Mum To Mom

Musings of an Aussie Mother Living in the USA

Month: June 2015

Real Conversations with Dad

Car

“‘Real’ talks with Father were always such delightful things.”

—Lucy Maud Montgomery, Emily of New Moon.

We were in the car, driving to who knows where? It didn’t matter. I was with my dad. I looked forward to our drives together. It was our time alone—just him and me, without the distractions of the computer or TV or everyday life. I had his attention all to myself. I looked forward to these drives. It was when we talked. And I loved our talks. I loved asking him questions. Questions about his life, about politics, about God, about world events and news stories, about what I was learning at school—anything, it didn’t matter. I simply wanted to know what he thought. I don’t remember how often we had these drives. I don’t remember where we went on these trips. But I do know that these conversations had a formative effect on my life. They were instrumental in molding my values and shaping my thoughts. Although I am sure there were other times when we talked, it’s these drives that I remember. And as I thank God for my father this (American) Father’s Day, these times in the car with my dad, having “real” conversations in which he imparted his knowledge, his wisdom, and most importantly, himself, are what come to mind as most precious to me.

It is in light of this that my heart is overwhelmed to see the same love and excitement in my girls’ eyes when they go on a drive with their daddy. It usually isn’t to go anywhere exciting: Home Depot, the lawn care place, the gym, or to get a haircut. Yet, they get so excited that they get to go with Dad on his Saturday errands. This is because, as my 9-year-old daughter explains:

“I love driving with Papa. I like our conversations.”

The minute they get into the car she asks, “Can you talk to me about something, Papa?”

In the same way that I felt with my father, what my daughters and their dad talk about isn’t important to them. What is important is the time spent with their dad as he gives them his attention and love. Just being present with them as he freely gives his time and himself to them. He never talks down to them, but always respecting them as persons made in the image of God, he answers their questions thoughtfully, thoroughly, while being mindful of their personalities and sensitivities.

I know that these conversations my daughters have with their dad will have a lasting impact on them as they continue to grow up. They will help shape and mold their hearts and minds, just as the conversations with my father did for me.

As I further reflect on these conversations, and their role in forming children’s minds, I cannot help but see the connection with our Heavenly Father. How much more should conversations with our Heavenly Father mold and shape our hearts to be more like Him? As we read His Word, He speaks to us. In a sense, He is sharing Himself, His thoughts, His will, and His values with us.

On this Father’s Day, may fathers delight in having “real” talks with their children, and may we all treasure “real” talks with our Heavenly Father as all the more delightful.

The Healthy Eaters Guide to Lindt Truffles

Lindt LINDOR Truffles

Before moving to America three years ago, I thought I ate well. I thought I ate clean. Weet-Bix for breakfast, salads or salad sandwiches for lunch. Lots of fruit. Dinner was variations of meat and three veg, cooked from scratch. There were no prepackaged sauces or meat products in my home. Well done, me. Thank you for your congratulations. Disappointingly, not long after arriving in America I discovered that I was not as healthy as I first thought. Apparently there was this “crazy” fad in America: organic food. Food grown without pesticides. I was resistant. I was overwhelmed. My solution? A mixed bag of Lindt chocolate truffles. The whole bag eaten in 10 minutes. Very satisfying. For about 2 minutes. Until I felt sick. Then fat. Then guilty.

After a year or so my new friends made me feel guilty helped me to realize that it really wasn’t very healthy to ingest poisons designed to kill bugs. So I joined an organic co-op. Yay, me. Thank you again for your congratulations. I had now arrived at the pinnacle of healthy eating. I was organic (most of the time). Then I came across this article. It told me that I was not as healthy as I thought. We were consuming too much added sugar in our snack food and sugar is bad. I was overwhelmed. My solution? A mixed bag of Lindt truffles. The whole bag eaten in 10 minutes. Very satisfying. For about 2 minutes. Until I felt sick. Then fat. Then guilty. My solution?

Another bag of Lindt truffles.

Once I recovered from my sugar coma, I set to work eliminating added sugar from our diet. This proved difficult. Apparently sugar is in everything. And if there isn’t sugar, there is corn syrup. I read in this article that corn syrup is worse than sugar. I felt worse. I was overwhelmed. My solution? A mixed bag of Lindt truffles. The whole bag eaten in 10 minutes. Very satisfying. For about 2 minutes. Until I felt sick. Then fat. Then guilty. My solution?

Another bag of Lindt truffles.

I refused to be discouraged. This would not defeat me. The first step was to eliminate the worst of the two evils: corn syrup. I began to read the back of labels. I was informed. But removing corn syrup drastically reduced snack options. We were healthier though, and I was in control. There was no need to resort to Lindt truffles.

