Pearl: In search of lifeís treasures!
This issue of PEARL is devoted to the topic of FAMILY and HOME. We hope you will find something valuable here that can help you in the challenging task of raising a family and creating a happy home environment.
by Cathi Close
I had never heard of a mother-daughter bookclub until a friend invited my daughter and myself to join one she had started. It sounded like a good idea and once we began attending we found that we enjoyed it immensely and always looked forward to going.
It wasnít until weíd been meeting for a number of months that I learned the idea originated from a book by Shireen Dobson called The Mother-Daughter Book Club: How Ten Busy Mothers and Daughters Came Together to Talk, Laugh and Learn Through Their Love of Reading.
And that is exactly what we did.
We read some books we loved and some we hated. We talked, laughed, learned, agreed, disagreed and at times got completely off the topic! But thatís part of the magic of the club itself. The books we read together became a bridge that not only took us to new places but helped to dissolve boundaries and sometimes rigid roles we get stuck in as parents or children. The girls feel that the moms are accepting them as equals. Their opinions count. The moms appreciate feeling relaxed with their daughters and simply enjoy the animated conversations (and the books!).
I also had the opportunity to hear the author, Shireen Dodson, speak at a local bookstore promoting her book and the idea of this kind of club. I was very inspired to hear that their original group of ten girls and moms has been meeting regularly for over three years and they averaged a 99% attendance rate! That says alot, knowing how busy people are these days. One mother and her daughter ended up having to move a three hour drive away yet they still continued to attend the monthly meetings!
What is it thatís so special about moms and daughters getting together to discuss books? In Shireen Dodsonís words, "When we share the experience of reading with our children, books create a garden, a special sunlit corner where our relationship can grow alongside but apart from the crowded landscape of everyday life."
She goes on to explain how a mother-daughter bookclub can help to 1) encourage reading, 2) develop critical thinking skills, 3) create a friendly forum for discussing important issue, 4) offer a chance to make friends outside of school, 5) strengthen the mother/daughter relationship and 6) give a wholesome feeling of belonging. (In these days when there is so much un-wholesome belonging out there, this becomes a much needed breath of fresh air! )
Last year our family moved and my daughter and I really miss the club and are thinking about starting one up where we now live. If we do, we will attempt to follow more of the guidelines the book offers (which were all learned through the authorís actual experience). The group we were with was more loosely structured so we didnít always know who would show up. I think we were unable to create the cohesiveness that Shireenís group had because her approach was to ask people to make a commitment before joining. Her book addresses many of these practical topics as the foundation for creating a club that will thrive.
Once the organizing part is accomplished, then the fun begins! There are so, so many good books out there and itís wonderful to share and enjoy them together.
An Unexpected Family Evening
by David Perry
I think we all struggle with the question; How do we teach our kids the Principle? We try teaching them the basics at home, we send them to Sunday school hoping they'll pick up more there and we put them in camps and seminars with the desire that they gain a deeper understanding.
But we still wonder; Does the Principle mean anything to them???
I had a recent experience that gave me hope and it came about through an unexpected family evening.
I met some Mormon missionaries about ten years ago and in addition to explaining their beliefs, they shared about the weekly family evening which is a tradition in their church. The missionaries even gave me a nice manual about how to organize these family evenings.
My kids were too young at the time but a few years later we tried it and we liked it. We would sing a few songs, I would give a short talk on a point of Principle, then a snack followed by a game or two and we would finish with a prayer.
Of course the kids wanted my talk to quickly finish so they could get to the really important parts, the snack and the game. So I wondered; Are they picking anything up from what I say?
As the kids got older I would ask them to prepare something on one point of Principle and work with them to develop their presentation. They enjoyed this as they could ask questions at the end and try to catch brothers or sisters who hadn't paid attention.
Not wanting these family evening to become a routine that kids felt forced to do, we would have them regularly for a few months, stop for a while and re-start a few months later. But sometimes life gets busy and months went by without a family evening. From time to time we would sit up together and watch a video and call that a family evening, but we had kind of left the lectures on the sidelines.
