Posted by: pamrichardswatts | September 19, 2014

Blessed Be the Ties That Bind

When Brent and I threw a Sweet Sixteen birthday party for our daughter Katherine—and sixteen of her closest friends—we chose the theme “Growing Up Together” to commemorate years of friendship. It was a sweet opportunity to celebrate the lives of these lovely young women and the close bonds they all shared.

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Breanna20Breanna was one such friend to join us that evening, a precious girl we consider one of Katherine’s “BFFs.”  The girls were only five when they met in summer dance class.  They hit it off instantly, and mother Julie and I were greatly reassured to learn that our daughters would be starting kindergarten at the same school. We were even more delighted when they ended up in the very same class! And so began a friendship that would carry Katherine and Breanna from that first day of kindergarten all the way to high school graduation—one formed and fostered through this shared love of dance.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAs I looked at all the smiling faces around the table that night, it struck me just how many of Katherine’s friends shared a similar history. Many of the girls were “dance team friends.” Or “choir friends.” Sometimes both. As with many teenagers, my daughter’s teammates had become the core of her high school community. After all, these girls spent hours at practice and miles on the road together. There were onstage performances—and backstage dramas. There was plenty of hard work and light-hearted camaraderie; celebrations, struggles . . .  and even plenty of prayer.

That right there was the best possible reason to celebrate, the thing we were most thankful for. You see, all through those growing-up years, Brent and I had shared our own prayers—that our children would pursue godly friendships. Meanwhile, we had also prayed that God would lead our children into ideal pursuits—the kind that would honor Him and bless our children.

However, never could we have anticipated how He would weave those two requests together, answering them beyond anything we could ever ask or imagine.  Not only did He bring godly friends and role models into our children’s lives, He also directed them toward activities in which godly friends would meet, learn and grow together. These “choir friends” and “dance friends” were united not only in their common interests and mutual affection—but in their deep love for Christ. While they didn’t necessarily belong to the same church or denomination, they shared a profound faith which sustained them all through “the thrill of victory” and “the agony of defeat” both on and off the field.

And that was the sweetest gift we could ask for.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed . . . three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9, 12 (NLT)

2011 Fiesta Texas

Posted by: pamrichardswatts | August 21, 2014

Selective Service

jesus wants you

This is the third in a series of posts following the impact of The Cure for the “Perfect” Life in the life of this recovering perfectionist. You will find additional posts in the Braver Living category. Meanwhile, hear what other brave rebels are saying or get your own prescription for The Cure at http://www.thecurefortheperfectlife.com/talking.php

 “Some are born leaders, some achieve leadership, and some have leadership thrust upon them. Which of these are you, or would you rather not bother?” ― Maurice Flanagan

My answer? I will go to great bother just to avoid leadership. I’m happy to serve the public, just as long as I don’t have to do it in public. When it comes to leadership, I am a dedicated draft-dodger. However, once Cheri and Kathi identified fear as “the main force of try-harder living,” I had to come face-to-face with my cowardice at the prospect of leadership. This was the internal battle I faced every time I was asked to lead:

“Responsibility—especially leadership/public responsibility—is AGONIZING & TERRIFYING. What if I fail? As a leader, failure = I let others down—and even more ‘others’ will SEE ME DO IT.”

As a busy mom of four active children, I’m asked continually to sign up for volunteer responsibilities. Every year I must carefully decide who/what/when/where/how I will serve. The leaders of the Braver Living Rebellion recommend the following chain of command prior to enlisting:

  • Ask God;
  • Ask a significant other;
  • Ask for specific details. What is the extent of this commitment? Am I fit for this particular duty at this time?

I was first introduced to such tactics years ago in Denise Glenn’s study Motherwise: Freedom for Mothers. Since then, I’ve had numerous opportunities to witness firsthand what happens when: 1) I enlist my husband as my ally and first line of defense; and 2) I do my best to get down to the “brass tacks” of the assignment before committing to it.

However, ultimately the most critical step is leaving God in charge of recruitment.  As Cheri and Kathi point out, “When God asks you to get involved, trust and obey. Pause. Pray. Be still and know that it’s God calling before answering yes.” For one who fears leadership like I do, obedience to God is often the only thing that outranks fear.

God. Other. Details. This strategy was never more crucial than this past year, when I was thrust into a leadership role of epic proportions.  It started peaceably enough. Susan, a comrade-in-arms on the volunteer front, asked if she could nominate me to an advisory committee for an upcoming school bond issue. Was I willing to serve?

