Parenting Tales, Points to Ponder, Uncategorized

The Weight of Words

I should’ve seen the comment coming, but I didn’t.
Usually it happens that way. Sometimes there’s the usual suspects that you can brace yourself for and know something not-uplifting will likely come out of their mouth upon seeing you.
Then there’s the ones that take you by surprise.
Surprise or not a surprise, those words sting. A lot. And it doesn’t matter if you’re 4 years old or pushing 40, they still hurt. If you’re anything like me, though they may have been forgiven decades ago, those words can still smart at the oddest times many years later.
I’ve been wanting to write about the weight of our words for a long time now, but something happened last night that prompted my heart to write about it in a vulnerable way this morning.

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You see, it started like this….
We were up at my parents’ house last evening for a Memorial Day picnic. Things were going fine and we had the surprise of an older gentleman who worked with Jeff and I  years ago showing up to eat dessert and visit with my husband and I and generally catch up with everyone. When he had his visit in, he got up to leave and shook Jeff’s hand, then came over to me for a hug. This older man gave me a long, heartfelt squeeze, then loudly proclaimed, “Boy, I’ve always loved big women.” Everyone laughed. I could feel my cheeks starting to redden, and he went to joke about how my husband must like them too and made a joke about big barns or barn doors or some such nonsense. Everyone seemed amused at his antics. Everyone except me. I think I was a little flabbergasted and most definitely embarrassed. I saved my tears for later on when everyone was in bed and then broke down in front of my poor neighbor at the bus stop this morning.
Why oh why did this affect me so dearly? Especially as a supposedly confident, grown woman now pushing forty? I know I’m not alone. I have tons of sisters out there who have had to deal with similar things throughout their life and I’m sure can testify to how much it hurts.
I’ve never been petite, or svelte and willowy, or lots of the other things our culture reveres as a standard of beauty. Growing up as a tall, big kid, I have always had to field similar comments here and there. I have heard a whole litany of them. I can remember almost every one too. Even if 10 people could tell me they think I’m smart or kind or beautiful, that one comment about my weight or whatever else can easily drag me down in a tailspin and make me stew and generally feel terrible about myself. I could write a whole article (or series) about the topic of weight/size/etc, but I’ll save that for another time.
Here’s what I have to say to everyone—watch your words. Words hurt, even if they weren’t meant in a mean-spirited way. And I’m not just referring to weight, though that is a majorly sensitive one, especially for women. If I’ve gained weight, you really don’t need to tell me. I can assure you that I realize it already and am probably trying to quietly work on it. Though weight is a main one, it can really be anything. Maybe it’s parenting. Or your job status. Or your house. Or name-a-subject. Words are powerful, especially in this day and age where we are bombarded with them. Whether spoken or written, let’s use them wisely.
If you’ve used your words in a way that hurt someone, whether intentionally or no, please consider apologizing to that person. I am far, far from perfect, so I’m sure that I’ve said (or written) my share of hurtful words in the past. I know I have. I apologize to anyone that I may have hurt in this way, truly I do.
Parents, we especially need to watch what we say directly to, or in front of, our kids. You never know what they will hold onto, whether it be good or bad. We have a responsibility to build our kids up, not tear them down. I’m amazed at what my kids remember me saying to them or just in earshot of them. Usually it’s a very humbling experience to hear back what they remember me saying. Though I’m generally one to speak love and encouragement to my kids, I’m far from a perfect parent.

Lord help us all, right?
Lastly, I’m going to address those of us who have been hurt by words from someone else. They may sting for a long time, but let’s try to forgive. We live in a fallen world and these things are going to happen. What’s most important for me to remember is how much God loves me and treasures me. He thinks I’m awesome, no matter how imperfect I may be. And he thinks you are too!
Let’s use our words wisely this week.

Points to Ponder, Uncategorized

Weird, Wild, and Wonderful Things from 2015

Today I am sharing some of the most memorable things that happened within our family in 2015. Oh boy, what a memorable one it surely was! The first seven to eight months I would describe overall as just “rough.” Sure, there were lots of blessings thrown in there, but it was full of literally one challenge or mishap after another. I may be able to just title this post “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” (This is where I should insert James 1 verses in…)

Thankfully this fall was pretty smooth and we haven’t had anything major happen in awhile–thank you LORD!! I promise to put plenty of good stuff in here lest you think I’m a drama queen or a big whiner.

