Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Gardening with Grace

One of the responsibilities my daughter Grace has had this past year is to serve with Baylor University in starting their community garden. What a wonderful experience. The Baylor students help maintain the garden and the produce is given to local food kitchens. In light of visiting Grace this past week, I thought a wonderful theme week to offer you for the coming week would be one based on gardening. How wonderful to encourage our kids to plant, tend and garden. It offers a tremendous opportunity to grow in patience, responsibility and resourcefulness. Depending on the time of year you choose to use this theme week, you will need to research


Visit a local garden or farm

Take a trip to the nearest Farmers Market and purchase produce

Study and plan out a garden together. Build planter boxes or make preparations.

Shop for seeds and plants together (local nursery or online)

Work with the soil and plant together

Tend and Water each day, create a garden schedule for the kids to help throughout the seasons

Hunt down recipes specifically using fruits and vegetables and create your own family cookbook entitled From the Garden


Recommendations from Elizabeth Kennedy, Guide

Planting a Rainbow
This book is for children four and older, as well as adults, who want to go out and plant a rainbow of flowers after enjoying this book by Lois Ehlert. A mother and child “plant a rainbow,” beginning with bulbs in the fall and seeds and seedlings in the spring, and ending with a beautiful garden of flowers in a veritable rainbow of colors. The book’s striking design and Ehlert’s gorgeous cut-paper collages of flowers make this a particularly appealing book. (Voyager Books, 1988. ISBN: 0152626107)

The Surprise Garden
Three young children plant a “surprise garden,” using seeds of varying shapes, sizes, and colors. Since they don’t know what kinds of seeds they have planted, they have no idea what kinds of plants will grow in their garden. Carefully watering and weeding the seeds, they create a lush vegetable garden and enjoy a bountiful harvest. Shari Halpern’s cut-paper collages of the children cultivating the garden and Zoe Hall’s story will appeal to 3-6 year olds. (Scholastic, 1999. ISBN: 0590100769)

And the Good Brown Earth
Author and illustrator Kathy Henderson’s mixed media artwork adds humor and charm to this picture book for three- to six-year-olds. Joe and Gram plant and cultivate a garden. Gram works methodically while Joe explores and learns, each helped by “the good brown earth.” They dig in the fall, plan in the winter, plant in the spring, weed and water in summer, and gather produce and feast in late summer. The repetition in the text adds to the book’s appeal. (Candlewick Press, 2003. ISBN: 9780763638412)


Paint and decorate clay pots or wooden planter boxes

Purchase white garden gloves and decorate them using permanent markers

Paint bushel baskets to use for gathering produce.

Draw up and color the plans for the garden.

Decorate garden stones (large smooth stones to adorn the garden)

Make mosaic squares for stepping or walking through the garden.


John 15:1-5 Our Father is the Gardener, Jesus is the Vine, we are the branches. Abide in Him

Galatians 6:7 We reap what we sow

Matthew 13:1-23 Parable of the four types of soil

Matthew 13:24 – 43 Parable of the Weeds

Psalm 107:37 – They sow their fields

Proverbs 6:19 – A Person who sows discord

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Discovering Our Kids Strengths

God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. 
— Romans 12:6

You never know when a moment
and a few sincere words can have an impact on a life.
— Zig Ziglar

Mr. Randall drove a garbage truck for a living in his hometown of Peabody, Massachusetts. One day as he was getting ready to empty a trash container, he noticed a Wendy’s soft-drink cup with a contest sticker still attached. The week before he had won a chicken sandwich when he pulled a sticker off a cup, so he was hoping to win some fries or a soft drink this time. Much to Craig’s surprise, he peeled the sticker and found it was worth $200,000, money he could use toward the construction of a new home!

A careless person discarded the cup as trash, but Craig saw its potential and found a great treasure in the process. We may not always find the winning sticker in a contest, but we will always be a winner when we are looking for the treasure in people, especially the treasure in our kids. Every person is created with unique gifts, talents, and abilities that are just waiting to be discovered. When we look for the treasure in people, we will never come up empty-handed. The key is that we must be looking for the sparkling gems and shiny gold nuggets in others. As moms, we have the opportunity to look for the treasure within each of our kids, help them discover their one-of-a-kind gifts and talents, and then provide them opportunities to sharpen those abilities.