Before I could give an answer, though, I had lots of questions. Since I was pretty green when it came to school administration, school finances, or school politics, I first had to ask, “Why me?” My friend and sponsor listed some assets I could bring to the committee table. Having worked with me on committees for years, she’s qualified to say so. Since I’ve known her for years, I was inclined to trust her judgment.

Next I asked about the details, and learned that the committee would meet for a few hours every Monday evening during the month of February. Then I asked my significant other what he thought. He reminded me of my passion for this kind of service, and offered his worst-case scenario: “If you say no, I think you might regret it.”

Most importantly, I turned the matter over to God. Before I answered to anyone else, I responded to Him with my own version of, “Let it be to me according to your will.” Then I left it to God to call me up as He saw fit.

In the end, I said, “Yes.” Yes to my friend.  Yes to my husband. Yes to the opportunity. Yes to the responsibility. And most importantly, I said “Yes” to God.

Christian Soldier

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before.

Lucky for me, because only God understood all that I agreed to. Without realizing it, I had just said “yes” to unprecedented leadership and responsibility—a role that grew until it took over my home life, my personal life and my spiritual life. Only God could have predicted how quickly a simple peacekeeping mission would turn into a reenactment of World War III, complete with heavy combat and high casualties—and only God could arm me for the fight to come:

  • Only God could have transferred this lowly grunt to serve alongside such high-ranking officers as the superintendent and president of the school board.
  • Only God could prepare me to speak before PTAs, school board trustees, city council members—and the press.
  • When I gave up precious hours that spring reserved for my graduating senior, only God could redeem the sacrifice.
  • When I had to leave family behind for meetings and other maneuvers, only God could care for them in my absence.
  • As “three nights in February” became an extended tour of duty lasting for months, only God could help me endure to the end.
  • Only God could guard my name, my heart and my sanity as the controversy turned every friend into an ally—or an enemy.
  • Only God could have promoted me so far out of my comfort zone all the way to the front lines—and only God could protect me fully once I got there.

Never have I held a leadership role more public—or more terrifying. Thousands of students and millions of dollars were at stake—and failure was most definitely an option. Only God could command me to fight for such a thing, only God could equip me for battle—and in the end, only God could deliver victory.

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord. Proverbs 21:31

That Election Day, we won the vote and passed the bond by a nail-biting margin of two percent. On the other hand, I enjoyed a pretty decisive victory in my own personal battle against fear. I don’t ever need to be afraid to lead—so long as that leadership begins and ends by following God. Only God.

Remember that I commanded you to be strong and brave. Don’t be afraid, because the Lord your God will be with you everywhere you go. Joshua 1:9

Only God can do such things. John 9:33 (The Voice)

Posted by: pamrichardswatts | August 13, 2014

Summertime . . . and the Livin’ Ain’t So Easy

summertime livinSummertime has often been a challenge in our household. When the kids were little—back when “the years go by fast, but the days go so slow”—summer practically came to a standstill. There was never enough to do. During long weeks of triple-digit heat, it seemed heartless to insist that we go to the park or the zoo. One. More. Time.

Fast-forward a few years, and now the problem with summer is that it goes by too fast. There is never enough time for all the things we want and need to do—but can’t get around to during the hectic school year. Somewhere along the way, summertime has become the “junk drawer” for all the work and play we shove aside during nine months of busyness.

However, it wasn’t until I read The Cure for the “Perfect” Life that I discovered my real problem with summer. Authors Cheri Gregory and Kathi Lipp introduced me to the real culprits responsible for my summer struggles. Every year, the procrastination, perfomancism and perfectionism bullies (or “P-bullies,” for short) have been ganging up to sabotage my summer.

From August to May, procrastination herds me forward, promising ample time, energy and family cooperation to finish everything I feel guilty about for neglecting during the school year.  I can go through papers . . . clean out closets . . . have people over for dinner . . . in the summer. For nine long months, procrastination convinces me to sidestep such things like a modern-day Scarlett O’Hara chanting, “I won’t think about that now. I’ll think about it . . . in the summer.

By the time we reach May, performancism steps in with staggering assignments for everyone. I’ve even created summer “To Do” lists for my kids, optimistically titled Family Summer Goals. Under headings like Study, Skills and Service, my “helpful survey” includes questions to my children such as “this summer, I want to learn more about . . .” and “I would like to see us help others by . . .”

