Friday, November 7, 2008

My daughter, Ashley was shopping with her son, Maddox. He was three at that time so she held him close to her as they made their way through the busy parking lot. They carefully navigated around the myriad of loose shopping carts, frantic moms trying to contain multiple kids, and the many wild-eyed drivers competing for the closest parking space.
To Ashley’s surprise, Maddox said, “Mom, you have to be careful.”
“You’re right, Maddox, you have to be careful.” she repeated his words, paying more attention to the task at hand than Maddox’s comment.
“No, mom! YOU have to be careful,” Maddox said, determined to get his point across. Finally hearing what he was saying Ashley replied, “Why don’t you have to be careful?”
“Because you’re holding me,” was Maddox’s simple answer.
You see, Maddox felt safe in the arms of his mother. He didn’t have to worry or be careful; that job was being taken care of for him by someone he trusted because he knew she loved him. Do you remember that feeling? I do. I remember late at night, when I was in bed, feeling safe and secure because my Daddy’s room was just two doors away. And my Daddy loved me and would protect me.
Unfortunately, as we grow older, the worry and stresses of life become familiar waves that crash over us; the least of them a runaway buggy in the busy parking lot. It’s in those times and everyday that we still need a father’s loving arms to protect us and make us feel safe. Over and over in Psalms, David sings of a father’s love and protection we all can access. Psalms 59:16 says, “I will sing of your strength in the morning. I will sing of your love: for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.”
Moms, you have a huge responsibility keeping your children safe from runaway buggies and so much more. You wake up everyday with a list of worries so long it makes you want to pull the covers back over your head. But, don’t. Wake up to a new day. Sing of God’s love for you and know that He is the proud papa who is ready and willing to wrap you up in His arms and hold you close to His heart as you cross the busy parking lots of life.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I remember my mom saying to one of us six kids when we were young and obviously unhappy about something, “Get a smile on your face.” When I became a mom I also said those words. Perhaps you have said them as well or something similar. I also remember my dad saying “Straighten up!” to any child who seemed sullen for no reason. Again, as a mom, I’ve said those words. Both admonitions are attempts to get children to have a better attitude. But, of all the things my parents said to me to convince me to behave in a better way, it was the things they didn’t say that influenced me the most. It was how they acted in times of adversity. I’m sure you have heard the challenge to act your way into a better way of thinking. Many, many times I witnessed my parents receive bad news or encounter unpleasant circumstances and still approach the situation with a positive spirit and a God-honoring attitude. Life is like a roller coaster ride. As soon as your stomach is back in place and the ride is fun, the next dip occurs. How can we possibly be asked to keep a good attitude when life is so uncertain? And what does a good attitude mean anyway? An attitude is a term that refers to our likes and dislikes for a person, behavior, or event. Attitudes can be positive, negative or neutral. In children, the attitude in itself doesn’t appear to be the problem; it’s the behavior the attitude invokes that causes the problem. Your child may not like green beans and that’s fine, but he can’t throw them against the wall (at least, I hope he doesn’t do that!) But, here’s what should occur as we mature. God doesn’t just want our behavior to change; He wants our heart to change as well. It isn’t good enough to just “act right” God wants us to “think right.” Peter plainly tells usin I Peter 4 that Jesus went through everything we could ever go through. I know it’s hard to imagine Jesus going through the trials us moms go through. First of all, he never sat up and worried about a sick child. Wait, what about Lazarus? But, did he never have to worry about putting food on the table when money is short? Oh yeah, he did feed 5000 of his closest friends with nothing more than a few fish and bread. But he never faced the challenges of dealing with his kids’ different personalities. No, but he did have twelve very unique personalities chosen to follow him and lead others to him. Life is not easy, but with a few attitude adjustments, life will not only be more enjoyable, you will be able to show others how God can work in your life. Give yourself an attitude check. Yell at the top of your lungs, “Attitude check!” and then answer yourself with a loud, “I feel great, oh, I feel so great!” And mean it!

