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5 Lessons I Learned by Losing a Diamond

5 Lessons I Learned when I Lost My Diamond (and where to look if you lose yours) from lovinglifeathome.comLast month, I lost the diamond out of my wedding ring — an irreplaceable family heirloom. It made me feel sick when I glanced down at my hand while dining in a local restaurant and noticed it missing, for how long, I didn’t know.

Years earlier, my husband’s grandmother had taken the diamond off her own finger as soon as Doug announced his intention to marry me. She reached over, patted me on the knee with a twinkle in her eye and said, “Then we’d better go get the ring sized.”

Nanny and Poppy drove us to Taylor Brothers that very morning, then Doug “officially” proposed on bended knee in their living room as soon as the ring came back from the jewelers.

A rare antique cut, the diamond had been in my husband’s family for over 120 years when it was given to me (and almost 150 years when I lost it two weeks ago).

As soon as I realized it was gone, I called my mother and asked her to pray that it would be found. I also posted a prayer request on Facebook, where I received an incredible amount of encouragement from friends there, many of whom had lost-diamond stories of their own to tell:

  • One of my friends lost her ring at Walmart, and some good Samaritan turned it in.
  • Another friend had found her lost diamond two years later, in the mouth of a whale in a pop-up book that was on its way to Goodwill!
  • Someone else lost a custom-cut, heart-shaped diamond IN THE OCEAN while honeymooning in the Caribbean. If that isn’t about as hopeless as it gets, I don’t know what is. Yet her husband spotted it wedged in the crevice of a rock on the beach almost two weeks later, the day before they were scheduled to fly home.

Even friends who hadn’t lost diamonds promised to pray and gave great suggestions for searching:

  • Hunt in the dark with a flashlight
  • Empty the vacuum bag
  • Check your dryer lint trap, sink bin, clothes closet
  • Thoroughly search the car
  • Make sure it’s not caught in your broom fibers

Of course, I thought of a few more places to search on my own:

  • In the bed linens (maybe it fell out in my sleep?)
  • Under couch cushions (no diamond, but I did find several pennies and ink pens)
  • In the fishbowl (I emptied out all the decorative rocks in the bottom and searched one by one)
  • In the flower beds (I’d spent a couple of hours there, trimming back ivy and azaleas the day before)
  • In the garbage disposal (It’s a cramped, slimy job, but the peace of mind was worth it)

Unfortunately, my diamond didn’t surface through any of that, but I kept praying, kept hoping, kept looking….

I also did a little therapeutic writing. I began a (not-yet-published) post about a diamond I lost forty-two years ago and the lessons I learned through the experience. (Watch for that story soon. It still makes me cry every time I tell it.) And I wondered what lessons God might be trying to teach me this time around. Here are a few I’ve identified thus far:

  1. The insufficiency of good intentions:
  2. My house has been in need of a deep cleaning for some time now. It has been on my to-do list for months, yet I lacked motivation to follow through with the job. In the past two weeks, however, I’ve cleaned out closets, organized drawers, scrubbed counters and cabinet fronts, dusted baseboards, defrosted my freezer, vacuumed under furniture, and culled through, sorted, and put away all manner of misplaced miscellany. My lost diamond provided just the boost I needed, as I’ve always considered systematic cleaning to be the fastest, most effective way to find things.

    The lesson, I think, is that we should go ahead and do the thing we know we need to do, instead of waiting until something drastic drives us to it. (James 4:17) Let’s reduce our stress levels before we have the heart attack. Let’s invest in our marriage before the divorce papers are served. Let’s get in shape before our health fails. Let’s make memories with our children before they grow up and leave home.

  3. The value of hope:
  4. My big-hearted husband was completely unfazed by the fact I had lost this priceless heirloom. Being the think-outside-the-box sort of guy he is, he took me straightaway to the jewelers, ready and willing to trade in what was left of my wedding set for something entirely new and different — and more than a little surprised that this idea was not met with more enthusiasm on my part.

    But thankfully, thankfully, the jeweler convinced him to wait. “You’re going to find it,” he assured us. “Give it a few days. I’ll bet that diamond will wink at you. When it does, you can bring it back in, and we’ll repair it for you.”

    Isn’t hope an amazing thing? It gives us peace when we’re troubled, strength when we’re weary, and courage when we’re frightened. That jeweler’s confidence, together with the testimonies of so many friends whose lost stones had been miraculously restored, served to buoy my faith that I’d eventually find mine, too. (Hebrews 10:23-25)

  5. The heart of God:
  6. The Bible tells us that Jesus “came to seek and save that which was lost.”(Luke 19:10) Only, He wasn’t searching for something as insignificant as an inanimate rock. Oh, no! He’d set his sights on eternal souls — Christ came to redeem you and me.

    That sense of urgency I felt about finding my lost diamond? The concern that it might be lost forever? The determination to stay alert to any sign of its whereabouts? How is it that I can retain such focus when it’s a shiny little stone in question, but am often oblivious to the infinitely more valuable treasures all around me? Those lost sheep Christ came to save. People are more important than things, and the way I live my life should reflect that fact.