So…after polling my kids and reflecting for myself, this is what was noteworthy for the Craig family this year:

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Longwood Gardens. This was one of the great highlights for us. At the tail end of 2014 we purchased a year-long family pass to this amazing place and I am SO glad we did! It is incredibly beautiful in each and every season and we visited there a number of times. As I am a highly visual person, this was a bright spot of refreshment for me.

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Jeff lost a finger. Yup, I’m just gonna go there now and get it out of the way. You know how the Chinese have The Year of The Dog or The Monkey? I may forevermore think of 2015 as The Year of the Finger. One unfortunate run-in with the lawn mower belt on July 3rd and our summer took a completely different turn. (You can read more about it at these posts–9 out of 10 and It’s In the Bag.) As a recent update, he is doing just fine and adjusted great after he was finally able to work full time. Also, a big praise is that he hasn’t had as much sensitivity to cold and pain that he was warned he may have at this stage of healing.

As a funny aside, this morning we saw something on the news about New Year’s Resolutions for 2016. Good old Josh, my little guy with a twisted sense of humor, piped up with this goodie:”My resolution is for no one to chop off a finger this year.”

My oldest had his first job this summer. He mostly lived at and worked for a nearby camp. At summer’s end he thanked me for letting him have this experience at barely fourteen. It was good for him in many ways, and taught me some in the process too. (Mostly how to learn to “let go” a little bit as a parent…hello teenage years!)

Also, my second oldest had his first job a few mornings a week on my in-laws’ dairy farm. He was grandma’s helper in feeding her “babies.” Sometimes a younger sibling or two tagged along to help as well!

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Andrew broke his humerus, and it wasn’t very humorous. Sorry, I’m trying to be punny…..er, funny. This actually happened early on in the year. One day our oven element caught on fire and I had it pulled out to remove the busted part. In the process I sprayed cleaner along the cruddy sides of the stove/oven and in the process got the kitchen floor all slippery. What on earth does that have to do with Andrew’s arm? Well, that slippery floor led to a fall later that night, which led to a busted upper arm….see, A Series of Unfortunate Events!

Not long after he healed up and literally not even a day after we spent oodles getting all manner of work done on the Subaru, this happened…a run-in with a tree that fell in front of said car….

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Which leads to this tearjerker story (The Jelly Jar), brought about by the kid that just recovered from a busted arm and then sprained his other wrist a mere week later. While being so touched by his selflessness, we realized that “hey, we may be doing this parent thing right once in awhile.” I also was brought to my knees and reminded about how much I need to trust in God for everything.

Ready to hear about some good stuff again? Me too…

I kissed a frog. Sorta. This was taken at an amazing Mother’s Day brunch event. All of the tables were a princess theme and ours was The Princess and the Frog. Yes, that is a real frog inside the bowl!  Couldn’t resist puckering up for a picture. And yes, that is my daughter chuckling her head off in the background.

We took a fun day trip to Baltimore with my family. Post-riots.

Had another great state park experience for vacation. This was divine timing as it happened right before Jeff returned to work and before back to school craziness happened. It was a most refreshing and renewing time away for the 7 of us.

We experienced some more great hiking together.

Rocked our Candy Land themed event at school.

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And last but not least, all of my kids mentioned what a great experience it was to put on a Christmas play for church!

Blessings to you as you reflect on your 2015 and look forward to 2016!

God is good. All the time.

Points to Ponder, Uncategorized

The Christmas Story: Wise Men

As Christmas is quickly approaching, I am writing a very short series featuring different people in the Christmas story. For the first post I focused on Joseph, and for the second round I wrote about the shepherds. Today I would like to look at the Wise Men and their role in this wonderful account.

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In studying Matthew 2, there is much speculation surrounding the Wise Men. I have read a whole slew of different opinions, studies, and commentary regarding these men. Were there only three Magi? Probably not, we just assign the number three due to the fact that they brought three gifts. Did they visit Jesus, Mary, and Joseph at the stable like you see in typical nativity scenes? Again, probably not. It likely happened when Jesus was a bit older, not an infant. I will tell you that I am NOT an expert, so I won’t go too much into all of those details.

However, this is what I do want to share about the Wise Men, or the Magi:

In sharp contrast to the shepherds, these were probably wealthy, well educated men. In my last post I mentioned about the shepherds and how they would have been on a very low rung of the social ladder. These guys? Totally different story. They would have been well versed in the prophecies as well as astrology and many other studies. Also, the gifts they brought to Jesus would have been very costly items, so they must have been wealthy.