Then one recent Wednesday evening our second child, Blandine -- 11 years old, suddenly asked if we could do a family evening that same evening. I was a bit surprised and thought it best to wait so it could be better prepared.
Blandine accepted this and announced that she would give the talk and that she already knew what she would talk about.
Knowing Blandine I thought we might have a talk on "Barbie in the Providence", but she said she would show me her lecture once she had it prepared. The next day she showed me what she wanted to talk about and it was a wonderful little talk about Good Character and Good Heart. I didn't change one word, although I did suggest changes to her diagrams which used four position foundations to explain her ideas.
On Friday evening when she gave her talk the whole family was amazed at her short, simple but deep talk. She explained how someone with good character and good heart thinks of others and creates a good atmosphere and therefore has many friends. And those friends will want to be like the person with good character and good heart. While someone with bad character and bad heart doesn't think of others, creates a bad atmosphere and has no or few friends.
Blandine explained that she got the idea for her talk from watching her friends at school. So there is hope that our kids are assimilating Principle and relating it to their daily life. Now, if we adults can only do the same...
(Fatherís quotes refer to the above story but please separate it with different typeset and boxed in if possible.)
"We should live according to the truth and we should love others. Without the fundamental way of living for the sake of others, we cannot prosper. The person who lives the truth will become the subject, with more power for life. Also, the subject must have the power of love. The responsible leader and central figure must be the embodiment of truth, life and love. All these things can be summed up in one simple phrase: Live for the sake of others. When you practice this way of life, you create harmony." -- Sun Myung Moon (7/1/84)
(Open Letter to my wife on our anniversary -- June 11)
As I look back on our eleven years of marriage, I am overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings. Deep feelings. Feelings that wash over me in warm waves. Feelings that leave tiny hills on my skin. Feelings of gratitude...
Gratitude for sticking with me and for being so eternally patient as you waited for me to grow up. For all the nights you cried yourself to sleep hoping and praying that someday I might put your needs first instead of my selfish wants. For all the times you felt unprotected by me emotionally as we dealt with things early in our marriage. For carrying the financial burden for seven years as I tried to figure out what to do with my life. For the times I have given of myself to other people and then come home and offered you the "leftovers." For going before our Heavenly Father in prayer, and lifting me up, even when my hurtful words have made deep cuts that took many months to heal...
For all that you do and all you have done to keep our marriage working. I am amazed at your unselfishness. Amazed that you have stuck it out with me, and for that I am thankful.
Thankful for the incredible example you are of Godly love. Love that is based on a decision and not your feelings. Love that has looked for the best in me all these years. Love that is unconditional. Love that has seen past the immaturity. Love that has molded and shaped me into a better person. Love that has sifted through the stress of my working a third shift job and running a video production business. Oh to have half of your boundless capacity for real love. I stand in awe at your ability to love people...
I don't know of a better word to describe how I feel about you. I stand in awe as I watch you raise our two boys. My mouth drops open as I watch you go through your "daily" life as a mother. The energy that is exerted. The compassion and firmness in discipline. The grind you go through every day and night pouring your heart and soul into these two little gifts from God. The bubbly feeling I get inside when I hear someone talk about our boys in a positive manner. I know they are special because of what you have invested in them. You stumble into bed each night, knowing that you are going to be up at least a few times in the night with Connor, and yet each morning you dig down into your reserves, and pour your energy once again into nurturing and caring for our little ones. Our children are wonderful! I don't care who hears it, and what they think about a Father bragging about his children. Our children are wonderful because of the hours you have invested in their lives, and the example you set for them everyday. My children will know how special their Mother is. They will instinctively know it, but just in case they don't, I will make it a point to tell them often. They will look back on their childhood with warm feelings and memories...
The little flashes of life that come to me as I go about my daily routine.
