Embracing the Mess

Embracing the Mess

The first time I heard the term “Terrible Twos” was when my husband prayed for our sons on their 2nd birthday. I turned to Wikipedia for clarification, and here’s what I found…

Terrible twos may refer to:

A child development stage which normally occurs around the age of two (but can start earlier) and consists of toddlers often saying no and throwing temper tantrums

My husband had figured the coming year would be challenging for us as three toddlers simultaneously turned two. And he prayed for grace and strength for us as parents. Wise man!

I had no clue what I was getting in to! Age 2 (and 3) were by far the most physically & emotionally challenging years for me as a mother. {Apparently, the terrible twos spill over into the terrifying threes!!!} The only way I made it through most days, was prayer… loads of prayer. The kind that you whisper amid tears, and scream amid tantrums… 🙂

Another thing that helped, was to let the boys just be boys. They wanted to run and shout, scream and jump, bang stuff and make a huge mess. As an only child to my parents, it was extremely hard for me to adjust to my boys’ behavior. But thankfully my husband was a bit more experienced in this department.

We let them jump from the couch / table / bed onto pillows and mattresses laid on the floor.

We let them climb windows (with a couch underneath it for a softer landing if they did fall).

And we let them make a mess.

The last one was something I resisted with ALL my heart. I did NOT want to clean up 3 boys (and clean up after them) in the middle of the day! Again, I had to come to terms with it…

The boys were gifted a pack of finger paints and they were intent on using it. I kept trying to dissuade them until their father returned home. But they wouldn’t be put off! I made a hasty phone call to my husband to check how far away from home he was, and on his insistence, I let the boys have the paints.

I gave them papers to paint on, but they obviously felt the walls were a bigger, better canvas. I cringed at first. Then I stood back and let them be. Oh what a mess they had made!

That mess seemed to depict exactly the stage of life I was in. Tired, exhausted, cranky (me & the kids), worn out and messy. Thankfully, the sons were washable (and surprisingly, so were the walls!) And guess what… so was that part of my life.

I look back at that messy time with fond memories now. It definitely wasn’t easy to go through it then, but God has taught me a lot through that phase. He taught me patience, self-control, kindness, unconditional love, and self-sacrifice. Lessons I wouldn’t have learnt otherwise. I have grown through the mess… and so will you.

If you have a toddler or two (or three) at home, believe me when I tell you, I understand what you are going through. Hang in there, sweet Mama. This too shall pass away!

The tantrums will cease.

They will be potty-trained.

They will be more open to correction.

They will be OK… and so will you!

You will come out of this phase – unscathed, older, wiser.

Until then… embrace the mess… and pray.

Definitely pray!

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My Summer Bucket List

My Summer Bucket List

It’s been a blazing summer here in South India, with our boys being holed up at home during the day. I don’t let them go out when it’s too hot outside, and I work during the day, so they’re getting quite adept at keeping themselves occupied.

However, I know these 2 months of having my boys at home are precious, and I don’t want to waste the days away. Over the past two weeks, my husband and I have managed to help the kids implement 2 good habits.

  • Morning Routine – My husband trained the boys to follow a sequence of tasks as soon as they wake up. This includes a time of reading their Bibles and praying, after which they are free to do whatever they please.
  • Minimal Screen Time – The kids do get to watch TV and play on the iPad, but that time is restricted and will be revoked if they don’t behave well that day.

Well, that brings me back to how I want to be intentional with my boys this summer. I created a summer bucket list for myself – things I want to do with my family this summer. Some of them are fun, and some educational, but all of them are focused on me having quality time with the kids.

My Summer Bucket List:

1. Help the boys stick to their morning routine.

2. Teach them to tie their shoe laces.

3. Spend one-on-one time with each of them every day.

4. Watch a movie together as a family.

5. Attend a worship concert at church. The last one I attended with the sons (my husband was on stage) was a disaster. {The concert itself was awesome, but the boys took turns throwing tantrums and I was exhausted by the end of the night!}

6. Work on improving the kids’ handwriting.

7. Get the kids to read something everyday.

8. Get on the floor and play with them a couple of times a week.

9. Ensure the kids don’t forget their basic Hindi & Mathematics.

10. Send the boys to Vacation Bible School at church (not sure if the logistics will work in our favor, but we’re determined to try).

I’m aiming to strike off as much as I possibly can from this list. When June rolls around, I don’t want to regret not spending enough time with the boys during the summer. That is my motivation!

Are your kids home on holidays? Why don’t you create your own bucket list? I’m sure it will help you be more intentional about spending time with your children.