Another thing I’d like to note is that they truly sought out Jesus and recognized him as the Messiah. This may sound obvious, but it has lessons for us. It’s not like they saw something unusual in the sky and just happened to hop on over to the next town to check out why. They would have studied past scriptures and prophecies and recognized the signs. These men must have been attuned to God’s word and leading. Upon reaching their destination, they were “overjoyed.” They didn’t find a fancy king on a throne, but a little boy with humble parents. In Matthew 2:10-11, it says that when they saw him they “bowed down and worshiped him.” Also, they presented their three gifts, very costly items that were truly meant for a king. These guys recognized Jesus as king of the Jews and honored him for who he was.

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The last mention of the wise men in Matthew tells us what happened after they worshiped Jesus. Herod had known they were seeking out the Messiah and had wanted them to come back and report to him about this future king. However, after they visited Jesus, they were divinely warned not to return to Herod. Instead, they returned to their homeland by a different route. This part of the story tells me that they were not only receptive to God’s leading, but obeyed Him rather than man.

So, what is my take-away from learning about the Magi? They studied God’s word, followed its leading, recognized Jesus for who he was, were quick to worship Him and honored Him with their all, and obeyed God rather than man. All things that I would like to aspire to today as well.

 

 

Points to Ponder, Uncategorized

The Christmas Story: Shepherds

Today I am writing a second installment in a short series based on the Biblical account of our Savior’s birth. The last one was all about Joseph, but today I will focus in on the shepherds.

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I will readily admit that I didn’t think much about the shepherds’ role in this story until recent years. My husband is actually the one who was most impacted by their role, and from that I sat up and took more interest in their part of this wonderful story.

Here are some things I find interesting about the shepherds:

They were on an extremely low rung of the social ladder in that time, yet God chose them specifically to receive the news of Jesus’ birth before anyone else. Though they were initially terrified by the angelic appearance, their fear turned to joy as they took in the news about Messiah’s birth. That joy combined with great excitement as they visited Mary, Joseph, and the baby. Immediately they spread the word about this baby, and people were amazed at what they said.

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It fascinates me that these shepherds, who were normally not held in high esteem, were able to amaze whomever they shared the news with. This tells me that the townspeople must have seen the genuine joy on their faces and knew that they were speaking the truth. Their excitement must have been palpable! I would have loved to see this play out for real. These men, whether they were old or young or somewhere in between, recognized God in this miracle and quickly glorified and praised Him.

Today I am thankful for the shepherds, ordinary men whom God used in a most extraordinary way. They sought out Jesus, wholeheartedly believed in the miracle of His birth, and glorified and praised God. Most importantly, they couldn’t wait to share the good news with everyone they met!

Points to Ponder, Uncategorized

The Christmas Story: Joseph

Today I am beginning a short series based on the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus. I love the Christmas season and some part of the Christmas story hits me afresh each year. I am always struck by the variety of people God used to participate in the birth of His son here on earth. One of those people usually impact me in a new way, or perhaps I am able to see the story more from their perspective.

As my children were part of a wonderful Christmas pageant last week, I was inspired to do a small series highlighting what I’ve learned from some of these folks–all ordinary people that God used in an extraordinary way.

Today I will focus on Joseph, the man who became an earthly father to Jesus and husband of Mary. In the pageant I just mentioned, my oldest son Daniel played the part of Joseph. I’m not sure why, but watching my young man portray Joseph really impacted me.

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Perhaps it’s because I’ve always seen Joseph as such a man of integrity, which is what I would love all my young men to grow up to be.

Joseph really was an example of integrity. There he was, a young carpenter, engaged to a young lady who suddenly lets him know that she is pregnant. He could have easily been enraged, putting her out of his life and disgracing her in a public way. This would have also gotten Mary stoned, the punishment back in those times. However, even before the angel appeared to him in a dream, he “had in mind to divorce her quietly” because he “did not want to expose her to public disgrace.” Now THAT is a good man, back in those days I’m sure and definitely in today’s world too.

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Joseph was also a man of quick obedience.

An angel did appear to him and told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. The angel reassured him that the child was conceived in her from the Holy Spirit and that he was to name him Jesus. So, did Joseph mull this over and weigh out the pros and cons for weeks on end? Nope. It says that “When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” No hesitation or ignoring the dream or explaining it away. Joseph also was quick to obey the Lord when, after the visit from the Magi, an angel appears to him yet again and tells him to escape to Egypt with his family. No hesitation there either as he packed up his family during the night and fled King Herod’s wrath.