Performancism works extra-hard in the summer, hoping to get the most out of summer work and play. A true show-off, performancism needs impressive answers to the typical question, “What did you do on your summer vacation?”

Procrastination and perfomancism drive me toward summer, where perfectionism waits in ambush. It blinds me with glaringly high expectations, insisting that I can indeed achieve the perfection I crave . . . in the summer.

Finally! I’m going to clean out all the closets! Reconcile all the bank statements and go through all the files! Finish all those incomplete scrapbooks! Make sure my children watch less TV/ read more books/learn more/serve others more. In the summer, I will finally realize my dream of the perfect home . . . perfect parenthood . . . perfect life.

Perfection, it seems, is just on the horizon . . . in the summer. As it turns out, “the horizon is just an imaginary line that recedes as we approach it.”

Let’s face it. If I could miraculously accomplish everything on my impossible list in three short months, I’d need to summon up a miracle that could make me more disciplined, more focused and more productive than I am the other three-fourths of the year. I’d have to move faster and work even harder in a season tailor-made for slowing down and taking it easy. Sounds perfectly ridiculous, doesn’t it?

Cure-for-the-Perfect-Life-Cover-3D_LeftThankfully, with the help of Cheri, Kathi, and their gallant band of braver living rebels, I’ve found there is a cure for the summertime blues. I’ve decided to send the P-bullies on a permanent vacation and reclaim summer once and for all!

A recent Facebook status captures one of the best things I “did on my summer vacation:”

“I never really knew how tired I was until I stopped letting the P-bullies nag, hound and drive me from morning ‘til night! Looks like I may not have to wait until I’m dead to rest after all . . . tonight I shut them down and spent a lovely, relaxing moment doing nothing other than sit outside to enjoy the cool evening, pet my dog, and watch my husband and son work on a fun project all their own—hammers and nails and power tools, oh my!

It was . . . dare I say . . . perfect?!”

If you’d like to make summer living—or any other season—a little easier, join the rebellion, and learn how doing nothing may be one of the bravest things you can “do!”

Posted by: pamrichardswatts | August 5, 2014

Writing Blog Tour

blog tour

 

I am very thankful to my dear friend and sister-in-the-faith Paige Brooks for tagging me in this Blog Tour. It’s been a sweet privilege to study God’s word both alongside and under her. Paige’s original work, Immeasurable Life: A Study of the Letter to the Ephesians was certainly an immeasurable blessing in my life!

Paige is a gifted writer who currently has several projects in the works, including a website for women who want to dig deeper into God’s Word, a children’s curriculum for new believers called Investig8, and her Bible study on Ephesians.

What are you working on?

I’m very excited to be working on my first book, When Jesus Takes the Field: Reclaiming Kids’ Activities (and Busy Families) for God’s Kingdom. Designed for active Christian families, the book offers a faith-based approach to extracurricular pursuits such as arts and athletics.

Family life today has been radically altered by children’s extracurricular activities. Families spend more hours in organized activities than ever, sacrificing precious leisure time to shuttle their offspring between ball fields, gymnasiums, and studios. Activities intended to enrich the lives of children threaten to bankrupt their parents. No longer “just for fun,” recreation has practically become its own religion.

As a “soccer mom” and veteran of many other kids’ activities, I address these challenges as I invite parents behind the scenes of today’s organized activities. We’ll explore the allure and potential idolatry of these pursuits, and then discover how to follow and serve God through every aspect of extracurricular life. We’ll learn how to partner with God as he equips our children for his purposes, using biblical truth to:

  • Create a winning game plan for family activities;
  • Become better stewards of resources such as time and money;
  • Withstand both “the thrill of victory” and “the agony of defeat” with dignity and grace;
  • Identify God’s expectations for team players and good sports; and
  • Grow beyond mere spectators to effective witnesses and disciples on (and off) the field.

If you’re interested in teaming up with other parents on this issue, please meet us at the field in our Facebook group!

I’ve also been privileged to be part of the launch team for an amazing new book, The Cure for the Perfect Life: 12 Ways to Stop Trying Harder and Start Living Braver. I’ll be continuing to post about my experiences as part of the Braver Living Rebellion here!

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

There just aren’t that many resources available to coach parents for success in the area of children’s extracurriculars, and those that do take a primarily secular approach. As active families rush the playing field in ever-growing numbers, I’ve witnessed a growing need for both practical and spiritual help. I pray that my book will help meet that need.