A song might trigger it. Perhaps a fragrant scent. Sometimes a word or phrase. I go from the mundane task I am doing and am transported to another time. The feeling of contentment and satisfaction that comes over me as I relive these moments... Spending time in the hospital as you brought our children into this world. The image of you holding Caleb and Connor for the first time. The heavenly sound of your singing. Running my fingers through your hair. Seeing Caleb talk with his many little hand gestures. Watching him make everything in his life into an "Oscar winning production." Listening to Connor say, "Ohhhhhhhh" Feeling the softness of the back of his hair. The smell of baby lotion. Connor pulling himself along the floor without using his back legs to crawl. His lips when he is sleeping. The music in your laugh, and the love in your liquid eyes...
All of these things pass through my mind on any given day, and I stop and thank the Lord for the life He has given me. I owe so much to you, Kristi, and I love the life we have made with each other. But I am even more excited about the future...
Flashes of life. They aren't just for memories you know. They are also for the future. While the memories create such a tremendous contentment in my life, the future excites me...
I look forward to:
Walking away from the third shift job and being able to hold you in my arms as we lay in bed and fall asleep listening to the crickets. Waking up in the morning instead of heading off to bed. Operating Video Imagery as my only job and working a forty-hour week! Moving from Janesville and looking up at the millions of stars from the deck of our house in the country. Having our kids grow up surrounded by woods and fields and Caleb coming home with a frog in each pocket. Long walks enjoying the sounds of the birds, the smell of wildflowers, and taking in God's incredible creation with our eyes. Holding our daughter "Kelsey" for the first time and crying tears of joy. Watching our last child head off to Kindergarten knowing full well that a portion of our lives will never be the same. Loving you more every day and becoming closer as we intertwine our hopes, thoughts, and feelings. Growing old, but not caring, as long as you are by my side every step of the way as we build our dreams into reality...
My reality right now is a dream for me. I can deal with the long workweeks, the stress, and sometimes the exhaustion. They pale in comparison to what the Lord has blessed me with. I will still dream, but I am content. Everyday problems come, but they soon melt away with the coo of my infant, the hug of my three-year-old, and the tender kiss of my bride...
Bring on what troubles you have world. My Kristi is by my side...
Happy Anniversary, my love!
Michael T. Powers Thunder27@aol.com
"Godís dwelling place is filled with love. Once we start giving, we want to give more and more, and once we receive, we want to return thousands of times more. Is such a place the Kingdom of Heaven or hell? Due to the everlasting cycle of giving and receiving, we come to feel an explosive stimulation. We feel so stimulated that is seems like all our cells are about the burst. Godís love is like that." -- Sun Myung Moon -- Blessing and Ideal Family
Family mealtime prayers:
Do you have the experience when trying to make a tradition of saying grace before meals that no one ever wants to be the one to pray? Adults or children alike! Well, sometimes people feel put on the spot and tongue-tied in that situation. One idea is to write out some simple prayers appropriate for mealtimes on index cards, cover them with laminate paper and let everyone have a choice of reading one of the prayers or creating their own. (Smaller children who canít yet read are probably the ones most likely to be spontaneous with their prayers. The older and more mature we get, the more self-conscious we seem to become!).
The Five Contemplations:
"This food is the gift of the whole universe -- the earth, the sky, and much hard work. May we live in a way that is worthy of this food. May we transform our unskilled states of mind, especially that of greed. May we eat only foods that nourish us and prevent illness. May we accept this food for the realization of the way of understanding and love."
by Maryleona Frost
"God, we thank you for this food, For rest and home and all things good; For wind and rain and sun above, But most of all for those we love."
by Edith Rutter Leatham
"Thank you for the world
Thank you for the food
Thank you for the birds
Thank you, God,
A Family Prayer:
Lord, behold our family here assembled. We thank Thee for this place in which we dwell; for the love that unites us; for the peace accorded us this day; for the hope with which we expect tomorrow; for the health, the work, the food, and the bright skies that make our lives delightful; for our friends in all parts of the world.
God bless our home, and help us
To love each other true;
To make our home the kind of place
Where everything we do
Is filled with love and kindness
A dwelling place for Thee,
And help us, God, each moment
To live most helpfully.