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Also, Joseph had to know that when her pregnancy became noticeable and people found out, he also would be humiliated for taking her as his wife under the circumstances. But the threat of public scorn didn’t stop him.

I also want to note that when we first meet Joseph in Matthew 1:19, he is noted as “a righteous man.” Note–it doesn’t say “self-righteous,” it says “righteous.” There’s a big distinction there. What a fine example he is to us all.

So, to wrap up today’s installation, here is my take-away from studying Joseph: I would like to strive to be a person who is righteous (not self-righteous!), obedient to God, not afraid to stand up for what I believe in, and a person of integrity. I am thankful for Joseph and how God used him in the life of Jesus.

(Note: All of my references today were taken from Matthew 1 & 2, NIV)

 

 

Parenting Tales

Raising Up a Timothy

Today you can read an oldie but goodie from my archives. I can’t believe I wrote this nearly 4 years ago already!

I recently thought of it again as I got several very sweet, very humbling messages from my 8th grader’s teachers. Basically each of them told me what a great kid he is and what good character he displayed. I as his Mom wasn’t exactly surprised, but it still brought tears to my eyes. (You know, one of those moments where you feel like you really are doing this parenting thing right once in a while?) Another thing that brought this article to mind was a conversation I overheard between two of my other kids. I forget what they were discussing, but it was something they happened to see on TV. Their wording was something like, “well, since I’m a Christian I know better than to believe that…” Then the other child piped up with, “I’m glad we’re Christians. A lot of people aren’t and they fall for other things too easily.”

So, after sharing my something “out of the mouths of babes,” take a gander at this little article I came up with a few years back.

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Of the many, many things I can thank my parents for over the years, one is that they didn’t name me Eunice. Granted, I went through a temporary spell in my preteen years where I didn’t like my name, but have since embraced the name they gave me. Now, I’m not totally knocking the name Eunice. In fact, I’m sure there are some quite wonderful women out there named Eunice. I don’t personally know any, but I can tell you that I’m impressed with a Eunice that lived about 2,000 years ago in a town called Lystra. This Eunice also had a mother named Lois and a son whom you may all have heard of–his name is Timothy. If you’re familiar with some of Paul’s many letters in the Bible, there are 2 books/letters that bear Timothy’s name. This Timothy was a young leader in the early Christian church, a beloved protege to Paul, and the son & grandson to Eunice and Lois.

Why in the world am I choosing to write about these 2 women? Really, we don’t know much about them at all. My research in them has turned up little information as they only are mentioned by name exactly once in the Bible. However, as a mother and a grandmother, their influence was far reaching as they trained up Timothy to be a God-fearing man in a town that was known for worshipping many gods. Here is what the word has to say about these two ladies:
I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you , so that I may be filled with joy. I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1: 3-7 NIV
As a Mom, I am greatly encouraged by these words. You see, I know that one of my most important roles as a mother is nurturing my children not only emotionally and physically, but spiritually as well. I’m also encouraged by the wisdom in Proverbs 22:6: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is not old he will not turn from it.”

You see, the world today may look different from the one Timothy lived in many years ago, but the people really aren’t any different. As I mentioned earlier, Timothy grew up in a town whose people worshipped many gods. I’m sure that Eunice and Lois had moments of great worry, discouragement, and fear for young Timothy growing up in such an environment. However, apparently these women kept on teaching him scripture and about God, and their efforts certainly were not in vain! We too are raising our own “Timothy’s” in a world with many things vying for their attention that are definitely NOT glorifying to God.

So, what’s a Mom (or Grandma) to do? I’m encouraging you today to keep on raising up those little ones in the ways of the Lord. Pray for them. Pray with them. Let them see you learning the Word. Teach them the Word. Worship God together. Be bold and courageous in your beliefs. Strive to be a woman of faith. May God bless you in a special way today as you raise up your own little Timothys.

Points to Ponder, Uncategorized

The Path

As some of you may know, our family enjoys hiking together. When we were on vacation less than two weeks ago, we took some hikes as a family, but one especially stands out to me. It was a trail within the State Park where we were staying, and since it wasn’t supposed to be especially long or challenging, we decided to stop and hike it together on our way back to the cabin from another stop. Plus it had the title of “Wetlands Trail,” so we thought at least it would be pretty.