  7. The importance of checking those prongs:
  8. This wasn’t the first time I’ve lost that diamond. It also fell out fourteen years ago while our family was on a 2500-mile road trip. That time, it was miraculously recovered a week later by one of our children — subsequently dubbed “Diamond Dave” — who spotted it under the back seat of our Suburban amid broken crayons and cracker crumbs at a pit stop in Virginia.

    The stone was originally set with four prongs (which held up remarkably well considering all the scrubbing, painting, kneading, and digging I’d done with that diamond on my hand); however, we decided to remount with six, assuming that would be sufficient to keep it safe. Obviously, it wasn’t. Had I been smart about it, I would have taken my rings back to the jeweler more routinely, so he could inspect the prongs and make sure everything was still secure.

    A similar thing sometimes happens in our spiritual walk. We get baptized in infancy or pray a prayer in childhood and mistakenly believe our future is secure because of it — regardless of how we’ve lived our lives since. We know that God saves us by grace through faith, and not because of any works done on our part (Ephesians 2:8-9), yet we are still called to bear fruit, and that fruit will only come when we are in close communion with the God who produces it. (John 15:1-8) If we are smart about it, we will check in with Him routinely, allowing Him to inspect us, prune us, and keep us secure in Christ.

  9. The power of prayer:
  10. Isn’t it amazing that through prayer, we have the privilege of conversing with the Creator of the Universe? I am so blessed to have so many friends and family members who are willing to pray with and for me, even about the little stuff. And I am so grateful to serve a God who promises that when we pray, He will hear and answer (Matthew 7:7-8). Sometimes He answers right away. Sometimes He asks us to wait. With respect to my diamond, it was enough for me to know that God knew exactly where it was (even if I didn’t), that He could keep it safe, and that He would give it back to me if doing so would be for my good and His glory. (Romans 8:28)

As it turns out, between all the prayers and all the cleaning, my diamond finally did resurface. Praise the LORD! It had evidently fallen out in our bathroom where it rolled under a cabinet and into a small gap in the grout between the tile and the wall (there’s one more place to check if you ever lose yours!). I’d already swept the bathroom several times in search of the lost stone, but because our pastor’s family was coming for dinner Saturday night, I decided to lay down on my stomach to scrub those hard-to-reach tiles by hand. I still couldn’t see it, but the diamond was there all the same, safe and sound, just waiting for my fingers to dislodge it from its hiding place.

Now, isn’t that a happy ending?

15 Unexpected Benefits of Big Family Living

The Unexpected Benefits of Big Family Living | Loving Life at HomeI love children and have wanted a bunch of them for as long as I can remember.

Not surprisingly, this fact significantly narrowed the field of potential marriage partners back when I was in college.

“Want to grab a cup of coffee?” an interested classmate might venture.

“That depends,” I’d answer matter-of-factly. “How many kids do you plan to have when you get married?”

Subtlety has never my strong suit.

This line of questioning quickly scared off most would-be suitors, but I didn’t want to risk falling in love with someone who didn’t share my desire for a big family.

So I held out… and my patience eventually paid off. Mr. Right finally showed up a few weeks before graduation.

Not only was he interested (in me!), but he gave the desired response to all of my questions — and didn’t seem intimidated by my asking them.

The rest, as they say, is history: I married him 16 months later, got pregnant two weeks into our honeymoon, and spent the following quarter of a century either pregnant or nursing (or both).

Life as the mother of many has been every bit as blissful as I imagined. Sure, there have been lots of unexpected challenges, but there have also been plenty of unanticipated rewards. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Expanded Options
  2. There are so many beautiful names with wonderful meanings out there, it’s difficult to narrow down the list of favorites and pick only one. Having a big family completely solves that quandary – you can use them all! (Or in our case, almost all — we’re still hoping for a Hannah).

  3. Boredom Busters
  4. There is never a dull moment in a home filled with children, and there is always somebody to play with. Neighbors and schoolmates will come and go, but siblings are friends you can keep for life.

  5. Conversation Starters
  6. Big families invite all sorts of inquiries: “Are all these kids yours?” “Don’t you know what causes that?” “Are you going to have any more?” “Do I need to buy you a TV?” In our experience, most of the people asking such questions aren’t trying to be rude — they’re genuinely curious — so we answer as graciously and amicably as we possibly can. What a great way to meet people!

  7. Group Discounts
  8. A really big family can qualify for discounted group admission rates without even trying. And do we ever get our money’s worth on those annual zoo and museum memberships — especially the ones that offer reciprocal benefits at sister sites!

  9. A Deeper Admiration
  10. The love and affection I felt for my husband as a spouse, great though it was, increased manifold when he became the father of my children. I still enjoy watching him teach and train and interact with our preschoolers, adolescents, teens, and adult children, but there is something so specially endearing about the way he cuddles and cootchy-coos our babies, it makes me glad that for so long we’ve had one in the house to draw that tenderness out of him.