He Loves Them More

He Loves Them More

It was one of those days. Unreasonable temper tantrums and rough boy fights had left this mother of triplets physically and emotionally drained.  Stepping on a stray Lego just about did it for me and I collapsed into a blubbery mess of tears. With harsh words and a little-more-than-necessary force, I pretty much dumped them in bed and heaved a huge sigh of relief when the boys were finally down for a nap. And then I felt it – the crushing weight of guilt as it threatened to engulf me.

If only I hadn’t yelled at them…
If only I had hugged them, instead of lecturing them…
If only I had been more patient with them…
If only I had remembered to speak their love language

As I watched my boys sleeping, they looked more like little angels than the stubborn, mischievous trio I had struggled with, just that morning. The feeling of unworthiness washed over me. God had given me the responsibility to raise my boys right, and I had failed.

Tears streamed down my face as I recounted all the mistakes I had made from the moment they woke up that morning. When my mind finally quietened down, I felt a little nudge. A soft whisper reminded me that God hadn’t given me my sons because I was worthy. He already knew I would struggle, that in my weakness I would make mistakes. I could never be a perfect mother to my sons.

But…

He is perfect; He is more than enough for them.

Through my imperfections, He wants me to show them Jesus.

He lets them rock my world, so I continually turn to Christ – my solid rock.

He shows me that without His grace, all my efforts are in vain.

As I try to mold their character, God reveals to me my own weaknesses. As I try my best to correct their behavior, He reminds me that it’s their hearts that truly matter. And when I run to Him in tears, afraid that I’ve messed up yet again; He offers me forgiveness, grace and wisdom to do better tomorrow.

I hear their light breathing, and I’m once again grateful they’re alive. I snuggle up in their midst, glad to have their arms and legs sprawled around me. I wipe away a stray tear and thank God for these three boys. These rambunctious miracles, these bundles of limitless energy have drawn me closer to God.  From the moment God gave them life, they have been a constant reminder of Someone who cares for them much more than I ever could.

And when I feel I’ve messed up, He reminds me that He’s still watching over them. He will not let them down, in spite of my weakness – because He loves them more.

* Originally written in September 2012 as a guest post for The MOB Society.

Imperfect Parents; Perfect God

imperfect-parents-perfect-God

On 20th February, our boys graduated kindergarten! Well, technically they still have a month of school and a round of assessments left. But they did “officially” graduate – complete with cap and gown! 🙂

Before the graduation ceremony, well performing students were given awards for various academic and extra-curricular achievements. As kids walked up the stage to collect their awards, I kept my eyes peeled for my trio.

They weren’t there. And my heart sank.

I comforted myself with the thought that although the school might not recognize their achievements, each of my sons were achievers in their own right. To me they too deserved awards. {Typical Mama mentality, right?! 🙂 }

I then started berating myself for not being more intentional in getting them to participate in competitions at school. True, I made sure they did their allocated reading, writing and arithmetic… but I had not been intentional in preparing them for the non-curricular activities that had been organized in school.

I gazed back at the line on stage, as each child walked up to collect his/her award, and parents proudly cheered on.

If only I had more time… If only I had more patience… If only I was more talented… If only I had taken more interest in their extra-curricular activities…

And then I got a glimpse of a tiny, spike-haired boy dressed in black.

He was one of mine! 🙂

My heart soared. Tears threatened to spill over. I clenched my husband tight and whispered, “It’s one of ours!” I clapped with all my might, tears in my eyes, and gratitude in my heart as my son received his award.

In that short duration, I saw all the areas I had neglected as a parent.

I never do crafts with the kids.
I rarely sit down on the floor and play with them.
I get frustrated when they don’t understand a particular concept.
I don’t spend one-on-one time with each of them.
I am impatient with them.

My weaknesses and imperfections do not make me a likely candidate to parent 3 boys. But God… He more than makes up for the areas where I falter.

I acknowledged that the award our son received, was not by his effort or my coaching. Neither his nominal effort nor my halfhearted coaching was enough.

But God was enough. He is enough. In my weaknesses, His strength shines through. He fills the cracks and takes over.

If you are wondering whether you’re good enough to parent your kids, here’s some encouragement for you. We are all imperfect parents, doing this parenting gig the best way we know how. But stay tuned to the perfect God, and He will more than make up for your inadequacies as a parent.

Isaiah 54:13 is one promise I cling on to when it comes to my kids. I pray it is a blessing to you as well.