Starting out on the Wetlands Trail was a breeze. The trail was wide, pretty flat, and overall just easy going. A little ways in, however, things changed. Suddenly we were on a skinny trail barely wide enough for one person, tall grasses and thorns were brushing against us on either side, and you really had to watch your step. Out of necessity we were walking one at a time, following the back of the person in front of us, and trying not to stumble, get scratched up, or lost. Since I was not exactly prepared for this hike, I had worn my usual summer footwear (flip flops) instead of good shoes. Also, I am terrified of snakes, so I found myself constantly looking down at where my feet were about to step, as this area suddenly seemed like optimal snake turf. After what seemed like way longer than the supposed 1.2 miles it was advertised as, the trail then went into the woods and up a steep section with all kinds of switchbacks. My little guys soon started protesting and asking for a break and a drink. As this was supposed to be a measly mile of easy hiking, we had not brought much water with us and were suddenly thirsty on top of everything else. My little boys’ cheeks were scratched and we were all panting for breath just a bit and slapping at insects biting us. The trail stretched on much further ahead, but I got us turned around after a short break and headed back for our vehicle. Doubling back we knew what we were in for, and I was glad to see our van waiting for us at the trail head.

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105

Walking on that trail got me thinking about all the other paths and trails we have taken together, then how they relate to life in general and especially living life as a Christian in this world. This has been burning on my heart since I walked that trail.

Here are some things I’ve learned about hiking in the past few years and how I think it relates to walking life’s path as a follower of God:

*Be prepared. Usually if a hike is completely miserable, it has been because I have not prepared well in some way. Either I am not wearing the right shoes, did not hydrate well, or didn’t eat something nourishing before I went. Or perhaps we didn’t pack something that we really should have. Sometimes we felt that we were well prepared, but the trail ended up much different or harder than we expected. If you are walking life’s path as a Jesus follower, you need to be prepared for that exact type of trail. Life sure throws us some curveballs, and we need to be ready for them. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what to do to be prepared for what we encounter along our paths, but here’s a reminder: pray, read the Word, pray some more, fellowship with other Believers, worship Him always and often. We need to be ready for those things we expect AND all the things we don’t.

*Follow the trail and the blazes. One of the first things we taught our kids when hiking was to look for the blazes along the trail and to stay on the path. Usually each trail has a different color and the blazes are marked on the trees. Some of the actual trails have spots that aren’t clear cut and you have to check the blazes to see where they actually are headed. Or sometimes they intersect with another trail and you have to follow the one with your color of blazes (unless you want to hop on the other trail for some reason). I have a terrible sense of direction, so I know that I shouldn’t veer off the trail lest I lose my way. Life in this world can be confusing, and we have so many things we can try to pursue. There is loads of stuff that can distract us along our path and some of it doesn’t match up to the blazes we should follow. Are you wholeheartedly pursuing Truth and the path God has placed before you, or are you distracted and wandering along all the other trails and blazes that come across your path?

*Use the buddy system. We’ve also taught our little kids to not go on a trail by themselves. We shouldn’t either. I just mentioned my awful sense of direction. When we are hiking or just traveling anywhere I am thankful for my husband, who has a very keen sense of direction. When hiking life’s trails, please don’t go it alone. Get to know and fellowship with others that share the same beliefs you do. We can help keep each other on the right path and encourage one another along the way.

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*Look for the beauty around you. If you keep your eyes open along a trail, there is usually much beauty to see and experience. That trail that I mentioned at the beginning of this piece? Even though it had its challenges, I saw some extraordinary wildflowers that I didn’t see anywhere else in that entire park. I was glad that we went on it. Sometimes the toughest trails we’ve experienced have led to the most beautiful bits of scenery. They have been worth the hike. Some of the most awe inspiring moments of my life have been on the heels of or in the midst of my toughest moments. I have never felt closer to my God than when walking through the most challenging times.

*Watch out for snakes! I mentioned also in my opening bit that in that rough section of trail I was wary of snakes. A man we met earlier in the week had cautioned us that many copperheads had been seen in that area this summer. His warning kept sounding in my head as we walked through, especially as I had mere flip flops on my feet. My feet were completely unprotected!  Friends, I’m sure you know where I am headed with this. Satan is out there to take us down at any opportunity he can, and we need to be ready for him. He is a crafty serpent. You may be at a place on your trail that seems easier at the moment–in those times we sometimes need to be on our guard the most!

Proverbs 3:5-6. These are amazing.

Well, I really hope and pray that this resonates with you in some way. It really was impressed upon me to write this piece, if anything for me to take these things to heart. God bless you and keep you as you hike your own trail!