  11. Household Help
  12. A wise man once observed, “Many hands make light labor.” He was right. Of course, many hands make bigger messes to begin with, but when everyone pitches in to help clean up, household chores are knocked out in short order, and kids learn responsibility and other important life skills from an early age.

  13. No PMS
  14. Between pregnancy and breastfeeding, you can literally go for years without having a monthly cycle. I’m not gonna lie — that has really been nice.

  15. Pick Your Sport
  16. Depending on the size of your family, you can field your own basketball team. Or volleyball. Or baseball. Or soccer. The physical exercise does a body good, and the games give ample opportunity to practice good sportsmanship among other players who are held to the same standard.

  17. Social Security
  18. Contrary to what “Zero Population Growth” proponents will tell you, demographic declines are causing deeply troubling problems for societies worldwide, which is why many countries (Germany, Japan, and Austrailia, to name just a few) are now actually paying people to procreate. Big families are simply ahead of the curve.

  19. Youthful Beauty
  20. While pregnancy keeps you looking young (think thick, glossy hair and glowing complexion), the children themselves keep you feeling young. It’s a wonderful thing to see the world through the eyes of a child, so filled with awe and excitement over each new discovery. Their energy, enthusiasm, and laughter are infectious.

  21. One Less Excuse
  22. Being open to pregnancy allows couples to enjoy intimacy as God intended. No frantic search for a misplaced diaphragm. No mad dash to the drugstore when you run out of condoms. No having to compensate for the fact that the Pill completely decimates a woman’s libido. Just blessed spontaneity (although regularly scheduling time for said spontaneity is highly recommended).

  23. No Sour Milk
  24. In a house full of kids (especially teenaged boys), food seldom lasts long enough to go bad. That’s a plus! You can buy in bulk without fear of spoilage. And as an added bonus, dinner conversation never drags with so many different personalities contributing to it.

  25. Built-In Babysitters
  26. Our kids absolutely love babies and are always clamoring to hold our newest addition. As a result, they can all handle infants very comfortably and capably — experience that will come in handy someday when they start having kids of their own. As an added bonus, our big guys have discovered that nothing attracts attention from the opposite sex more effectively than toting around a new baby brother or sister (otherwise known as a “chick magnet”).

  27. Best Foot Forward
  28. Not only do children help refine their parents’ character qualities, but they polish one another, as well. Siblings have a way of knocking off one another’s rough edges, so they’re less likely to make fools of themselves in public. Corny jokes and lame pranks can be tested (then reworked as needed or altogether abandoned) at home, where the stakes are lower and the audience more forgiving.

  29. Empty Nest Postponed
  30. When you are blessed with many children, you don’t have to give up all your favorite things about one stage of life to enjoy all the great things about the next. You’ll still have little ones at home to cuddle even after first ones move away. That’s a happy distraction during what would otherwise be a bittersweet time. Also, studies show that the older a couple is when their last child leaves home, the more likely their marriage will survive the transition.

I could go on (and on and on), but I’ll stop there. What are your favorite things about having children? Do you plan to have any more? Don’t you know what causes that? Do I need to buy you a TV?

19 Ways to Boost Productivity

Do you start every new year like I do, with a long list of things you want to accomplish in the following twelve months? Wouldn’t you love to look back on 2014 next December, having actually completed a large portion of that list? What follows are nineteen habits that can help those dreams become a reality:

19 Ways to Boost Productivity | Loving Life at Home

  1. Stop procrastinating.

    We tend to over-estimate the time required to do a dreaded task, and under-estimate the amount of work we can accomplish in incremental units. Stop putting it off and just do it. (James 4:17)

  2. Make a schedule.

    This needn’t be rigid and inflexible, just a barebones game plan for your day, a general idea of what you plan to do and when you plan to do it. As Alan Lakein so sensibly observed, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” (Proverbs 16:9)

  3. Eat breakfast.

    Never skip the most important meal of the day, as it will provide the energy you need to greet the day’s responsibilities with vim and vigor. Be sure to include complex carbohydrates, for staying power that will carry you till lunchtime. (John 21:12)

  4. Exercise regularly.

    Aerobic exercise increases your energy reserves, so get your heart pumping. You’ll expend a little effort upfront, but you’ll build your endurance and ward off fatigue in the long run. (1 Timothy 4:8)

  5. Preserve margin.

    Don’t pack your schedule so full that you leave yourself no time to rest and reflect and recharge. Such times of relaxation are vital to our health and well-being, which is the whole concept behind Sabbath observation. Margin also leaves room for unexpected interruptions and unforeseen emergencies. (Exodus 34:21)

  6. Review your goals.

    Zig Ziglar once said, “Don’t count the stuff you do, do the stuff that counts.” Make sure the goals you’re pursuing line up with your core priorities and values. Remind yourself of these things often, and stay focused on what’s really important. (Philippians 3:13-14)