Hugs, Chrys

Thought for the Day
Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.
W.W. Ziege

Monday, October 20, 2008

“But, mom, please let me go over. Her mom said it was okay.” I can still hear the pleading voice from my daughter who had discovered a friend across the street. I confess. I knew in my heart she would eventually leave me for other playmates, but I thought she would wait until she was at least fifteen. But the calendar had marched on and my little girl was now four years old. She was no longer happy with me as a playmate or our yard as her playground. No, she had visions of a world that existed across the street. But I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t prepared her. I needed more time! You see, what my daughter didn’t know was I had been watching the little girl across the street for a few years now. At six, she was an older woman and much more street savvy than my daughter. She obviously had permissive parents as she was allowed to ride her bike down the street! And to top it off, she had an older brother. Everyone knows that any kid with an older sibling knows more of the things you don’t want your kids to know more about, right?
“What do I do?”
“How could I tell my daughter that I don’t want her to be friends with our
“Should I see if my husband wants to buy acreage in country?”
These questions and more kept me awake for many nights until I decided that I was an adult and I could figure this out.
As I evaluated my dilemma, here are the things I knew for sure. I wanted my daughter to have a healthy understanding of how to choose good friends and how to be a good neighbor. I didn’t want her to ever go to off with a stranger or into someone’s home she didn’t know. So, it was up to me to teach her how to be a friend and who to be a friend with. And, one more thing, I didn’t want to move to country!
So I adopted a survival strategy that helped me cope. Maybe it will help you as you navigate through of scary waters of friends and strangers.
First, I had to open my heart. I realized my heart wasn’t very receptive to this new person in my child’s life. Whenever our hearts are closed to something, generally fear is one of the reasons for the closure. And, it was true it this case. Fear was keeping me from opening my heart to someone who might need a good role model in her life. I also realized that while it was true that she was a few years older than my daughter, she was just a child, she wasn’t a dragon! And I realized it was important for me to let my daughter see me acting kindly toward this neighbor.
Next, I had to open my door. One thing I realized early on is some mothers are quite willing to let the playing go on at someone else’s home beside theirs. Take advantage of this. I know it’s a lot more work for you, but if the kids are at your house you don’t spend hours worrying about them. It will be worth the extra time you have to spend cleaning up at night to get a good night's sleep. And don’t be afraid to implement your house rules with the neighbor kids. I used to say it like this, “At our house, we don’t do such and such.” That way it lets other children know that they may act a different way at their own house, but at your house, they must follow your rules. And it doesn’t have to be said in a mean way, it’s just a fact. For instance, I never and I repeat, never, let children play behind a closed door. It was a rule in my house. So if they tried to close the door, I would just open it and say, “In our house, children do not play with the door shut.”
And lastly, I had to open my Bible. I don’t mean I literally had to keep a Bible open when friends are over, but I also didn’t shy away from teaching Biblical principles when the opportunity arose. I always thought my best chance of teaching a parent would be through teaching a child. Again, this can be very subtle with the words you use. For instance, I would say, “At our house, we always pray before we eat. It’s a chance for us to thank God for everything He has given us.” Another way is to read a Bible story when friends are over. Kids love to be read to. It’s a natural way to get some Bible principles into your children as well as the neighbors. And, of course, there are many great videos to play while friends are over that reinforce the behavior that you expect your children to use.

I hope some of this is helpful to you as “be a good neighbor.” Remember you can not and should not take away every unpleasant experience your child will encounter. Those experiences are very important teaching tools of life. But, as the mom, you can lead and guide your children to make good choices in their friendships by opening your heart, opening your door, and opening your Bible.