God has given every child unique gifts and talents, and we have the privilege of uncovering and developing them in our kids. Consider the story told of a sculptor named Antonio who chipped away at a huge piece of stone, but eventually decided he couldn’t do anything with it. He pushed the stone aside so he could work on another project. Later, Michelangelo carved from that stone one of the greatest works of all times: the statue of David. Michelangelo was able to see the potential that Antonio didn’t.

How do we discover the potential in our kids? Simply by observing them. Plain and simple, as we study their natural bents, we begin to see glimmers of possibilities. The challenge we moms face so often, though, is to not be so focused on what our kids are doing wrong that we miss what they can do right. Certainly we should be on the lookout for times when we must discipline and train our kids, but we also need to be looking for their potential and their gifts.

Here are three tools to help you on your treasure hunt:

1. Seek God’s Help: As we pray for each of our kids individually, we can ask God to open our eyes to the gifts He has given them.

2. Spend Time Together: Never underestimate the power of a little one-on-one time with each of your children. This is an opportunity to hear their unique voice, understand their interests, and begin to see their desires

3. Seize Opportunities: Discover ways you can help your kids pursue their interests and develop their talents. As you look for opportunities for your children—ranging from classes to contests to competitions—these experiences not only enhance their skills, but also show them that you believe in them and their ability.



So look for the treasure in each of your children. Not one of them is exactly like you or your husband, and not one of them is exactly like any of their siblings. Each child is a beautiful creation and a treasure chest of abilities, gifts, and talents. Again, build on their unique bent. If they love to draw and create, encourage their artistic side. If they walk around the house singing and dancing, explore their performing arts ability. If they are running around outside, kicking or throwing a ball, build on that. If they love animals, develop that interest. The key to having great expectations for our kids is realizing it’s not all about our great plans for our child, but about God’s great plans and purpose for them, plans that will enable them to use the unique gifts and talents He has given them.

This is an excerpt from my book Bright Ideas for Busy Moms (J. Countryman publishers).

Story about Mr. Randall
[1] Edward K. Rowell, ed., Fresh Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching: From Leadership Journal(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1997), 148.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Snow and Motherhood

Yesterday I went for a walk in the snow. We had six inches here in Dallas, which is quite an oddity for us. I had to meet a friend and yet was a little concerned about driving, so I decided to put my snow boots on and walk. It was great fun to trudge through the fresh fallen snow. It occurred to me that although the snow brought challenges, it also brought beauty. I had to re-adjust some of my plans a little, but I made it through the snow. In the same way, motherhood has its challenges, but it also has its joys. We may need to re-adjust our plans here and there and forge through some challenges, but there is also great beauty in being a mom.

The point is, we need to focus on the beauty and not on what annoys us. Keep your eye on the fact that God has given you precious young ones and has also given you the significant and important responsibility of raising them. Yes, it will be challenging at times. Put your snow boots on, stop complaining and start focusing on the beauty.

Motherhood makes us into stronger, more self-less and creative women. I must say, I’m a better person because I am a mom. Rise up to the challenge, seeking God’s strength and direction. The apostle James said, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Winter can be glorious. Embrace it! For more thoughts on winterizing your life, sign up for my monthly newsletter on my website: or watch my video on facing adversity.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Tiger Mom vs. Positive Mom

Both media and moms are abuzz about the newly released book entitled Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom by Amy Chua. In her book, Chua extols the power of parenting the way the Chinese do it through strict, uncompromising values. In her memoir she pits the Chinese style of parenting against what she considers the ineffective and self-indulging Western style of parenting. Granted, we do not want to raise wimpy, self-centered kids, but on the other hand we do not want to create overly-driven, stressed-out perfectionist either. As the author of the Power of a Positive Mom, I have my concerns about Chua’s relentless insistence toward perfection and her demanding (and almost brutal) methods of parenting. Certainly there is a healthy balance.

The goal of a positive mom is to raise kids who grow to be well-adjusted, hard-working adults, who are full of integrity and give back to society. By caring about the hearts and minds of their children, positive moms help their kids learn the worth and value of every individual. A tiger mom may raise over-the-top driven kids who achieve straight A’s, but at what cost? How do we define true success in parenting anyway?

My desire is to raise kids who make a positive contribution to society whether they are at the top of the corporate ladder or serving in the housing projects in Waco, Texas - which is precisely what one of my daughters is doing as the founder of Waco Arts Initiative. My other daughter faithfully volunteers at a Crisis Pregnancy center in downtown Houston while balancing a very active, full-time job. I’m proud of both of my daughters because they are using their gifts and talents with excellence to serve their community in meaningful ways.