Why do you write what you do?

I’m convinced that we all have something important to say! God taught me a long time ago that it is because of Him that we have a story to tell—and it is for Him that we tell it.

As to why I write what I write—well, I tried to explain this to a pastor once, who concluded that my writing is a kind of “literary sanctification”—i.e., it is through writing that God grows and refines me. He has a way of pulling words out of me that provide such wisdom and encouragement I just want to share them with others.

Those would be the more “spiritual” answer, I guess—but to be honest, the reason I started writing at all is because it’s the only way I’ve found to silence the voices in my head. Sometimes it’s a joy—and sometimes it’s just an exorcism!

How does your writing process work?

My favorite description of the artistic process comes from the movie Amadeus. Mozart assures a patron that the opera is entirely finished—in his head. The rest, he promises, is just “bibbling and scribbling.”

In my head, I’m certain I have inspired masterpieces—until it all falls apart during the “bibbling and scribbling.” One technique that has helped tremendously is something I learned from Robin Stanley at CLASS Seminars. I’ll grab a stack of loose-leaf paper and my favorite “flowy” pen, and write without stopping, scratching out or editing in any way. Once that’s done, I can type, edit and polish it up until it’s fit to share. It’s just as they say, “the first draft is written with the heart, and the second draft with the head.” Works for me!

Next up:

Next week we will hear from:

Vanessa LeRow. I have been equally blessed to study God’s Word with and from Vanessa. She has a beautiful heart, a powerful story and an authentic way of sharing it all with her readers. In her own words, Vanessa confesses, “I’m a mess. Seriously, my nickname growing up was Messy Nessy. I believe that Jesus is the only One who can make beauty out of my messes and anyone else’s mess-if we let Him. He’s my only hope as I parent four kids, love my husband deeply, serve others with gratitude and humility, and write words that hopefully make sense. I’ve yet to accomplish any of that in one day. Just keepin’ it real…”

Jennifer Kampermann. Jennifer is an powerful advocate for children as well as a passionate writer, and I’ve had the privilege of speaking and serving alongside Jennifer in our school district. Jennifer understands that “as mothers, we face many challenges in raising our girls; and our girls face many challenges in learning how to maneuver in today’s world.” Her blog A Healthy Woman is committed to building strong women inside and out.

Soon I hope to introduce you to Holly Baxley. Holly is an incredibly talented writer, singer, composer and web designer, not to mention my dear friend and “travelin’ buddee.” Holly is the reason I started blogging in the first place, and she has cheered me on as a writer ever since!

Posted by: pamrichardswatts | August 4, 2014

Marching to Bravery (One Baby Step at a Time)

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAIf you drive around central Texas at all, you may notice a woman wildly waving her arms in the car. That could be me.

I am also a woman who responds to stress with anger. Since I live in a busy household of six active people, it’s not hard to find things to get stressed about—and easy to find targets for my anger. So my family and I can all be grateful that I joined the launch team for The Cure for the Perfect Life. Under the talented direction of authors Cheri Gregory and Kathi Lipp, I have made a significant about-face to both stress and anger.

Just in time, too, as we’ve had an unusual amount of financial stress around here. With one child headed back to college, one headed to the open road (new driver insurance!) and a third headed to the orthodontist (braces!!), we are anticipating one of the most expensive years we have had in a long time. We’ve really had to tighten some belts and step out in faith.

Recently Brent and I were recounting over dinner all the times God had been faithful to take care of us in the money department. Good to remember. It must have also been part of His providence that I had just finished reading Chapter 12, This Probably Isn’t the End of the World, that very night.

The next morning I was humming a cheerful tune as I silenced a couple of “People-Pleasing bullies” (Chapter 2) while attempting to accommodate the expectations and busy schedules of five other people. Bravo, Pam!

However, my careful arrangement hit a sour note when a neighbor returned our two prodigal dogs to the backyard—and one of them was limping. I ended up rushing from our scheduled appointment with the dentist to take my injured dog to an unexpected stop at the vet’s.

At Stop #1 I learned my 16-year-old needed his wisdom teeth out. Soon. Cha-ching! At Stop #2, we discovered Eddie had a broken ankle and needed orthopedic dog surgery. Double cha-ching!

Breathe, Pam. Pray. It’s not the End of the World.