The Challenge of Guiding Youth
by Cathi Close
Over the past few years I have been interested and involved in abstinence education for two reasons. One is that we have teenagers at home now, the other is because I have experienced seeing a good friendís twenty-four year old daughter die of AIDS. This friend also had two teenage boys and so together we tried to find the way to prevent this kind of tragedy for our own and otherís children, a way to teach them the values we realized were critical to their lives. To put it honestly, it isnít easy. Something happens in our culture when children enter the teen years and what it too often leads to is this -- you lose them. Itís a gradual and can be a deceptive process overall because many of the factors do not appear to be anything but "normal". But normal according to whoís standard? For instance, dating in our culture is normal. But does it work to promote healthy marriages? If not, then what does?
As a result of the research I have done, I came across two very interesting books. They are Dating vs. Courtship by Paul Jehle and Old Fashioned Courtship and How It Works Today by Jeff and Marge Barth. These books address the topic of courtship as an alternative to the popular practice of dating. They also touch on many lifestyle and parenting issues. Both are written by fundamentalist Christians who homeschool their children. Of course, this puts them in a unique, controlled environment which many of us might not share, either in terms of beliefs or in lifestyle. However, I discovered much wisdom throughout the pages of these books and even some very radical ideas which I found to be quite thought provoking. The first of these will come as a shock to many of us and yet ... through my own personal experience I came to realize that this author was describing much of what we were struggling with in our own family.
Jeff and Marge Barth begin their book discussing ways to prepare your children for parental involved courtship long before they reach a marriageable age. They give the expected and common sense guidance of being involved with our children, teaching them to evaluate life and to learn discernment. However, as the children grow older the Barths warn to be wary of some traditions and philosophies. Two that they cautioned against were youth groups and friends superseding the importance and value of parental guidance.
Now what exactly do they mean by this? We are all certainly well aware of the dangerous influences of media, substance abuse, etc. But friends and youth groups? For the most part these are seen as very positive influences (as long as the friends are good kids, of course.)
We all need friends, thereís no denying that. But to what degree do we place the value of friendship over our families and our own parentís guidance? For most young people friends come first and friends pretty much mean everything in life. This is the reason why peer influence is as powerful as it is. Whether there are good reasons for this or bad, the fact remains that this is the way it is for most teens.
Jeff Barth describes how at about age ten he became immersed in the "best friend philosophy" which he defines as being expected to have a best friend outside of oneís own home. He goes on to say that it didnít take long before these friends began to win his heart and he was much more willing to do what they wanted him to do rather than his parents. About the same time, numerous activities such as sports, camping, clubs, etc. came along and made further appeals to his time. He says, "By the time I was 14 or 15, my father had pretty well lost me." He goes on to caution parents to "wisely consider those things that can steal your childís heart from you; you may never get them back."
This author is, as I mentioned, a committed Christian, but even so he also warns against a similar situation which can take place in the context of Christian youth groups. He describes the tradition that has developed in our society which is that the early teen years mark the age when we send our youth off to a youth group to find guidance and are expected to believe that "so-called trained leaders can better help our young people evaluate life." (This pattern repeats itself in the secular world as well.) His advice is for parents to "try to order family life so that a closeness can be built with your children, and avoid as much as possible those situations that can erode this closeness."
This kind of advice may sound extreme or even paranoid to our average American view of life. But thereís something to it. I know this from experience.
When our children were young, we took them to Sunday school classes at a well-organized Methodist church nearby. They loved it and especially looked forward to going to the church camp every summer. However, as they entered the teen years and began going to evening youth group, I began to feel somewhat uncomfortable when we, as parents, began to be subtly pushed away.
Itís not that we expected to participate in all of their activities. But it was the way the youth group was promoted as being exclusively for the kids and inferring that parents were a nuisance. For instance, every fall there would be a kick off meeting to which the parents were invited. The flyer specified that parents were invited "this and only this time so donít worry kids!". When I questioned the intention behind these words, I was told that our kids "canít be themselves" around us. Similar experiences took place at Young Life as well as at another youth group my husbandís oldest son attended at a local Episcopalian church. There was always the token "parents night" when we were invited to observe the group in action but we were jokingly instructed not to come again!
