Tuesday, July 22, 2014

An Essential Project That's Well Worth Your Time

I'm doing something that's tedious and time-consuming this week: I'm compiling photos from 2012-2013 to make our family story book. Keep reading. I will justify this time spent.

Every two years, I make a photo album on shutterfly.com. Essentially, I tell our family story for those years. I choose a theme or a word to frame this story, too.

It takes a lot of time, but I remember this: My wise counselor told me that part of mental health is the ability to tell an integrated life story about yourself.

He talked about the importance of telling the story of one's family history. He challenged me to find treasured family memories from my own childhood and now, as a mother, to pass on the gift to my children of the story of their lives.

This is essential. This is critical. I had no idea.

(Photo album design seemed to me the work of crafty mothers who gathered for scrapbooking parties. I've never been to one of these parties, and I wasn't about to start going! Thank you, Lord, for websites that do the creative work for you!)

Yes, my counselor told me that family photo albums are part of mental health and the well-being of my children. People research this kind of stuff. Family story telling matters deeply. Deeply. 

Photo albums for mental health! Imagine!

I sit down and sift through all the photos. It takes me an hour to get through April. I make pages and pages of photos, and guess which story I tell?

I tell the story of God's faithfulness. I tell the story of perseverance, of God's sovereignty, of God's provision, and of love.

I tell the story of love.

Page after page, I record the truth for them for years to come.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Huge Little Prayer

This morning I read a comment by Hannah Whitall Smith from The Veil Uplifted

She writes, "We are made for union with Him, and union must mean oneness of purpose and thought, so the only pathway to this union must be a perfect harmony between our will and His."

I prayer for a "perfect harmony" between my will and God's. Bring everything in my life into complete harmony with you, Jesus.

I breathe the 11 word prayer and realize mountains have moved within me. Gears have locked, mechanisms have aligned. Whatever isn't harmonizing will tune itself to a holy note. 

This is a huge little prayer. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

How to Teach Children to Be Great Hosts (and Why)

My daughter invites a friend for a sleepover, and I take a moment to remind her what it means to be a great host. I remember that certain things aren't intuitive; you have to teach young children how to welcome someone into their home.

First, I remind my daughter to immediately make a guest feel comfortable by helping them settle in. This means letting them know where to place shoes and coats and where the restroom is. Then you can offer a beverage or a snack. You can also ask a guest if they feel too hot or too cold in your home. The goal is his or her comfort.

Second, I teach my daughter that great hosts have a plan. Instead of friends staring at one another not knowing what to do, I encourage my daughter to make a plan of possible activities for them to enjoy together that the guest will particularly love. With a plan of lots of options, a guest can chose something she really enjoys to do.

Third, I tell my daughter that the needs of the guest come first, so it's a great opportunity to defer to someone else, to take your turn last, and to put your needs aside for a time.

Fourth, I talk about the power of the Special Treat that the guest isn't expecting. Whether it's a chocolate cake, a rented movie, a recipe to create together, an outing, or a craft, you can offer little surprises to delight another person.

Finally, I send my daughter upstairs to tidy up. Cleaning the bathroom, organizing the playroom, and picking up clutter means that the guest can enjoy a lovely space that's clean and fresh smelling.

Why do this? Well, teaching children to host well gives them a lifelong skill of how to bless people with the resources God gives us (our home, our possessions). It also builds empathy as you ask your children to imagine how another person might be feeling.

Hosting other people is something I do every week, if not every day. It's part of having a home and blessing a community. It's a great ministry. It's something I had to learn from others, so today, I'm passing it on to my own children.