I didn’t handle it perfectly at all—I exited the dentist’s office with a huffy, “I really didn’t need to hear this today!” I exiled my daughter from the vet’s exam room when I couldn’t take her barking at her brother a moment longer. Once home, I collapsed on my bed and refused to take another step, as exhausted as if I’d just marched in a five-hour parade. But I did take some pretty big “baby steps” that day:

  • As I hurried from one appointment to the next, I made sure to control my breathing, open my eyes, and smile, if not laugh (page 134). I felt like a grinning idiot—but I felt so much better!
  • I asked for help (Chapter 19). I asked the dental staff to help get us out the door in time to make it to the vet. I asked the vet to explain things to me as quickly as possible so that I could stop dreading the problem and start dealing with it. I asked my two closest BFF’s to listen and pray.
  • I refused to take responsibility for everyone else’s feelings (Chapter 15). Instead I gave my family room to maneuver through their emotions, their way. One child became self-centered and insensitive; another was hyper-sensitive. One kid tried to regain control by bossing others around—and the “big kid” lost control with a few choice swearwords. While in the past I would have tried to judge and fix everyone else, this time I could understand and accept—at least, a little better!
  • I prayed (page 138): for the dog, for my kids, for me—and especially for my husband. There was no gracious way to prepare Brent for such unexpected and upsetting news, yet he had to be told—and soon.
  • Throughout the day, I sought every opportunity to tone down my discordant emotions. I admit, some were a little indulgent—but pizza and chocolate have medicinal qualities, right?

Finally, I gave myself the time and space I needed to navigate my big emotions (page 138). Driving home later that night, I found all the space I needed once I turned on the CD player and heard Stars and Stripes Forever.

At the push of a button, an entire marching band filled my little car—and I was quick to join the parade. Soon I was banging drums (aka, the steering wheel) and waving my hands energetically as I conducted for an audience of one. Trust me, it’s almost impossible to feel bad when you’re leading a Sousa march—and nothing beats it for drowning out the P-bullies!

So the next time you see some woman waving her arms in the car, she could just be another brave rebel who’s discovered The Cure for the Perfect Life.

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Posted by: pamrichardswatts | August 2, 2014

The EXTRA! in Extracurriculars

Exactly what are extracurriculars? Webster defines them as “extra activities (such as sports) that can be done by the students in a school but that are not part of the regular schedule of classes.” Those are what most of us think of when we hear the word—athletics, arts and other pursuits that take place inside the school, but outside the classroom.

They are considered extras for good reason. No matter where or when our children pursue them, they are just that. Additional. Optional. Want-to’s versus have-to’s. Unlike other parenting imperatives such as food, clothing, shelter and education, extracurricular activities are not mandatory. We can offer them—or not—however we see fit, accountable to no authority but our own.

After all, Child Protective Services will never investigate a case of parental neglect due to “failure to provide violin lessons.” The truancy officer won’t come knocking because Johnny missed one too many t-ball practices. And we’re not likely to get a call from the Children’s Minister because she hasn’t seen Susie around the gymnastics studio lately. Growing our children in “wisdom, stature and favor” doesn’t exactly require music theory, volleyball or summer camps!

In short, these activities are extra—add-ons to the basic necessities children require. Meanwhile, they come with an impressive roster of extras all their own, which only expand as involvement increases:extra favorite

  • Extra costs. Extracurricular activities stretch household resources of time and money. Even those activities provided courtesy of school hours and school funding will make a play for the family calendar and bank account.
  • Extra identity. For children and parents alike, team membership affects the way others see us—and and how we see ourselves.
  • Extra authority figures. Coaches, directors and other instructors have considerable influence over our children through these activities.
  • Extra relationships. It’s not uncommon for close connections to develop among teammates—and team parents.
  • Extra emotions. The “thrill of victory” and “the agony of defeat” make for a pretty intense roller coaster ride for everyone involved. Get ready to hang on tight!
  • Extra decisions. Today’s extracurricular choices are incredibly varied. Parents hoping to pick the best activity for their child are likely to run out of time, funds and patience before they run out of options.
  • Extra horizons. Extracurricular activities can be highly mobile, and active families may find their “territory enlarged” across town, across the state—or even around the world.

For those who hope to reclaim kids’ activities for God’s kingdom, we will need additional measures of Divine wisdom, guidance and grace, especially since there is one more extra in our lineup:

Extra witness. In the extracurricular arena, followers of Christ are much more than spectators. We can “walk the walk” while sitting in the stands or auditorium, and we can offer hope to a defeated world desperately looking for a win.