Paul Jehle writes that too often the youth group activities tend to "replace the father and motherís job of building family heritage activities, and provides fun activities that sneak Jesus in when they arenít looking." In an effort not to offend them we "draw them in with as many activities that look and sound like what they are interested in." He goes on to propose, ... "Instead, why not minister as families and churches, which join the generations, rather than always separating them with artificial boundaries given to us by tradition and secular psychology?" I find this to be quite profound advice and something all families and churchís ought to pay serious attention to. (When you think about it, this is exactly what scout troops do, make it a priority, even a requirement, to involve the families in everything they do.)
As far as the church groups went, I made an effort to get to know some of the youth leaders (whom I thought were exceptional people), and at the same time I tried to get an idea of just what they were teaching the kids. How much were they emphasizing (if at all) purity and commitment to family and the values I felt were important? The answer I usually received was that "We teach the gospel". I suppose the rest is left up to the individual to figure out. (?) This concerned me, especially after reading Joshua Harrisís book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye in which he described the dating spirit as just as hot within Christian youth circles as anywhere else. The only difference was that moral boundaries were vaguely technical among the Christian teens. Not much reassurance there!
What I came to realize was that, in the interest of giving teens what we hope will be wholesome fun, teaching straightforward "rights and wrongs" has been minimized or eliminated altogether. Thereís nothing wrong with having fun and to this day we still encourage our kids to participate in these youth groups. However, there are good reasons to be cautious, as the Barths warn. My husbandís oldest son became so isolated from the family during his teenage years that we barely ever saw him any more. We consoled ourselves that at least he was hanging out with a good bunch of kids and was interested in Christianity. However, as he got older we saw more and more contradictions in his lifestyle and values until he finally just dismissed the religion and God altogether as well as the youth leaders who had invested so much in him over the years. This experience made us sadder but wiser.
As we had three other children approaching the teen years during this time, I found myself frantically trying to keep informed as to where they were and who they were with, what parties they were going to, how supervised they would be, etc. etc. More and more I felt like I was bailing water out of a boat full of holes. I didnít know who to trust or what to let them do anymore. I would come across notes and letters sometimes that would shock me with the vulgarity kids accept as commonplace these days. Overnights with their friends was becoming like a religion to them! We discovered they were sneaking out at night just for adventure which included smoking cigarettes..... Oh, the joys of raising teenagers!!!
As I attempted to educate our children according to what I believed was important for them to know... alas, I discovered, they didnít want to listen to me! (But you can be sure they listened to their friends and cared what they thought.) What a dilemma this was. There was no one teaching them what they needed to hear and yet they didnít want to receive it from me either.
For those parents who manage to maintain a close and confidential relationship with their kids from childhood and throughout the teen years... you are truly fortunate (and Iím sure it didnít happen by accident either.). But for so many others of us, it often feels like a losing battle. This is not to imply that friendships or religious youth activities are to be avoided but that parents need to observe carefully whether these alliances are strengthening or weakening the family value system.
Last summer our family made a major move across the country. I determined that things were going to change and they did. We took some of our children out of public school to homeschool them and we were able to enroll one teen into a very small charter school which is a distance away. Itís been alot of driving to get him back and forth but itís been well worth it. I no longer have to spend my time trying to track him down or nag him to come straight home from school (because Iím the one picking him up!). This may seem like a minor point but it is often the minor things adding up which can make or break our parenting efforts. The most positive change weíve noticed since we moved is that all of our children are now mostly at home! And this, I feel is where they should be. They are becoming better friends with each other, participating in things weíre doing around the house, pursuing hobbies, talking to us more, or just simply reading! Thereís nothing that gives me greater joy than to have our teens get excited about going to the library or working in our garden.