Life is not about what I can achieve to perfection or what I can drive my kids to achieve. Life isn’t perfect and neither are people. There is more to life than being at the top. True success is using our gifts and talents to make a positive difference in this world.

God is our Provider

“Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace. It is so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.” Martin Luther

This is a devotional for the mom who needs to know she is not alone. A story of God’s provision.

II Kings 4:1-7: One day the widow of one of Elisha’s fellow prophets came to Elisha and cried out to him, “my husband who served you is dead, and you know how he feared the Lord. But now a creditor has come, threatening to take my two sons as slaves.” What can I do to help you?” Elisha asked. “Tell me, what do you have in the house?” “Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil,” she replied. And Elisha said, “Borrow as many empty jars as you can from your friends and neighbors. Then go into your house with your sons and shut the door behind you. Pour olive oil from your flask into the jars, setting the jars aside as they are filled.” So she did as she was told. Her sons brought many jars to her, and she filled one after another. Soon every container was full to the brim! “Bring me another jar,” she said to one of her sons. “There aren’t any more!” he told her. And then the olive oil stopped flowing. When she told the man of God what had happened, he said to her, “Now sell the olive oil and pay your debts, and there will be enough money left over to support you and your sons.”

Mom’s Reflection: What a blessed picture of God’s tender care for His people! The poor widow had nothing but a flask of olive oil (used for cooking, for lamps and for fuel). All that was required of the widow was faith and obedience. God took what little she had to offer and blessed her faithful obedience with overflowing abundance. Think of the testimony this was to her sons as well. Don’t you wonder if they were thinking, “If only we had gone out to find more jars?”

There are many wonderful truths to glean as mothers from this short story. We are comforted to see God’s care for this God-fearing household, and it serves as a reminder that God is our provider as well. Although the widow asked Elisha for help, she also faithfully did as she was told. Faith in God’s provision for us doesn’t mean we sit back and do nothing. He calls us to be responsible and obedient to his direction. Finally we see that the Lord took what little this woman had and multiplied it abundantly. As moms, we may think we have little to offer, but the Lord can take our simple love and desire and multiply it into a blessing for our homes.

From The Power of a Positive Mom Devotional and Journal

Saturday, January 22, 2011

How to Raise a Whiner (part 2)

Last week we looked at a humorous approach to how to raise whiners in hopes that we will actually do the opposite of these lessons in our own homes. Here’s a continuation of last week’s blog.

Lesson Three: Grumble and Complain About Your Problems

As we mentioned in the previous lesson, kids learn best if they can watch your own example, so if you really want a bumper crop of complainers you will need to complain on a regular basis. You know the old routine, “This restaurant never gets my food right.” “The music at church is too contemporary.” “The coach doesn’t rotate the players enough.” “The neighbors won’t keep their yard clean.” “The school isn’t training their teachers properly.” “No one is ever sensitive to my feelings.” “If only this or that.”

It’s pretty standard procedure for most of us. Just be sure your kids don’t hear you expressing thankfulness for anything or they may learn gratitude (a definite disadvantage for a whiner). And be very careful that your kids do not pick up on the times when you choose to look at the good in a situation. Then they may begin overlooking negatives and seeking out the positives in a circumstance or a person. By all means don’t let the kids focus on the positives or they may miss the negative stuff altogether.

Lesson Four: Shield them from Difficulties or Pain

Guard your kids carefully so that they never get a difficult teacher or lose a tryout or have a coach who won’t play them on the A team. If your children begin to feel any sort of disappointment or pain, pacify them immediately by buying them something or blaming it on someone else. If you really want to go the extra mile, step in there and yell at the coach or spread rumors about how bad the teacher is and try to get your precious angel moved to another class.

Pain and challenges in a child’s life may lead to qualities such as strength, perseverance and compassion toward others, which are certainly qualities that are unbecoming of a whiner. The old adage of the advantages to learning from “the school of hard knocks of life” is only a crock (at least you need to keep telling yourself that). Getting one’s own way without any challenges or difficulties teaches much more valuable lessons such as the “me first” and “I deserve” attitudes.

Lesson Five: Blame Others

“It’s okay, it’s not your fault.” This age old concept helps our kids advance to a higher level of complaint and moves them into the category of “I couldn’t possibly be wrong.” Fortunately the blame game allows them to get away with just about anything they want. For example an outburst of anger at the restaurant isn’t little Ashley’s fault, it was the waitress’ fault because she didn’t bring out the right flavor of ice cream. Or “Sammy grabbed the toy out of the other little boy’s hands, but it was because the little kid wouldn’t share it with him.”

