellect for four years from now?!?

I sat there reading the article in the quiet 5 minutes I get since my daughter has learned mommy wants to potty alone. Locking the door helps.

I struggled against tears.

I had waited a long time to be a mother and wanted to get everything just right, as if all the waiting to adopt my daughter automatically gave me wisdom that would prevent the typical parenting pitfalls.

But here I sat, wrestling with fear and pride over potentially lost IQ points in a wonderful child who is creative and bright.

Why? For my own ego?

I felt pressured to prove I am a worthy mother to the world.

Her ‘being smart’ would validate my parenting, right? As if only good parents have smart kids, or good parents only have smart kids, or if being smart is even important!

When we measure our parenting against worldly standards, we miss the measure that matters. Click To Tweet

Wow, am I that vain? Harsh reality, but sometimes I really am/was.

Convicted, I decided my sin wasn’t going to be the focus of my parenting.  I want her to enjoy learning because I do, because getting an education can lead to a fulfilling career, but even then, so what?

What is my real goal in parenting? What do I want her to be?

A loving, kind, compassionate follower of Christ, an example for the world of Christ’s love and God’s grace.

What does the rest matter if she is living out loud for God? Would I love her any less if she were a janitor or any more if she were a doctor? Is the bigger, better job always best?

My job is to be a good steward of this child, but I’m raising her for His plan. When I started to look from God’s perspective, I realized she is how He made her.

Parenting with a Kingdom mindset, focusing on Heaven not Harvard has become the definition for more than just my parenting-And changes me more daily.

My child is who God made her. My job is to be a steward of His child, raising her for Heaven, Not Harvard. Click To Tweet
My job is to raise her for HIM, Heaven not Harvard. Everything else is unimportant.

If I dedicate my life and parenting to Christ, she will be who He needs her to be. I can love her and prepare her for the trials of life educationally, socially, and spiritually, but she has to be prepared to live for Him on her own.

Nothing is necessarily wrong with Harvard, but I’d rather focus on Heaven than worry about silly articles that provoke fear and self-doubt.

Which is why I’ve chosen to write about my experiences as a wife and mother: learning to be Christlike, teaching my daughter to follow God, and living as a witness to those who don’t know Christ as their personal savior.

Because in the biggest picture of them all, eternity, not much else really matters.