And yet, we weren’t totally clean. There was still unwanted sugar in our snack food. We eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, but children have to have crackers with their snack, right? It came to me. I would create my own crackers. I would bake lavash bread. It would be deliciously crunchy. It would be great for dipping in hummus. It had good grains. It had flax, oat bran, and whole wheat. It was healthy. And then I read this article. It told me soy is bad. What do I find in the lavash bread’s ingredient list? Soy protein, soy flour, and soy oil. Oh, and it’s a carbohydrate. And apparently they’re bad too. I am overwhelmed.

There is only one solution.

How Martin Luther Helped Us to Pray

For the past year and a half, every school morning, we begin our day with what I call “circle time.” My four kids and I gather together on the couch, or around the table outside, to read Scripture, memorize Scripture, pray, and to read and memorize poetry. It hasn’t always been easy establishing this routine, especially with a baby and a five-year-old incessant wriggler whose maximum attention span is five minutes. Nevertheless, it has become my favorite time of the day. I hope over time it becomes my children’s as well. It is wonderful to begin the day together focussing on our Lord; emphasizing truth, goodness, and beauty. It really helps set the tone for the rest of our day, most of the time.

When we began to incorporate a regular circle time in our day the children each took a turn at praying. Their prayers would be something like this:

“Dear God, thank you for the day. Please help us at school and please help such and such to get better. Amen.”

There is nothing wrong with this prayer in itself. The Bible says we should come to Jesus like a child. God hears our simple, heartfelt, and fervent prayers. The concern I had was that I felt as if the children were praying on autopilot. The same prayers would be prayed each day, the exact same words said by rote, and I didn’t feel that they actually thought about what they were saying. I didn’t feel that they really understood that they were praying to God, the creator of the universe. As I thought about it more I realized something: that was how I prayed as well. I was praying in a haphazard, unthoughtful way. They were following my example.

The Barber Who Wanted to PrayOne day, as I sorted out the kids’ bookshelf for the hundredth time, I rediscovered the children’s book The Barber Who Wanted to Pray by R. C. Sproul. We had read and enjoyed this beautifully illustrated book several times before, but hadn’t pulled it out for quite some time. It is about a father, Mr. McFarland who, during family devotions, is asked by his young daughter how to “pray in a way that will make Jesus happy and will make me feel more comfortable.” Mr. McFarland tells her a 500-year-old story about a barber and his famous customer, the outlaw, Martin Luther. He tells her how Luther came to write a letter to the barber, explaining to him how to pray using the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Ten Commandments.

Thanking the Lord for putting this book in my path right when I needed it, I decided to read this story to the kids as part of our circle time. After spending a week or two reading it over a few times and having them tell me the story in their own words, I explained that we would do as Martin Luther taught the barber, and memorize the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Ten Commandments as part of our memory work during circle time. I wish I could tell you that the girls jumped for joy at this pronouncement. They did not. In fact, I’m pretty sure I heard groans. It sounded like a lot of work to them so, of course, they didn’t want to do it. But anything worth doing requires effort. We have been memorizing these verses and creed, five minutes a day, for the past year and a half. The oldest has memorized all of them and the younger two have memorized the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed and are at various stages in memorizing the Ten Commandments. Amazingly, I too have memorized them incidentally since I have been helping the children learn them.

As we have memorized each verse or sentence, I have encouraged the children to pray through them as was taught in the story.

“Think about the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.’ When you think about these words, allow your mind and your heart to give careful attention to what these words say, and let them move you to deeper prayer.”

Martin Luther goes on to give several examples in the story of praying in this way. I too tried (and continue) to model how to pray in this way. Each day I picked one line from whatever the children were in the process of memorizing, often focussing on the same verse for the entire week or more, sometimes even a whole month. Then I encouraged the kids to pray something about that. For example, when considering the line in the Apostles’ Creed, “Maker of heaven and Earth,” I would talk about how they could praise God for His wonderful creation. Thanking Him for the birds that chirp in our trees. For the sun and the moon and the stars. To thank Him for creating this world that we are living in and for providing plants to eat that bear seeds after their own kind. I would ask them to think about how powerful God must be to create such a perfect home for us. I then told them to include in their prayer at least one thing about God’s creation that they were thankful for and to thank Him for it.

As we have continued this practice of praying through these verses and creed I have seen my children grow in how they approach God and how they pray to Him. They still pray with their simple language, but they have begun to include whole verses from memory in their prayers and to apply them to specific circumstances for which they are praying. Not only has this book helped me to teach the children to pray biblically and to seek Him and His Word, it has also radically changed and enriched my own private prayer life as I too learn to “pray in a way that will make Jesus happy and will make me feel more comfortable.” While this book was written for children, it’s story will impact anyone who wants to grow in prayer and their Christian walk with God. If you’re interested, Luther’s original letter is also freely available online.

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