As members of God’s team, consider all the extras we can bring to the game! What it means to be recruited by Someone so wholly committed to victory. To have the world’s greatest Coach ready to train us as his Most Valuable Players. To trust in a Referee with the authority to blow the whistle whenever we step out of bounds. Just imagine how the game could change if everyone—children and parents—played by God’s rules:

We could trust all our precious resources to the One who is trustworthy to provide.

We could take our positions with the assurance that comes from our identity in Christ.

We could respect human authorities out of respect for a Sovereign God who calls us to live surrendered, obedient lives.

We could weather wins and losses with dignity and poise.

With mercy, humility and grace, we could restore beauty to a competitive world made ugly by antagonism, hostility and pride. As we love and serve our fellow teammates with generosity, forgiveness and compassion, we could depict lives fully reclaimed by Christ.

 

 

 

Posted by: pamrichardswatts | May 6, 2014

Diner’s Guide to Summer Fun

activity plateI love a good all-you-can-eat buffet—my very favorite meal is the kind that includes “a little bit of a lot.”

I look forward to summer activities for the same reason. Having spent the school year with a full plate and steady diet of soccer practice, dance lessons, games and performances, I’m ready for a change. Summer is the perfect time to slow down, relax, and enjoy nibbling from the “extracurricular buffet” available courtesy of seasonal camps and classes.

With so much to choose from in our community, here are a few recommendations for the Summer Menu:

“I’ll Have What She’s Having.”

It always seems that the most appetizing dish  . . . is the one on someone else’s plate! Is there an activity you’ve been eying from afar? Summer is a great time to try it. Personal recommendations offer a logical starting point, so make the most of reviews from trusted activity critics:

  • What did you like best about this activity?
  • Who do you like best for this activity?
  • What (if anything) would you do differently next time?

Family Style

During the school year, it’s a challenge to get everyone to the table together, let alone engaged in the same activity! Take advantage of the summertime lull to check out local services and studios for family classes and discounts. (We spent an unforgettable season learning kicks and punches together in a family martial arts class. There is nothing like practicing self-defense moves with one’s husband for creating an epic date night!)

Just Like Mom Used to Make

As we equip our children in their gifts and talents, let’s not forget to include a few servings of our own! Over the years, I’ve made a point to hand down a few time-honored recipes for family fun.

dollhouseMy mother and I once built a dollhouse together, sparking a lifelong interest/obsession in miniatures that I have shared with my children. It took us a couple of attempts and many years to finish our own house properly, but the result was beautiful—as were the memories created in the process. My teenage daughter and I spent a precious summer discussing cars and boys as we painted trim and pasted wallpaper!

You never know where such interests may lead. I first discovered archery at summer camp as the perfect sport for the hopeless athlete. (Good marksmen are those who excel in not moving!) I found it so rewarding I thought it might make an interesting summer pastime for my kids.  With the help of Midway P.E. teacher/archery coach Brenda Schaefer, we got the basic equipment and took aim in our backyard. Our son Evan loved it so much he went on to compete with South Bosque’s National Archery in the Schools Program—all the way to the national tournament! (If he keeps it up, he might even qualify for college money for archers.)

  • What are some interests or activities you pursued as a child?
  • What do you love to do as an adult? What are some of your gifts and talents?
  • How can you share these with your child(ren)?

Feed the Hungry

Volunteer efforts never fail to be nutritious and satisfying for all. Don’t wait for the holidays to make community service a cherished family tradition. There are many ways for individuals and families to help others during the summer; with numerous services to choose from, you are sure to find the best fit for your family schedule and palate.

MAKING THE MOST OF THE SUMMERTIME MENU

As you nibble, sample and snack from the best that summer activities have to offer, take note of those that you want to include as regular fall fare.

Read the Label. Take advantage of the Internet by checking out league/studio websites for plenty of useful information. In addition to class schedules and contact information, many also post photo galleries, mission statements and more. Follow on Facebook or Twitter for regular updates.

Feel free to call for more information before committing to enrollment, especially the long-term kind. Any worthwhile director will be happy to answer your questions, and some will even invite you to come in for a more personal discussion. With such a wide variety of options, you are entitled to learn all you can as you seek to make the best choice for your child.

Taste-Test. Become an invested spectator by taking a front row seat at many extracurricular activities.

  • Daily. Many studios have viewing facilities that allow you to drop by and watch classes in session.
  • Seasonally. On any given Saturday, on ball fields and in gyms all over town, our children are competing in team sports:  football, baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, etc. Attending games is a fun and inexpensive way to enjoy some lively competition, as well as an opportunity to support friends. (Be sure and watch the coaches and parents, along with the players!)
  • Annually. Late May/early June is prime time for dance recitals.  In a few short hours, experience the best that local studios have to offer.

If you enjoy what you see, what you hear—and who you run into—you will likely appreciate adding these activities to your plate. It’s a challenge to keep the active family fed—but perhaps a stop at the summer buffet will make it a little more appetizing.

Good luck—and happy dining!

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Activity Directories:

Recommended Reading:

 

 

Posted by: pamrichardswatts | April 8, 2014

Lent Day 35 Reflection

Originally posted on Harris Creek Baptist Church:

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
- Proverbs 31:25 -

You know you’re a “team” parent when . . . you have an entire section of your closet devoted to spirit wear.

With four active children, team t-shirts have taken over my hangers and drawers the same way team activities monopolize my calendar and my checkbook. I grumble while buying them—but I am only too happy to wear them! The uniform of choice for any spectator parent, spirit wear marks me as a busy but devoted mother.

FamilypicI was so excited when our daughter made the high school dance team that I couldn’t wait to put on my Midway Goal Tenders t-shirt, with “Katherine’s Mom” personalized on the back. I continued to wear some variation of it to every football game, all season long . . . four years in…

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Posted by: pamrichardswatts | March 20, 2014

Game Plan for the Injured Child

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There is nothing like the hurt we feel when our children get hurt.

So is it any wonder that we mommies want to make the hurt go away as quickly as possible? Maybe that’s why motherhood comes standard equipped with the “kiss it and make it better” instinct. Such a response is the time-honored cure for skinned knees and banged-up elbows.

But our little patients grow up all too soon, and the complexity of their injuries grows right along with them. A bruised ego. A defeated spirit. A broken heart. Such hurts aren’t as easily kissed away. What’s a loving mother to do then? How can we help? Even after my kids have outgrown the days of booboos and Barney Band-Aids, they still look to me to make it all better.

Nursing is a critical mommy job, but just one of many hats we wear. Our various duties include coach, cheerleader, and—my least favorite of all—referee. That probably explains why I’m so fascinated by high school football. There is a lot to be learned from the sidelines about the parenting game.

As in a family, every winning team depends on the support of many people with different but equally significant roles. The strategic leadership of coaches. The rowdy enthusiasm of cheerleaders and other spirit groups. The faithful presence of loyal fans. And yes, even the judgment of ruthlessly impartial referees! However, one job goes largely unnoticed . . . until a player gets hurt.

At that moment, the most important responsibility belongs to the athletic trainer. As the trainer heads toward the fallen man, everyone else stops whatever they are doing. The entire stadium holds its breath while the trainer evaluates the injury. How badly is our player hurt? Can he shake it off, and get back in the game? Does he need to ice it and sit out a quarter? Does the injury require more serious attention, like x-rays and hospitals? Only after the trainer completes this initial assessment does the player get to his feet—and everyone else gets back into action.

I find this “man down” protocol very effective. It keeps me from straying out of bounds. Mommy instincts are powerful and compelling—but not always rational. For instance, when someone else hurts my child, I’m instantly ready for battle. My first impulse is to call a foul, assign blame and hand out penalties. However, while such tactics might make me feel better, they are not necessarily in the best interests of my child—or anyone else, for that matter.

Nowadays, whenever one of my players gets hurt, I pause briefly. Taking off all other hats for the moment, I concentrate on my role as trainer—the first person needed on the scene after an injury. Before I do anything else, I help my child by giving their pain my full attention.

As trainers, we minister to our children’s wounds.

 At that point, I choose my next hat from the following:

Coach. It is the coach’s responsibility to help make the call for the next play. Characterized by empowerment, coaches equip players for successful living with instruction, discipline and winning maneuvers. Coaches build on past experiences for future action, asking questions like, “What have you learned from this? What can you do differently next time?”

As coaches, we guide our children’s next steps.

Cheerleader. It is the cheerleader’s responsibility to boost morale with words of encouragement. Characterized by enthusiasm, cheerleaders, as the name suggests, lead through example, modeling positive attitude and a winning outlook in the face of setbacks. We root for our children with affirmations like, “You’re so good at _____. I’m really proud of you for _____!”