Their social life is not non-existent but the emphasis has changed significantly. Sure, the transition wasnít easy and for the most part our kids had to go through withdrawal from their accustomed life-style. But somehow that experience in itself has given them a new opportunity to look at things differently, learn some needed lessons and a develop a more serious attitude toward their futures (combined with the guidance weíve tried to insert here and there).
My husband and I have knocked ourselves out to provide positive activities for our kids so that they will feel challenged and stimulated; martial arts, music, dance, etc. But our focus is primarily to guide them toward becoming young adults not just to keep them busy or having fun. Sure, everyone needs to have fun but as Paul Jehle questions in his book, "Instead of focusing on self-centered Ďfun and games youth group meetingsí, why not begin to move out in ministry?"
We have put an emphasis on education and volunteering. We go out of our way to get our family involved in helping others, either through organized projects or initiating our own. Weíve still got a long way to go and so much that we hope to teach our kids but at least we feel we are on a better track now.
Whatever hopes and aspirations we have for our children as they enter the years approaching adulthood, there is one thing we can be sure of -- that the human heart and relationships are the meeting place of God and man. It can also be a battle ground. To protect and nurture the sacredness of life and love is an ongoing effort and our greatest task as parents. To instill in our younger generation these values is a heavenly mandate. May God help and guide us in this endeavor.
Dating vs. Courtship can be ordered through: The Plymouth Rock Foundation, Fisk Mill on Water Street, Marlborough, NH 03455 or call (800) 210-1620. Old-Fashioned Courtship and How It Works Today can be ordered through Parable Publishing House, RD2, Box 2002, Middlebury, Vermont 05753.
Focus on the Family Publications:
These days it seems that there are so many undesirable media elements influencing our youth that it is encouraging to know that there are some excellent magazines published by Focus on the Family for kids and teens. They seek to promote solid and wholesome Christian values while at the same time are upbeat and fun to read!
Check out Brio for girls ages 12 and up and Breakaway for boys (ages 12 and up.) Also offered is Clubhouse for ages 8 -- 12.
Another publication created for the benefit of parents seeking to guide youth in a positive moral direction is Plugged in. This magazine reviews popular films, music and television shows. Sometimes it can be quite shocking to confront what is actually being promoted through the entertainment industry but, as parents, we should be aware of what our children may be exposed to. On a positive note the magazine tries to keep a balance by promoting wholesome music and entertainment.
For more information on these and the many resources offered by Focus on the Family, call 1-800-232-6459 or check out their web site at www.family.org.
The National Parenting Center at www.tnpc.com is a web site which introduces itself as "The Internetís finest parent-friendly support site" and is "dedicated to providing parents a comprehensive and responsible guidance from the worldís most renowned child-rearing authorities."
There are literally hundreds of discussion lists offered covering practically every conceivable aspect of parenting and family life. They include: Pregnancy, Fertility, Adoption, Nursing, Education, Coping with Loss, Special Needs, Relationships, Religious Upbringings as well as specific age related topics from Infants to Teens.
This site is guaranteed to keep you busy and interested to the point where you may even neglect your kids! : )
Even though a person with lots of property and fortune sings songs of happiness, these external belongings cannot be the cause of his or her happiness. Even though they may come along with happiness, they cannot be happiness itself. Then what decides happiness? There should be loving parents, a couple, and children. Nobody can deny this. In proportion to any part missing among those, there will be a proportionate sadness and dissatisfaction in one's heart. -- Sun Myung Moon
Ideal love is accomplished in a family, but God hasn't had true sons and daughters, true brothers and sisters, and true husbands and wives, and He couldn't become the true parent. Accomplishing all of that is God's will. Love dwells in such a place. People will come to such a place, abandoning everything which belongs to the world. -- Sun Myung Moon
Without love a father and a mother cannot become one. Why do we like "love"? It is because we are created not to survive without it. The stronger the power of parental love over the power of individual love, the more ideal your situation will be. It is the rope of love with which you can bind your father and mother completely in oneness. The rope made out of metal rusts as times passes, but the rope made out of love is eternal. And money or food cannot bind parents and children; only love can bind them. -- Sun Myung Moon
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