  7. Work fresh.

    If you’re a morning person, get up early and tackle important tasks then. If you do better in the evening after little ones are in bed and the house is quiet, then be a productive night owl. When your energy starts to sag, take a break (or take a nap). Go for a jog, grab a cup of tea, or catch forty winks, then return to work with renewed vitality and clear thinking. (Proverbs 31:15-18)

  8. Rethink perfectionism.

    Perfectionism is often at odds with productivity. In fact, sometimes perfectionism can be downright paralyzing. I’m all for pursuing excellence, but some of our responsibilities warrant less attention to detail than others. We must tend to trivial tasks quickly and efficiently if we want to have the time and energy we’ll need to do our most important work well. (Matthew 23:23)

  9. Put On Some Music.

    For physical labor, tune into something upbeat and energizing; if you’re doing mental work, try something calming and classical. Listening to music in the OR improves surgeons’ job performance, and the same principle may hold true for you. (2 Chronicles 5:13)

  10. Forgive those who wrong you.

    Don’t harbor bitterness or nurse grudges. You’ll waste a lot of valuable time perseverating over past offenses. Fully forgive offenders: just let it go and move on. (Colossians 3:13)

  11. Turn off the T.V.

    The average American watches five hours of television a day. If you fall into that category, flip the switch. You can pack a lot of productivity into five hours a day. When you’re on your deathbed, I guarantee you won’t be lamenting, “Why, oh why, didn’t I ever watch that last season of Survivor?” (Psalm 101:3)

  12. Work offline.

    I don’t know about you, but I find it terribly distracting when I’m trying to work to receive a constant stream of bells, whistles, dings, and other alerts notifying me about new emails, texts, tweets, and Facebook messages. I make a lot more progress on my writing when I turn off the wireless connection to do it. Likewise, anytime I need to focus on a task at hand (like schooling my children) with minimal interruptions, I leave my iPhone on my nightstand, my laptop on my desk, and let the answering machine deal with any calls that come across the land line. (Hebrews 12:1)

  13. Brainstorm.

    Got a problem? Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. If something isn’t working, try a new approach. Don’t just keep doing what you’ve always done, expecting better results next time. (Wasn’t that Einstein’s definition of insanity?) What are you trying to accomplish? How can you make it happen? Unleash your creativity. Dream big. Then come up with a plan to accomplish those dreams. (Proverbs 16:1)

  14. Set a timer.

    Overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work that needs to be done? Break it down into manageable chunks. Set a timer for ten (or twenty or thirty) minutes, delve in with gusto, and see how much you can knock out before the buzzer sounds. (Proverbs 13:4)

  15. Work ahead.

    If looming deadlines stress you out, pace yourself. Start early and give yourself plenty of time to finish the task without rushing. My sister has successfully used this strategy since grade school, and I’ve seldom ever seen her flustered. (Luke 14:28-30)

  16. Harness adrenaline.

    If you work well under pressure, capitalize on that fact. Tack as many extras onto your “to do” list as you can think of, then race the clock to see how many you can finish before time is up. I do this whenever we host a party. My “must do’s” (send invites, clean house, prepare food) are invariably followed by a slew of “want to’s” (paint kitchen, redo landscaping, sew curtains, clean attic). I never finish everything on the extended list before the guests arrive, but I usually accomplish far more than those few items on my short list. (Philippians 4:13, Ephesians 3:20-21)

  17. Multi-task wisely.

    Sometimes doing two things at once is smart and efficient: If you have a long daily commute, it makes good sense to listen audio-books or language tapes while driving. If you’re facing a long wait at the doctor’s office, by all means bring along a book to read or some knitting to do or some papers to grade. At other times, however, multi-tasking is foolish, dangerous, or just plain rude: Texting while driving? Not smart. Checking stocks in the middle of church services? Don’t do it. Perusing Facebook during family dinners? Think again. Pocket your phone and connect with the people seated around your table instead. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19)

  18. Be Polite.

    Show kindness and consideration to everyone. Be as helpful to others as possible. Be generous with your time and money. It may sound counterintuitive, but showing uncommon courtesy is not only right and good from an ethical standpoint, it is also smart and savvy from an efficiency standpoint. Sure, it requires a little extra time and effort upfront, but it pays off in the long run. When you are terse and rude and cold toward others, not only are they disinclined to help you, but they’ll often work actively against you. You will be thwarted at every step, and everything you try to accomplish will be undermined by your own insolence. By contrast, when you are warm and caring and helpful toward others, that kindness will neither go unnoticed nor unrewarded. What goes around, comes around. We reap what we sow. (Proverbs 19:17; 2 Corinthians 9:6)

  19. Say a prayer.

    Although I’m ending my list with this, prayer should really be our starting point. Martin Luther’s approach to an unusually busy day was not to skimp on his quiet time with the Lord, but to extend it: “I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer.” He knew his only hope for accomplishing everything on his agenda was divine empowerment. I don’t think in all my life I’ve ever spent three continuous hours on my knees, but I can testify that my days do go more smoothly, and far more gets done by the end of them, when I begin my mornings with Bible study and prayer. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Those are my tips for being more productive. What helpful hints would you add to this list?

A Mother’s Job Description

A Mother's Job Description - 4 Habits that Will Help You Raise Happy Children| Loving Life at HomeIt’s really something we all should be doing. But when I came across this verse in my Bible reading a couple of weeks ago, it dawned on me that 1 Thessalonians 5:14 provides a particularly apt job description for mothers:

“We urge you [to] admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

Doesn’t that about sum it up? Aren’t these the very things that God calls and expects a mother to do each and every day?

  1. Admonish the unruly

    Children of all ages can act a little headstrong and ill-behaved from time to time. When they do, a mother should stand ready to admonish them — not out of anger or irritation or exasperation, but out of love, always keeping her children’s best interest at heart. She must correct, counsel, and caution them against continuing in that vein. To do otherwise is to be guilty of negligence.

    “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15)

  2. Encourage the fainthearted

    Growing up is hard work, and children need a lot of motivation and morale-boosting. As a mother, we should be our child’s first and best cheerleader, offering a healthy balance of enthusiasm and empathy. We should view every day as a new opportunity to invest in our children’s inner lives and to inspire them to greatness.

    “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

  3. Help the weak

    Women are nurturers by nature. Helping the weak is what we do. This is especially evident when it comes to mothering. But we must be mindful to help in a way that doesn’t perpetuate weakness, but builds strength. Our goal is not to raise big children, but mature, responsible adults. We help our kids best when we teach them to help themselves and empower them to help others.

    “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Hebrews 6:10)

  4. Be patient with everyone

    Be patient. With everyone. Did you notice the exception clause? Neither did I. The Bible doesn’t say we should be patient with everyone except the toddler who’s pitching a fit or the teen who’s copping an attitude or the son who’s begging to play on the computer after you’ve already told him “no” ten times. Neither is impatience excused if we’re dog-tired or running late or stressed out or stuck in traffic. No, our goal — even when admonishing the unruly (see #1) — is to maintain patience at all times, toward all people, in all circumstances. Period.

    “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” (Ephesians 4:2)

While these four principles sound simple enough, it’s a challenge to live by them consistently, isn’t it? Yet the latter part of this passage provides a clue as to how we might do so. It bids us to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17)

This, I believe, is the secret to success in parenting (or any other endeavor): Stay positive and stay on your knees. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. That is key.

So what sort of things would you add to the list on a mother’s job description? Did any of those requirements throw you for a loop when you first became a mother?

50 Life Lessons I’ve Learned the Hard Way

50 Life Lessons I've Learned the Hard WayKnowledge gained through trial and error may be the hardest earned, but it’s usually the longest remembered.

Last year I posted 7 Life Lessons I’ve Learned from My Husband, so now I’d like to share a few life lessons I’ve learned on my own. Some of these truths were acquired by accident, some due to ignorance, some because of stubbornness, but each and every lesson was learned the hard way.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the mistakes I’ve ever made. These are just the ones that immediately sprang to mind when I sat down to write this post. I’m normally a quick study — once was enough to convince me I didn’t want to make most of these mistakes a second time — but I confess it took a few repetitions before I got the message on a handful of the following maxims.

So I offer you fifty gems of practical wisdom, all gained through firsthand experience. It’s less painful to learn from someone else’s mistakes instead of making your own, so if you want to spare yourself unnecessary anguish, take note:

  1. Don’t say anything in front of a five-year-old that doesn’t bear repeating.
  2. In the eyes of a police officer, a “rolling stop” does not count as a stop at all.
  3. Never use your teeth to pry the cap off a coke bottle.
  4. Listen to your mother. She’s lived longer than you, and she’s not just talking to hear herself speak.
  5. Don’t sit down in a cow pasture without first checking the ground for fresh patties.
  6. Never play Twister with a full bladder.
  7. Pack an extra change of clothes for slumber parties (especially if you’ll be playing Twister while you’re there).
  8. Don’t ignore the engine light. If it comes on while you’re driving, pull over immediately and call your dad.
  9. Don’t circle your answers if the teacher told you to underline them.
  10. It may not seem fair, but you can actually fail a test for not following instructions, even if you get all the answers correct.
  11. If a baked potato has been sitting at room temperature for more than three hours, don’t eat it.
  12. When biking down steep hills, don’t apply the front brakes without simultaneously applying the back. And wear a helmet.
  13. If you’re no good at gymnastics, pick something else to do for the fifth grade talent show.
  14. Fair-skinned redheads should wear sunscreen at the beach. Or a turtleneck. Or both.
  15. When you jump off the high dive, check to make sure your swimsuit is still covering everything it’s supposed to cover before you climb out of the pool.
  16. If all the boys in your sixth grade class are at the deep end watching, stay away from the high dive altogether.
  17. Confirm that your ice maker is plugged in and turned on before calling a repairman.
  18. Don’t take an antihistamine when you’re nursing, if you want to keep nursing.
  19. Don’t teach a three-year-old how to operate the paper shredder.
  20. If your spouse teaches your three-year-old how to operate the paper shredder, lock up all important papers or irreplaceable files immediately and hide the key.
  21. Make sure your three-year-old doesn’t see where you hide it.
  22. Lift with your legs, not with your back.
  23. Never tell a lie, even if you know the truth will get you in trouble.
  24. Going eighteen months without getting pregnant does not mean it’s time to cancel your maternity coverage.
  25. Never store your maxi pads where your toddler can reach them.
  26. Always double-check the bathroom before letting a guest use it (especially if your toddler knows where you store your maxi-pads).
  27. If you find yourself in a turn-only lane, turn.
  28. Don’t hang all the ornaments on the same side of the Christmas tree.
  29. The longer your hair, the more important that you put it up while preparing food. Especially if a gas grill is involved.
  30. Anytime you go anywhere with children, call roll and count heads. Twice.
  31. When pulling forward out of a parking space, don’t turn too early. Let your front tires clear the car parked next to you first.
  32. If your pediatrician’s nurse tells you to leave your baby undressed until the doctor comes in to examine him, go ahead and put his diaper back on while you wait.
  33. Be careful what you pray for.
  34. Don’t assume a person who works at a beauty salon has any haircutting experience. She may normally just shampoo, so check.
  35. Those adorable shoes on the clearance rack are no bargain if they’re two sizes too small. If you don’t want blisters, leave them for someone with smaller feet.
  36. Chain-link fences are no match for a two-year-old determined to get on the other side of it.
  37. Always read the fine print.
  38. Butter toffee peanuts are not your friend, even if they do come packaged in sturdy, square, reusable containers that fit perfectly in the rack on your pantry door. The extra pounds will remain on your thighs much, much longer than the makeshift canisters will stay in your kitchen.
  39. Turn off the electricity before replacing a light switch.
  40. Never feed fried mozzarella to a two-year-old. Or cake donuts.
  41. Don’t jump in the deep end unless you know how to swim.
  42. Before leaving home for church, restaurants, or extended vacations, check your children’s feet for shoes and socks. Just because they’ve piled into the van and claim to be ready to go does not mean they’re not barefoot.
  43. Make sure the dishes in the dishwasher are clean before you put them away.
  44. It is physically impossible to separate two dogs in the act of mating, so don’t bother trying. Your children (and husband) will be much more traumatized by watching your failed attempts to get that stray mutt out of your yard than by observing nature take its course.
  45. After eating anything with poppy seeds or peppercorns, check your teeth before smiling at your date to the drama banquet. Or at his ex-girlfriend who’s seated across the table from you.
  46. Never wash a load of laundry without first checking all pockets for gum. Or Sharpie markers. Or advance purchase movie tickets. Or cell phones.
  47. Don’t let your three-year-old play with your iPhone if your Twitter account isn’t password protected (or if she’s wearing jeans with deep pockets).
  48. Don’t make your husband wait until you’re in the mood. For many women, the mood rarely hits until we’re in the middle of the act, and we’d miss out completely if we made that a prerequisite.
  49. Never use a ballpoint pen to write 38 pages of notes in the dark on the legal pad you keep beside your bed for brainstorms that come in the night. The pen could run out of ink halfway through, and you wouldn’t know it until daybreak. Use a pencil, instead.
  50. Preferably one with a lead.

I could go on… but considering my pencil lead was broken and I didn’t know it, I think I’ll stop there.

What are some lessons you’ve learned the hard way? Please share. I’m in the mood to learn from somebody else’s mistakes, instead of my own.

Best Breastfeeding Practices for New Moms

Best Breastfeeding Practices for New Moms
My littlest one celebrated her third birthday today, and it has me feeling a bit nostalgic. Although she weaned over a year ago (and is such a big girl now!), I’m over at our family website today sharing some of my favorite things to do while breastfeeding a baby. I hope you’ll come visit me there!

25 Ways to Raise Capable, Confident Children

25 Ways to Raise Confident, Capable ChildrenThe fourth of our twelve children will be leaving the nest in another couple of months, and it has my husband and me reexamining the job we have done (thus far) raising our children.

Of course, we’ve made lots of mistakes (that’s another post for another day), but by the abundant grace of God (and by following the great example that our own parents modeled for us), there are many things we’ve done right — things we want to make sure we continue to do as we train up the remaining eight children still under our care.

And so I offer you “25 Ways to Raise Capable, Confident Children.” These are in no particular order, beyond the first, which should be our starting point in every endeavor:

  1. Pray without Ceasing:
    Parenting is one of the most demanding (and most rewarding) jobs any of us will ever do. As such, it requires an extra measure of wisdom from above, as well as strength, endurance, and consistency. Pray for yourself, but pray also for and with your children. The best parenting practices in the world will fall flat apart from God’s blessing. Pray that He will soften your children’s heart, that He’ll give them a teachable spirit, that He’ll begin this work early, and that He’ll be faithful to complete it, as He promises in His word. (Philippians 1:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:17)
  2. Clearly Define the Rules:
    Make sure your children know what you expect of them, then oblige them to obey cheerfully and completely. Well-established and consistently-enforced boundaries are both a protection and a comfort. Do not allow children to disregard the rules without consequence, or to speak to parents (or anyone else) in a disrespectful manner. Bad behavior should be penalized and good behavior should be rewarded. (Ephesians 6:1)
  3. Teach Them to Listen:
    Everything in life comes more easily to a child who knows how to pay attention. Fortunately, listening is a skill which can be practiced from infancy — train your baby to track your voice as you call his name from one side then the other, play “Simon Says” with your toddler, insist that your energetic grade-schooler stand still and make eye contact when you are giving him instructions, call your teen by name and use a key phrase (such as, “Listen to my words…”) to communicate the fact that what you are about to say is important and should be taken to heart. (Proverbs 4:1)
  4. Bid Them Be Happy:
    Cultivate contentment in your children, and you will all live happily ever after. No whining allowed! If you make certain your child’s whining is never rewarded, he will cease to do it. Conversely, when you give in to whining, you reward and reinforce the very behavior that drives most of us crazy and thereby encourage your kids to whine all the more. Of course, it should go without saying that we need to maintain a happy, positive attitude ourselves. The irony of an enraged parent screaming at a child, “Why can’t you just be happy?” is not lost, even on very small children.(Philippians 2:14)
  5. Nurture Your Marriage:
    One of the most important things a father can do for his children is to love their mother, and vice versa. If you are married, do all that you can to invest in and safeguard that relationship. Let your children know that you are 100% committed to making sure your marriage lasts. Kids who are given cause to doubt that fact spend a lot of emotional and psychological energy worrying that their parents may divorce (then feeling somehow responsible when they do). This can completely undermine a child’s sense of stability and security and will often sidetrack the normal development of confidence and competency in multiple areas. (Mark 10:7-9)
  6. Show Them You Care:
    Dr. Anthony Witham once said, “Children spell love T-I-M-E,” and it is true. Spend time with your kids, individually (use errands as an opportunity for one-on-one time) and as a group. Get excited about the things that excite or fascinate them. Take delight in their company, and let them see that delight in you eyes and your smile and your manner. Children need quality and quantity time, so give them plenty of both. There is no substitute for your intentional, fully-invested presence in the life of your child. (Isaiah 49:15)
  7. Put Them to Work:
    Assign household chores. Give them real and increasing responsibility from as young an age as possible. Kids who do chores grow up to be more successful than those who don’t. One of the most important lessons you can teach your child is to work hard and to take pleasure in a job well done. (Colossians 3:23)
  8. Enjoy Them at Play:
    Regularly enter into your child’s world of play. Take pleasure in relaxing with your children, especially after they’ve spent time working alongside you. Get up a rousing game of catch or tag or Spoons or Scrabble. Shoot hoops in the driveway or toss a frisbee at the park. Work a puzzle together. Teach your child how to play chess or bridge or dominoes. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
  9. Encourage Them to Try New Things:
    Expose your children to as broad a range of experience as you are able: music, sports, travel, missions, charity, social and cultural events, etc. This will furnish them with a more well-rounded view of the world and will hopefully make it easier for them to find their place in it. Give them the freedom and the tools to pursue the things that pique their interest. Let them know that by God’s grace, they can do anything they set their minds to. (Philippians 4:13)
  10. Point Them to Scripture:
    Let the Word of God permeate, influence, and inform every facet of family life. Read the Word of God to your children. Teach it to them diligently. Memorize it as a family. This is something that comes especially easy to children, so take advantage of that fact! Hide God’s Word in your heart. (Deuteronomy 11:18-21, Psalm 119:11)
  11. Protect Them from Harm:
    Vigilantly guard your kids against harmful influences, as well as physical threats. This is fairly easy when they are little, while you still enjoy complete control over their schedules, you pick all their friends for them, and they have not yet discovered a way around those child-proof locks (a skill some kids acquire at an exasperatingly young age). This task becomes more challenging, though no less important, as children grow older and begin to make most choices themselves. Even then, parents should be aware of the company their children keep, the movies they watch, the music they listen to, and the websites they frequent — not for the purpose of micro-managing or being legalistic (that plan will backfire, for sure), but in order to discuss freely and frankly any potential hazards of which parents are aware. (Ezekiel 33:6, Proverbs 4:14-15)
  12. Help Them Stay Healthy:
    Work to establish good habits in the areas of diet, sleep, exercise, and hygiene. Feed your children square meals, and if you want to nourish their souls as well as their bodies, preserve the family dinner hour. Use it as an opportunity to discuss and dissect the day’s events, both within your family circle and in the world at large. Teens whose families eat dinner together at least five times per week are far less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol or engage in other risky behavior. They also tend to eat more fruit and vegetables then children in families who do not consistently dine together.
  13. Give Them Good Manners:
    Common courtesy and respect are no longer as common as they ought to be. Teach your children to say “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” “you’re welcome,” “yes, ma’m,” and “no, sir.” Well-behaved kids are such a novelty these days. Good manners make a young person stand out in a crowd in a more memorable way than the wildest tattoo or body piercing can ever do. (1 Timothy 4:12)
  14. Read Them Great Books:
    Read well-written and beautifully illustrated picture books aloud to your children when they are little, yes, but continue to read engaging novels, inspiring biographies, and thought-provoking non-fiction aloud, even after they grow too big for your lap. Children are never too old to be read to, so choose well and discuss at length. Sharing books together this way is the surest way to foster in your kids a lifetime love for reading, which itself opens whole new worlds of knowledge and experience to them. Thanks to public libraries, this is a practice even the poorest of families can afford.
  15. Equip Them to Lead:
    Stress the importance of integrity, humility, self-discipline, and willingness to stand alone. Model servant-leadership, and challenge them to follow Christ’s example, who came not to be served, but to serve. Encourage them to take initiative and do things that need to be done without being asked. (Mark 10:45, Philippians 2:3-8)
  16. Treat Them with Understanding:
    Kids are people, too! Be patient with your children and treat them with kindness. Do not be unnecessarily harsh with them, and be quick to forgive when they repent of wrongdoing. Be sympathetic. Try to remember what it was like to be in their shoes.(Ephesians 6:4, Ephesians 4:32)
  17. Turn Off the TV:
    Set reasonable limits on screen time of any sort, including but not limited to television, computers, smart phones, tablets, and video games. It would probably be both unrealistic and impractical to attempt to eliminate all electronic media usage from our homes, but any child who spends 53 hours a week staring at a screen could probably find something more productive to do with much of that time. (Psalm 90:12)
  18. Inspire Good Sportsmanship:
    Teach them to lose with grace and to win with humility, conscious that their natural talents and abilities are gifts from above. Stress the importance of always playing fairly and if you must err, err in favor of your opponent. Better to lose the game than to be thought a cheater. (Philippians 2:15)
  19. Lead Them by Example:
    Model for your children the character and behavior you wish them to exhibit, but do not pretend to be perfect (or expect your children to be). Be honest about personal flaws and quick to admit mistakes, apologizing and asking your children’s forgiveness when you wrong them. (1 John 1:8-10)
  20. Train Them to Think:
    Education is more than regurgitating facts; our kids must also learn to reason and to think through things on their own. We can ask questions of them to help the process along (Socratic method), but we must not shy away from their asking questions of us, as well. Anticipate, encourage, and answer their inquiries in a way that is intellectually honest, morally upright, scientifically accurate, and neither defensive nor overly-dramatic. And for those questions for which we have no good answer? Admit you don’t know, then pray about the matter and search for a solution together. (Jeremiah 33:3)
  21. Grant Them Some Space:
    Beginning with letting your two-year-old choose what she wants to wear, allow your children to make their own decisions whenever possible, and be supportive of their choices. You can offer your kids guidance and encouragement without smothering and micromanaging them. But be forewarned: Their thoughts, tastes, and values may not always line up with yours 100%, which is okay. They are individuals and are entitled to have their own hopes and dreams and opinions. Parents can reserve the right to overrule younger children whenever they deem it necessary, but as your kids grow, look for ways they can express their individuality in a manner that is acceptable to both of you. (Romans 14:5)
  22. Bless Your Children:
    Let your sons and daughters know that you are proud of them. Don’t get so focused on correcting your children when they do wrong that you forget to praise them when they do right. Our kids never outgrow the need for approval and affirmation, so give it freely. (Genesis 27:34)
  23. Don’t Overreact:
    Whether your toddler takes a spill while learning to walk or your grade-schooler makes a C on his spelling test or your teenager makes a wrong turn while learning to drive, swallow your fears. Remember that we ALL have mishaps and we ALL make mistakes — surely this one is not the end of the world. Don’t be negligent and reckless, but don’t be hovering and over-protective either. Keep calm and carry on! Take failures in stride and don’t give in to worrying.(Philippians 4:6)
  24. Entrust Them to God:
    Instill in your children a clear vision of what they can accomplish for God’s glory. Do your best to give them an eternal perspective. Pass them the baton. Our kids are in His hands: only by His grace do any of our efforts succeed.
  25. Let Them Grow Up:
    Our ultimate goal is not to raise oversized children, but to raise mature, responsible adults. This will not happen overnight. Neither can you expect to cling tightly until the day your child turns 18 (or 21 or 30), and then let go all at once. It is a gradual process, like the letting out of kite string. Keep a firm hold on the end while they are younger, yes, but be willing to spool out the thread smoothly and steadily as needed. (Proverbs 22:6, Luke 16:10)
  26. So that’s my list. Is there anything you would add? Leave off? What types of things have you found most helpful in raising capable, confident children?