Blaming others offers a child an entitlement for whining and delivers it on a silver platter with his or her name engraved on it. The mere hint of personal responsibility would begin to strike at the very core of complaining. Keep that self-centeredness in tact by steering clear of any sort of self-discipline or self-sacrifice. Forgiveness and understanding of other people’s faults is out of the question and would only lead to your child showing kindness or compassion.

After reading these lessons, I hope you are inspired to do quite the opposite and begin pouring positive principles into your children such as thankfulness, responsibility and service. Help your kids begin to look at the good and the hope in each situation and begin by doing it yourself. My hope is that you will raise thoughtful, God-fearing kids rather than whiners. Keep working toward that end with God’s help. The above lessons are from my book, A Positive Plan for Creating More Fun, Less Whining.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

How to Raise a Whiner

At this point in my life I haven’t met any parents who actually want their kids to be whiners. Very few people intentionally invite the annoying sounds of “I want…” or the irritating complaint of “Why do I have to?”

So how does it happen? How do well-meaning parents gradually find themselves with sniveling, whining, negative kids? It’s really quite simple. The truth is that whining comes somewhat naturally to us all; we rarely need formal training to add it to our attitude arsenal. On the other hand, it takes determination to raise content kids. By taking the approach of “How to raise a whiner” I hope to help each of us as parents recognize some of the possible ways we inadvertently allow grumbling and complaining to grow in our children.

The tough truth is that whining kids grow into rather unattractive adults. It is not only in your family’s best interest, but in the interest of society at large that you weed the whining from your family garden. Your friends and extended family will be grateful. And of course your kid’s future spouses will thank you too! Here’s a tongue in cheek look at how to grow a good strong grumbler. I’ll start with two lessons this week and then continue with three more in my blog next week.

Lesson One: Give into the Whining

You’ve had a hard day and you just don’t want to hear it any more. It certainly is easier to give into the nagging than to say “no” to your child and deal with the consequences of crying and screaming. So go ahead. Give in. Give him what he wants. It will make it easier for you to give in the next time he whines for something, and that time is probably just around the corner.

Careful now. If in a weak moment you decide to tell your kids “no” or “wait your turn,” they may learn qualities like patience and self-discipline. If your goal is to raise a whiner, those positive qualities will never do. Immediate gratification and giving into desires is what you are after. Your best strategy for raising a whiner is to reason with your little grumbler and eventually give in. It will fortify his resolve to continue his demands, and it will help him develop stronger negotiating and manipulation techniques.

Lesson Two: Scream Back At them


Now your child knows she has your attention! And that’s just what she wanted; your attention. As you scream, your child will temporarily stop whining and you can feel great about weed-wacking the problem, even though the roots of whining are still there. The good news is you have taught your kids two indelible lessons in the process. First you have shown them that screaming is a very powerful tool. There’s a good chance they will follow your example and use the power of a scream next time they want something.

Secondly, the loud attention you give to whining teaches your kids a good solid way to get your attention. Now mind you they don’t consciously plan this out, and they don’t necessarily enjoy your loud screaming, but next time they feel they need your attention they know just how to get it. Whine, whine, whine and boy do you give them your full attention.

This blog was an excerpt from my book, A Positive Plan for Creating More Fun and Less Whining.
Next week we will continue with three more lessons on How to Raise a Whiner.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Everything Can't Taste Like Chocolate Cake

My friend Leslie has a funny saying when it comes to whining and tough times. It began when her daughter Amanda wouldn’t eat her vegetables, but she loved chocolate cake. “Why do I have to eat my vegetables? Amanda would complain.

Finally, in exasperation Leslie said, “Amanda, every food can’t taste like chocolate cake!” The saying stuck, and now their family uses the phrase as a reminder that sometimes life is hard. It can’t always be fun and games. Sometimes we have to do the hard things.

The apostle Paul said, “Do everything without complaining and arguing.” Whining seems to come naturally for our kids. Our goal is to help them pray more and whine less, encouraging them to see the growth and good even in our difficulties. It begins with our own example. Our kids need to observe us choosing to look at the possibilities instead of fretting or complaining.

Next week I’ll share, “How to Raise a Whiner” from my book, A Positive Plan for creating More Fun, less Whining

Monday, January 3, 2011

Helping our Kids Set Goals

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

At an early age I began setting goals. Read my tips for you and your kids at my Positive Mom blog: