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Shallow Small Groups

We love watching this clip because we know this scenario too well. Todd and I are both introverts and prefer one on one conversation that goes deep rather than a large gathering.

Sad Meals

This is an old story but a good one.  Normally when we eat at McDonalds, we do not buy Happy Meals.  The price is just too much, so we all get a hamburger from the dollar menu and share drinks.   Having a Happy Meal is a real treat for our kids, maybe a once a year experience.

One night we stopped at Mc Donald’s for hamburgers, and Ian offered to pray.  He had earlier asked for a Happy Meal, but we told him we were just going for the burgers tonight.

He bowed his head and said, “Dear God, Thanks for the Sad Meal. Amen.”

At least he was thankful . . .

The most beautiful McDonald’s sign I have ever seen. . . Salzburg, Austria.   

Quiet

This was our first book selection for the year.   The author and her book were featured in an article that came out in Time Magazine shortly after the release of the book  The Upside of Being an Introvert.   It has taken me over 40 years to see being an introvert as a positive thing.  In elementary school, I would take my book to the top of the jungle and sit and read for the entire recess.  Books were my friends.  I had an average of 8 books checked out at one time from the school library.  In 6th grade I read a book that radically changed me, The New Lucinda.

I am fairly sure that most of you have never heard of this book, nor would have chosen it as a paradigm-shifter, life-changer  type of book . . . yet, it was for me.   I read it shortly before switching schools to junior high.  It was about an awkward girl who never fit in, but had the chance to re-make herself when she moved to a different school.  She changed her look, clothes and personality and was rewarded by fitting in the popular kids.  Then one day, someone found out about her past and her popularity plummeted.  In the end, she learned to be happy being herself.  But I took a different lesson from the book.

It was inspirational for me in showing me that I could change, and I decided from the first day of entering Lancaster Christian in 7th grade, I would not be the quiet introvert who I was, but I would make an effort to interact with people and learn the art of conversation.  And, I did and it worked.  Yet, I always felt a bit empty and while I could interact and engage with almost everyone, it never satisfied me.

What I mostly enjoyed were long talks with one friend–one or two relationships that deepened and grew.  Parties were a waste of time–boring.  I felt lonely in a crowd and fulfilled by a good deep talk with people.

Then I met and married another introvert.  Knowing and understanding this about ourselves has been very helpful.  We get exhausted in large groups and need time at home to recharge.  Since we are constantly surrounded by 7 children, it is not easy for us to get that alone time.

“Our tendency to be extroverted or introverted is as profound a part of our identities as our gender.”  There are often books written specifically to women or to men,that completely neglect to take the characteristics of personality into play.

A friend of mine said, “We also do not take into account personality when we are looking at spiritual gifts.  We expect all Christians to evangelize and talk with someone  on the train or the plane, but if we looked at the personality type of the typical evangelist, they are probably an extrovert.”  Making an extrovert out to be more spiritual is dangerous as well as catering to the extrovert in the workplace.  What I appreciated most about this article was the attention and awareness that it gave to the importance of introverts explaining how what many perceive as a weakness is actually a hidden strength.

One thing that I appreciated about Sweden, was that I was simply seen as Debbie, NOT–debbie the MOM, debbie the FEMALE, debbie the WIFE, debbie the INTROVERT.  I was not a sum of different labels, but was accepted for myself.  I think the more we can begin to see each of us as unique creations of God, we will not characterize people into different groups and expect them to perform according to their label.  Rather, we will allow others to be who they are and appreciate who God made them.

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2105432,00.html#ixzz29H7wHPSJ

“Your son is too nice . . .

he needs to learn to be more assertive and speak his mind.”  Gulp.  This was one of the kindergarten teachers during our yearly meeting.  Forthrightness, critique and boldness are valued attributes here in Germany.  In Sweden, children are taught almost from birth that they have a voice and the right to decide over their environment and life.

In America, children who are not heard are often more valued than those who speak out.  Defending oneself or arguing are seen negatively and usually equated with rudeness.  Often in the States, children use the teacher to be their voice and fight their battles for them.  But here, children are highly encouraged to resolve their issues themselves.  A child that cannot do so will have a hard time here.  For my children to not only survive but thrive here, our parenting has had to adjust to our culture.   Children who do not speak up or defend themselves are more likely to be preyed upon.

This resulted in us sending our German schooled kids to a self-defense class last fall.  I wanted them to hear from a German the culturally acceptable way to protect themselves in an unfamiliar culture.  Our children learned to say, “No!” to inappropriate things, how to defend themselves and how to use force appropriately (for defense).

Teaching our kids to be assertive and to defend themselves makes me feel more confident letting them go to school in a different culture and language.

The difficulty  that we face is this, “What do we do when we go to the States next summer and our kids are not responding appropriately for American culture?”  Will people understand when we tell them that we have adjusted our parenting so that our children have the tools they need to manage cultural differences?”

I love seeing my kids interact in different languages with different cultures.  I loved seeing my kids slip back into their “Swedish ways” when we were in Sweden this summer.  They were more gentle in how they expressed their opinions and more careful to not be critical.

But being multi-cultural and multi-lingual also has its price. . . playing by the rules of one culture while being in a different culture can lead to judgment or rejection. . . I pray that my kids can find the balance in all of this.

Here are two blog entries that were refreshing for me to read:

I don’t want to raise a good child. 

First-time obedience, really??

Go with your gut!

Monday night.  Todd takes up to 7 kids with him to play basketball at BFA.  It’s half court so the kids have one side of the gym to themselves.  Since we live on a very steep hill, this gives them a great chance to run around.  Levi kicked a ball which hit Gracelyn’s wrist perfectly.  She cried just for 3 or 4 minutes (super high pain tolerance), but Todd knew the cry–the broken bone cry.  A sharp squeal, a bit of sweat on the brow. . . yup, that cry.  That night, she bumped her wrist again and gave the same cry.  There  was no swelling or redness, and she was still using her arm. . . but we knew. . . Todd loaded up Gracelyn (and Joya and Ian who insisted on coming to help!) and off they went to the hospital where literally “everybody knows our name.”  (We have spent over 60 days in the hospital since the fall of 2009 and most of the time in this particular one).

The doctor examined Gracelyn who was moving her arm and hand freely and did not even squeal once.  Todd held his ground, looked square at the doctor and said, “She had a different cry.”  The doctor relented and said, “Well, to make you feel better, we will X-ray her.”  With a sheepish look, he came back 10 minutes later with the X-ray.  Sure enough, a small fracture.   Gracelyn got a pink cast, lots of love, and we were in and out in 90 minutes in the ER.

This photo is from another time I listened to my gut and took Gracelyn into the hospital for a second opinion!  She has surgery the next day for an abscess!  

 

Mom Mom, she’s the Bomb

So this little rap made my day. . . and I will continue to watch it for encouragement.  The best part is being able to do this together with Todd.

The Pilgrim Fathers

 I just finished reading Henri Nouwen’s book The Pilgrim Fathers.  He addresses three principles that the monastic fathers followed that he recommended for today’s busy society:  solitude, silence and prayer.  As I read the book, my hunger grew for quiet and solitude, but I was a bit disturbed by a reference to a man known as St. Anthony the “father of the monks.”   He withdrew into the desert for 20 years into complete solitude.   After he emerged from this time, “people recognized in him the qualities of an authentic ‘healthy’ man.   While I agree that solitude is important, what is a Mom to do??  Often I think to myself, if I could just get away from people, life would be easier.  Is escape from everyone, really the answer?  This summer, I had the privilege to visit a dear friend that kept my schedule free to allow me time and space to think and pray.  During this time, I felt refreshed and invigorated and ready to go home.  Now a few months later, I am in the midst of the business and craziness.  What can I learn from Nouwen?  I do not nor should I leave my family for years. . . yet, a bit of silence each day is important.  Another thing to consider is what is keeping me from my silence and is this thing essential, or what should I cut back?

Getting things done with little ones around is challenging!!

Here is a blog that encouraged me and took away some guilt:  Your children want you!.