As cheerleaders, we lift our children’s spirits.

Referee. It is the referee’s responsibility to insure that the game is played fairly for everyone—not just our kid! Characterized by impartiality, referees monitor the action from all sides and maintain a wider perspective. As referees, we consider, “Let’s look at this from the other person’s side. Why do you think s/he may have acted like that?”

As referees, we broaden our children’s understanding.

Spectator. It is the spectator’s responsibility to show up. Characterized by dedication, such loyal fans represent community support and confidence. “We are here for you. We are counting on you. We have faith in you!”

The most passive of all the roles, spectator is particularly hard for devoted parents—especially when we play in helicopter mode, i.e., “hover and rescue.” However, often we can actually help our children more by resisting the urge to swoop in and fix things for them. With focused but restrained attention, as spectators we allow other people or circumstances to impact our children.

Ideally, our children grow up forming relationships with many others throughout life equally equipped to coach, cheer and referee. These include mentors and authority figures such as teachers, youth leaders and actual coaches, as well as friends, classmates and others. As hard as it is to keep silent, I am relieved to discover that I don’t have to have all the right words and answers. I also find that my children may listen to others even when they have tuned me out!

As spectators, we strengthen our children’s independence.

I am so thankful for this training in sports injury procedure. I now have a winning strategy to help get my injured offspring back into the game. As I consider which hat to wear, my attention is refocused from my own hurt back to my child’s. And that is where it belongs—it is their injury after all. I give up what I want to do in favor of who they need me to be. In the end, this simple but selfless act of putting my child’s pain ahead of my own is just a more potent version of that “make it better” kiss.

Love in action is pretty powerful medicine.

-excerpted from When Jesus Takes the Field: Reclaiming Kids’ Activities (and Busy Families) for God’s Kingdom

Coming Next: The Game Plan in Action

Posted by: pamrichardswatts | January 27, 2014

More Life Lessons from Downton Abbey

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Life is Full of Plot Twists—Postscript

Previously, on Life Lessons from Downton Abbey:

In last week’s post we ended, not with an actual cliffhanger, but an unanswered question: “Why does a loving God allow bad things to happen to good people?”  How do we respond to a question that has stumped man for centuries? There are no satisfactory replies; certainly none I can provide in a single blog post. Even Julian Fellowes would struggle to write his way out of this one. The “To Be Continued” was implied.

However, the best I can offer is an epilogue, one that followed the most tragic plot twist of my own life. I was fifteen years old when I lost my mother following a six-year battle against Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After such a long and determined fight, it was inconceivable that the disease would ultimately triumph. Her illness and death took captive too many unanswered prayers; too many unlived years, too many loved ones left behind. Victory should have been hers—and ours.

In the aftermath, I wasn’t just grief-stricken; I was positively furious—outraged by the injustice of it all. Moreover, I wanted nothing to do with any Being who would allow such a cruel finale. I was so angry at God that I decided to boycott Him altogether.

This resolution I did my best to keep even at a private school with daily chapel services. I was like a kid plugging my ears yelling, “La-la-la! I’m not listening, I’m not LISTENING!” Determined to rewrite the story my way, I persistently ignored God and anything direction He might offer. The result was a disaster of epic proportions.

Miraculously, I survived some very turbulent years in spite of myself. At last I realized God had to be keeping a pretty strong hold on me no matter what I said or did. Despite my continual rejection, He refused to turn his back on me. The worst of my heartbreak and fury were no match for his tender but persistent faithfulness.

Unlike Masterpiece fiction, the great work of life needs more than an episode or even a season to wrap up conclusively. My own story continues to unfold in multiple volumes. It took ten years to accept I needed Divine revision to reach any kind of happy ending. It was another decade still before I found any purpose in tragedy or restoration for loss. It was so long, in fact, that a whole new generation of people had entered the story by the time I gave God full control over all of it.

I read recently that “what we believe about God determines what we will do with him.” I still don’t have definitive answers to the question posed above—but I am convinced that a loving God is faithful when bad things happened to good people. Even if I don’t know where the story is going next, I know Him well enough to trust Him as he leads me through it. As one who is fully reconciled with God, I can finally make peace with the darker chapters of my life. As I collaborate whole-heartedly with my Author, I am able to endure each new plot twist, finding eloquence in the story which issues from them.

Sin doesn’t have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end. Romans 5:20-21 (The Message)

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