“And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD;
and great shall be the peace of thy children.”

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Teaching Kids to Share

Teaching Kids to Share

When you’ve got 3 boys of the same age with similar tastes, one thing is certain – they fight… a LOT! And many times it’s because someone else has the ONE toy / book / puzzle / piece of trash that the other wants. They are 6 years old now and still haven’t mastered the art of sharing!

But there are a few things my husband and I do, to teach them how to share. Let’s just say that if we hadn’t done these things in the past, we’d have a mini world war on our hands every single day! 🙂

So, I though I’d share from my own experience the strategies we followed to teach our kids to share.

{I have to add a disclaimer here, because our kids are in no way perfect, neither are our methods. For proof – read the first paragraph again 🙂 }

But for the most part, these methods have played a vital role in teaching our kids to share their things – with each other, and with their friends.

1. The Timer

This was one of the first tools we employed. When more than one son wanted to play with a particular toy, we would obviously ask them to share and play. If they wouldn’t, I would set a countdown timer on my phone – usually for 5 or 10 minutes. When the time was up, the kid who had the toy, had to give it to the next one in line, and the timer was reset.

After a few weeks, months of doing this, they got the point. On a good day, they automatically take turns by looking at the big hand of the clock.

Here is a sample conversation:

Jason: Judah, I want to play with the race car.
Judah: But I’m playing with it! {Insert whining here}
Jason: Tell me which time you’ll give it then.
Judah: OK. Till the big hand touches 5, I’ll play with it.
Jason: But 5 is too far! {Insert more whining}
Judah: OK, then till 4.
Jason: OK!

Like I said, it’s not perfect and there maybe a little whining, and a bit of parental intervention. But they have learnt the art of sharing (and apparently, negotiation)!

2. The Table

This is more of a consequence for not sharing, but it did teach my boys that they had to share. On a bad day, when we’ve had lots of fights breaking out (it’s usually over LEGO’s which we never seem to have enough of), we ban the boys from playing with whatever it is that’s causing friction among them.

My husband or I pick up the toy and place it on the dining table, with strict instructions that they can’t touch it until they learn how to share and play together. We’ve had banned toys littering our dining table, the entertainment center, my work table, and the top of cupboards for days… until they are willing to will play without fighting over it.

3. The Suitcase

This method, is by far the most extreme. A couple of years ago, the boys were going through a phase where they would fight over just about any toy they laid their hands on. It was about that time, I came across a blog post at I Can Teach My Child. This couple had actually locked up all their sons’ toys!

I suggested the same to my husband, and he thought it was a good idea. He brought out a suitcase and in went ALL they toys. The boys begged and pleaded, but we were firm that they would not get their toys back until they learned to share. So, they went a week without any toys – I kid you not! They found other things to do, and when they did get their toys back, they were truly grateful and learned to play together.

So, that’s it! The imperfect methods & unusual tools that I used to teach my sons to share. How did you teach your kids to share? Do tell…

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The Prints We Leave Behind

Yesterday, the kids were watching “The Cat in the Hat” on TV while I wound up work.  In this particular episode, the Cat, Sally & Nick identify the footprints of various animals and track them down.  Needless to say, my kids’ curiosity was piqued and they wanted to do it too.  I promised we’d do it this morning on our walk to the school bus, and we did!

We saw paw prints, shoe prints, and a variety of tire tracks.  The boys were so enthusiastic as they tried to identify each vehicle that left behind tracks.  We spent a good 10-15 minutes doing this and it was time well spent! 🙂

So anyway, this got me thinking about the prints we parents leave on our kids as we go through life.

As we plod through our day, do we leave behind evidence of God’s grace that sustains us?

In sickness, does our faith in God’s healing power leave an impression on our kids’ minds?

When we discipline our kids, is there any evidence of the forgiveness that we ourselves have experienced from God?  Do we pass that on to our children?

In trying times, do our kids see us holding on to God and never letting go?

Do our words, expressions and actions pour out God’s love on to our little ones?

We leave prints on our children’s hearts everyday.  Are they delicate footprints of love and grace, or are they tire tracks that crush their tender spirits?

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Seasons of Motherhood: The First Year

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

FirstYear

A time to be born…

A time for dirty diapers and a time for toothless smiles.

A time to roll over and a time to fall off the bed.

A time to try solid food and a time to spit it out.

A time to sit up and a time to slip down the couch.

A time to crawl and a time to pick the tiniest speck off the floor.

A time to stand up and a time to sit back down with a bump.

A time to hold on to something and a time to pull it down.