May God continue to bless you as you make a difference one kiss at a time,

Chrys Howard

Monday, September 29, 2008

On a recent business trip, we had a beautiful hotel room. It was very well equipped. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t remember the last time we stayed in a room with a real makeup mirror. I was very excited about this addition to our room thinking that, like the Jefferson’s on the old television show, we had moved-on-up! But the bathroom was poorly lit, so I decided to take the fancy mirror into the bedroom and sit by the window. I got all nice and comfy, eager to leisurely apply my makeup while I listened to the daily news.
The make-up mirror had two sides--one that is a normal view and one that magnifies. Knowing which side would be the best call for me, I quickly flipped the mirror over to the magnified side. Then I grabbed my eyeliner, looked into the mirror, and almost screamed in horror. Every imperfection on my face was as prominent as a black worm on a yellow rose. At first, I wasn’t sure where to place the blame—was it the magnified mirror or the light coming through the window or was I just that bad!
As I forced myself to look back into the mirror, it soon became apparent that the most condemning thing was the light coming in the window. I noticed that if I just moved the slightest bit, keeping the light from coming in directly on my face, I looked so much better. Then it hit me. The Bible mentions the word “light” a few hundred times so obviously there is a lesson to be learned. Psalm 118 tells us that God MADE his light to shine on us. So what kind of light could be shining in my window to make me look so awful? Well, there are two lights we are exposed to each day. One is the light of the world and the other is the light God made for us.
When we view things through the light of the world, an unforgiving shadow is cast on whatever it is we are viewing. But if we view those same things through the light of God, a forgiving shadow is cast and we, the object, appear softer and smoother. The world’s light does nothing to bring out the best in us. It is dimmed by tragedy and heartache and rarely does it want to show the good in people. It wants to make any imperfection in us appear larger.
As a busy mom, sometimes it’s hard to see yourself through the eyes of God. Your job is demanding, your children are demanding and sometimes even your church activities are demanding. You, no doubt, question your decisions a few hundred times a week and world bombards you with it's view of what's really important. But God is faithful and loves you unconditionally. He doesn’t shine his light on you to show your imperfections; rather he shines his light on you to show his perfection. His perfect love and grace cover you and make you perfect in his eyes.
Bathe in God’s light as it is richly poured over you so you will shine like the stars in universe. And there’s no brighter star than being a mom. Allow God to show you that being a mom is a job of huge importance and significance. Enjoy today, embrace it--even if it brings stress and confusion. It’s the day the Lord has given you and he will redeem it for his mighty purpose.

Hugs, Chrys

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

There’s got to be a lesson here. It’s a sign of the times for sure, but it’s more than that. Here’s what happened. While driving home from work, I was listening to the news. When I didn’t quite catch what the newscaster said, my instincts took over and I reached for the dial on my car radio in order to rewind the program and hear it one more time.
Okay, I know, it can’t be done! I literally shook my head in horror as I realized what I had just done. Has the ability to record any show on TV given me silence permission to rewind everything in life and see or hear it again? After all, instant replay is now an accepted form of determining close calls at many sporting events. I’ve even been known to glance up in search of a TV screen after an amazing play or a close call at a local high school game anticipating seeing it again.
Well, what’s the lesson here? Is there one? As moms, there will be plenty of times when you want to push rewind and see an event all over again. Like, the first time you held your babies. Wouldn’t it be fun to just do that one more time? But there are also plenty of things you don’t want to see again. Like, the time one of your children was so sick you walked the floor for hours, maybe days. Or maybe the time you lashed out unfairly at your husband for not helping you. Maybe the better scenario would be to see the event again as well as have the ability to change the outcome. Now that would be nice, wouldn’t it?
But that’s the difference in real life and a DVR–ed life. The DVR life can only show you the exact thing over and over again. That would be perfect if life were exactly that—perfect. Since it isn’t, there will be many experience in life that seeing it again will only bring pain and regret. A DVR-ed life will never give you the opportunity to correct a mistake. But real life does. How, you say? Well, we really can’t go back and rewrite a new ending, but we can always have new beginnings.
Aren’t you grateful that we serve a God of second chances? A beautiful blessing from walking with God is the power of redemption. Webster’s dictionary says to redeem is to win back or buy back; to free from what harms or distresses. We first come to know God’s redemption in the Gospel message. It is through Christ that we have “redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14) God, in His goodness and greatness, buys back the mistakes we make and hurts we suffer and frees us from them so we can begin anew everyday. What an awesome God we serve!
So keep the DVR and video recorder going for our favorite TV shows, but let’s soak up the redemptive love of God and let him lead us to a better life.