A time to play with a brother and a time to make him wail.

A time to cry and a time to laugh.

A time to gobble something up and a time to gurgle it out.

A time to hold close and a time to let go.

…And a time to be dedicated unto the Lord.

~ Inspired by Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

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Sowing, Reaping, Mothering

Wheat

As parents, our primary responsibility is to nurture our children’s hearts, helping them grow spiritually and bear fruit for God’s kingdom. Here are some of the phases we go through, in farming terms.

1. Plow

I think plowing is by far the hardest task in farming, but it is also the most important. It is where the ground is prepared for sowing. In our children, this phase includes teaching them the basics and preparing their hearts to grow in a relationship with God. This also includes training, disciplining and teaching our kids to differentiate between right and wrong.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)

2. Sow

Sowing is when the seed is planted in the plowed field. In our children, the seed represents the word of God. As parents, we have to ensure that our children are exposed to the Bible and the values it recommends. Sowing God’s word in our children’s hearts is simply teaching them the word of God.

“Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 11:19)

3. Water

After the seed is sown, we cannot expect a decent harvest unless the crops are watered. Shower your children with your prayers. Pray for them, pray that the seed you have sown will some day bear good fruit.

4. Wait

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” (I Corinthians 3:6)

There is only so much we can do to lead our children to Christ. We cannot rush them into a relationship with God. We can prepare their hearts, sow the seed of the gospel and pray for them. But it is up to God to speak to their hearts and reveal Himself to them. And so, we keep watering and we wait, until God makes them ripe enough for harvest.

5. Reap

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

We will reap a harvest – that is God’s promise to us. The little things we’re doing to bring our children closer to God do matter. In due time we will reap a harvest – if we remain faithful and do not give up.

So, let us not become weary in our mothering. Yes, it is hard and not always recognized. But one day, all our hard work will bear fruit. Do not give up – our God has promised us a harvest. God has handpicked our children to bear fruit for His kingdom in this generation. Let us hold on to the vision He has for our children. Stay strong and mother on!

Which phase are you currently experiencing with your children?

Photo Credit: jayneandd

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Let The Children Come ~ Be An Example

So far in this series, we’ve emphasized the importance of praying for our children, how to teach our kids about God, how to encourage them to pray and tips to teach them God’s Word. Today, we’re concluding this series with one of the most important ways we can lead our children to Jesus – by living lives that are a testimony of God’s grace.

“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

We can pray all day for our children and diligently teach them the Bible, but all that won’t make a difference, if our kids don’t see us practicing what we teach them. We can teach them that God’s given us everything we need, but if they see us being discontent and grumbling about what little we have, what are they taking away from it?

Even as babies, our kids imitate us – they smile, wave their hands and learn to clap, after seeing us do the same. Toddlers learn new words and mannerisms by observing us. If they see us reading the Bible and praying on a regular basis, won’t they want to do the same?

Your children will become who you are; so be who you want them to be. ~ Anonymous

If I want my kids to grow up to be men who’ll follow God’s will in their lives and have a steadily growing relationship with Him, then I need to do the same. My kids need to see God working in me. They need to see the evidence of God’s grace in my daily life.

There was no better teacher on this earth than Jesus Himself. He preached the truth and it was evident in His own life. We too should strive to live in obedience to God’s Word because our lives will impress our kids. It’s up to us to to model faith that will either draw our kids closer to God or drag them away from Him.

Your hunger for God can create an appetite in your children. ~ The Love & Respect Experience

Do our kids see us hunger and thirst for God? Do we place an importance on God in our daily lives? Or do we relegate Him to Sundays in church? Do our kids see us consistent in our prayer lives, or do they see us flipping through the Bible in a hurry just once or twice a week?

A few ways we can build up an appetite for God in our kids’ lives:

  • Read your Bible regularly – with your kids, to them or in front of them.
  • Pray with them as often as you can. I pray with the kids in the morning, and we have a family prayer at night. Include meal times and sickness, and you’ve got quite a few opportunities to pray with your kids.
  • Share prayer requests with your kids. We tell the kids when someone is ill and they need prayer. They often surprise us with a spontaneous prayer (filled with child-like faith) that really tugs at our heart strings.
  • Worship with your children. I guess all children love music. Use every opportunity you can to play a worship DVD, a YouTube video or gospel music in your car and let the children worship God with you.
  • Share with them your weaknesses and boast of God’s strength. We all have days when we snap at the kids… use that opportunity to apologize to them and share how you too need God’s grace to control your anger.
  • Practice thanksgiving. Thank God for little things everyday, encourage your kids to do the same and soon they’ll realize that every good gift is from God.
  • Give generously. I learnt the importance of giving my tithe, supporting missionaries and helping the poor only because I saw my mother doing the same.
  • Involve the kids in your ministry if possible. Whether you’re praying for a friend, leading a Bible study or singing in the choir, let the kids see you ministering to others.
  • Remain rooted in your faith. Our kids need to know that we’ll continue to trust God no matter what. Let them know that even in the most difficult circumstances, your faith in God remains firm.
  • Live a life of integrity. Nothing throws older children off more than a christian parent who doesn’t practice the principles outlined in the Bible.
  • Model Christ. This is a biggie. No human on earth can be just like Jesus, but we can try. Start with the fruit of the Spirit and strive to be a role model for your kids.

Further reading:

One important aspect I haven’t covered in this series is teaching our kids about salvation. My husband and I are still in the process of teaching our sons about the concept of sin and their need for redemption; and we’ve got a long way to go. I request you to read this post by a fellow blogger who used to be a children’s pastor. She’s written an entire series on salvation for kids – be sure to check it out here.

Closing thoughts:

This series was aimed to share with you, things that worked for our family. This is not a to-do list, but merely suggestions. Our ultimate guide is the Bible, and our mentor is God Himself. I pray that you’ll let God teach you how to lead your children to Him. And lastly, I admit that in spite of all my good intentions, I fail everyday in leading my children to Christ. I can only pray that God will work in our children’s hearts and our meager efforts will one day bear fruit for His glory.

Other posts in this series:

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Let The Children Come ~ Teach Them God’s Word

So far in this series, we’ve emphasized the importance of praying for our children, how to teach our kids about God and how to encourage them to pray. In today’s post, we look into how we can teach our kids God’s Word, straight from the Bible.

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19)

Did you catch that? “Teach them to your children” – is that a direct instruction to parents or what?! We’re talking about the Word of God here, the Bible… There’s no tip-toeing around it and passing the buck to our church or the Sunday school. It is up to us parents to teach our kids God’s Word.

A Children’s Bible

It’ll be a worthy investment to buy your child a Bible when he or she is still a toddler. That way, kids learn from a young age the importance of owning a Bible and taking care of it. They could also carry it to church like they see you do. Of course, in our case, our kids had to share one Bible, so they never got to carry it to church. A few tips:

  • Buy an age-appropriate Bible. For toddlers, this would mean a Bible that can withstand a little wear and tear. We received this Bible as a gift from my sister-in-law. It was similar to a board book with stiff pages and had cute pictures. We used that when our kids were smaller and then moved on to this and this.
  • If they are too young to understand the words in the Bible, instead of just reading it to them, use the pictures to explain the story to them.
  • And, instead of just re-telling them the story, let the story point our kids to God. It’s important that the kids learn something about God through the Bible stories.

A simple example: Take the story of the centurion approaching Jesus, asking Him to heal his servant. The takeaway will sound something like this… “Even though Jesus did not go to the centurion’s house and lay His hands on the servant; He still healed him. In the same way, even though we cannot see Jesus; Jesus can still heal you when you’re sick.”

Memorize Scripture

I think we all know that nothing can substitute the pure, undiluted word of God. When we can teach our kids nursery rhymes, why should Bible verses be left behind? Here are a few passages we’ve taught our kids over the past couple of years.

  • Psalm 23
  • John 3:16
  • The Lord’s Prayer
  • Psalm 121 (In Progress)

So, how do you go about teaching your kids to memorize scripture? Here’s what we did:

  • Going at a slow pace, maybe just 1 or 2 verses a month.
  • Explaining the verse in words the kids can understand.
  • Being consistent, teaching them the verse every day if possible.
  • Saying the verse out aloud, a few words at a time and making them repeat it after us.
  • Using hand actions to emphasize the words.
  • Taking some time each month to recap the previous portions of scripture they’ve memorized.
  • Not expecting perfection and prompting them when they forget the verses.

Here are some links to other posts in the blogosphere that talk about teaching our kids to memorize scripture:

  1. A Little R & R: 4 Ways You Can Teach Toddlers God’s Word
  2. Growing Home: Teaching Children to Memorize Scripture
  3. The MOB Society: Hand Movements for Psalm 23

Given that my kids are less than 5 years old, I obviously lack experience in teaching older kids God’s Word. Would you help me and the readers out? Share with us how you’ve been teaching the Bible to your kids.

Other posts in this series:

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