Monday, September 15, 2008

Many days I have had holes in my finger. Oh, not big holes or anything major, just small ones; several small ones. How does that happen, you ask? Well, I spent many days making old things become new. One morning twelve dresses lay in a pile in various stages of despair; one dress I felt certain to be destined to the toy bin for playtime use only. But at the end of the day, I held twelve beautiful little dresses -starched and ready to wear. Thanks to a very sharp needle, various colors of thread and my, by then holy fingers, these dresses, some 25 years old, are as good as new. To explain the holy fingers I need to tell you non-sewers that in hand stitching as you push the needle in the fabric with the tip of your finger, it also tends to push a hole in your finger. That day, after repairing twelve dresses and hemming two pairs of pants, I was certain that a drink of water might also allow me to water the plants!
But it was a task I loved doing. Those handmade dresses had been worn by so many little girls and it showed. Little shoes had torn the hems, Sunday lunches had left their mark on collars, and unauthorized play times had taken its toll on side seams and sleeves. I have to admit these dresses were sad, but as I mended them I smiled thinking of my daughters, nieces, and granddaughters who had already worn them. I could see them running in the parking lot eager to get to Bible class or to a wedding, climbing over church pews, smiling for a camera trying to capture a time that would never happen again and just laughing.
They were always oblivious to the work that had gone into the dress they wore. Sometimes I would see them chasing each other wearing a dress I had spent hours carefully smocking and stitching. As one pulled on the other’s dress I wanted to shout, “Be careful. Slow down. I worked really hard on that dress.” But, I just let them run and play.
I suppose that’s how God must feel. He watches us run through life and we get sort of beat up and He wants to shout, “Be careful. Slow down. I worked really hard to make you.” But He doesn’t. Not in that way. You see, as humans we have to work backwards. I have to wait for the dress to get beat up before I can to sacrifice my fingers to repair it. Not so with God. We begin our life with God’s sacrifice for us already in place. The holes in His son’s hands were made long before we were tattered and torn, yet it’s those holes that give us the joy of being made new every day. Many days our hearts our ripped and torn by life. God carefully stitches us back together and we begin each day in God’s hands, not as good as new, but as if we were never torn to begin with--absolutely brand new.
I love this scripture in Ephesians. “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
Moms, God continually raises you up. On days when the laundry is high, you are raised up higher; on the days when the rent payment is high, you are raised up higher; on the days when the job list is too high, you are raised up higher. God’s unconditional love raises you up and gives you the power and strength to meet any obstacle!

Have a great day celebrating God’s unconditional love for you! Hugs, Chrys

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Plan A, B, and Beyond!

Thanks to the computer age we now live in, I was able to work at home on a lazy, rainy day in Louisiana. It was a school holiday, so I wanted to be available to spend some time with my school age grandkids. Four of my young grandkids spent the morning with me watching movies in my game room—a perfect activity for a rainy day. I answered emails and finished a few deadlines.
By noon, the kids were restless. The clue was when I went into the game room to ask what they wanted for lunch and found three of the four with pillows in their hands and that look in their eyes that said, “Attack!” Time to do something else, I decided.
So, I called the other grandkids that were not at my house already and arranged to take seven of them to the movie Also, a perfect activity for a rainy day. I buckled everyone in and off we went to see the latest kid movie. The rain poured as we drove to the movie theater. Once again I thought I had made the perfect choice for the day. But, so did several hundred other moms and grandmas. The parking lot was full as I searched for a parking space. I rushed everyone out of the van, into the rain, and into the movie lobby. It wasn’t until we reached our destination did I see the sign: SOLD OUT! Not what I wanted to see.
I quickly surveyed the other movies and times, hoping for something just as good as our first choice and starting NOW. No luck. Now the kids had that panic look in their eyes that told me I needed to think fast. I had seven kids, rain outside, and all their moms had gone on to do other activities for a couple of hours. We ran back to the car with me thinking of Plan B-the Jungle Gym. The Jungle Gym is usually not open on Mondays, but I began praying that someone in charge over there knew this could be a money making day for them and they opened anyway. The Jungle Gym is our local indoor park facility where the kids can do what their slogan says, Run Wild. My prayers were answered, the gym was open, and kids had a great time running wild for two hours.
Here’s the lesson. Don’t be afraid of Plan B. As a matter of fact, embrace it! Very few of us get to live our lives in Plan A and many of us are so far down the alphabet that even Plan B is a distant memory. The important thing to remember is that you serve a God who is in every plan of your life. From A to Z, He’s got you covered. I know sometimes it’s not easy. Perhaps, you have three kids when you thought you would only have two. Or maybe you have to work when your dream was to be a stay at home mom. Or, your husband’s job moved you away from your family or an illness has you living life from the sideline instead of on the playing field. Whatever the scenario, trust God when He says to you, “I know the plans I have for you! I have plans to prosper you and NOT to harm you…I have plans to give you hope and a future.” So, if you find yourself on Plan B or even Plan Z, know that God is in on those plans!

Have a great day.

Hugs, Chrys