Book Review - Don't Make Me Count to Three

Title: “Don’t Make Me Count to Three!” A mom’s look at heart-oriented discipline
Author: Ginger Plowman

Where Ted Tripp leaves off in Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Ginger Plowman picks up. If you agree with the philosophy of parenting being more than just correcting your child’s behavior, but guiding them to love God and make wise choices, but you struggle with how to incorporate that into your daily life, this is a great resource. It is filled with Scripture and wisdom, as well as practical ideas.

The book is divided into three parts: Reaching the Heart of Your Child, How to Give Biblical Reproof and the Biblical Use of the Rod. Plowman’s approach is to introduce a concept, share the Biblical view and then walk you through possible conversations you would have with your children. She addresses issues like sharing, obeying, lying, and sibling rivalry to name a few. At first, I felt like these examples were a little cheesy, I later found myself using her exact words in my preschool Sunday school class. The effect was astounding. The situation was immediately and peacefully resolved and I felt like I had actually reached the child at the heart level.

The other main point I walk away from this book with is that it is not enough just to show our children what not to do. We must be diligent to also show them the correct response. Plowman walks through many examples of correcting her children, showing them the Biblical reason and then walking them through what they should have done. It is time consuming and requires effort, but as Plowman shares, “This is how we train our children to walk in the righteousness of Christ.”

This book is filled with Biblical wisdom and practical application that works. I highly recommend it to not only parents, but those who interact with children on a regular basis.

Book Review - Shepherding a Child's Heart

Title: Shepherding a Child’s Heart
Author: Ted Tripp

This book, I imagine, is (or will be) considered one of those modern classic parenting books. Ted Tripp draws on his vast experience as a pastor, counselor, school administrator, speaker and father to share with us his perspective on raising children. His underlying principle is that our role as a parent is to guide our children to understand themselves and the world in which they live. To do this effectively, we have to do more than just tell our children, we must lead them through open communication, self-disclosure, living out our values – shepherding their hearts. Tripp states, “The central focus of parenting is the gospel. You need to direct not simply the behavior of your children, but the attitudes of their hearts.”

The book is laid out in two parts: Foundations for Biblical Childrearing (the philosophy) and Shepherding Through the Stages of Childhood (the implementation). He begins with exploring the idea that the heart determines behavior. He walks through the various influences our child development that affect what fills the heart. He then reminds parents of their place of authority. I think this is an important concept to internalize, because I increasingly see in our culture a desire to be friends with our children, rather than parents. We focus on making our children like us, and so we gloss over the difficult responsibilities like discipline.

Tripp then moves into a section on goals, and what I loved about this part is how he shifts our focus from ourselves to God. For example, rather than wanting to raise well-behaved children – because it makes us look good or because it gives us control – we want to raise children who love God so much that they want to live in obedience to Him (not us!). These and other goals he discusses may seem good, but they are not Biblical.

The last section of the first part discusses many different Biblical methods, ranging from communication to spanking. While I appreciate his discussion and agree with many of the points he makes, parents should be aware that he does express some fairly rigid beliefs. Personally, I think you should consider the personality of each of your children and apply the methods that are most effective. However, parents should not dismiss the rationale and Biblical mandates behind what he suggests just because they disagree with the method or the extent to which it is used.

The second part is intended to be a more practical implementation of his philosophy. To me, this is the weakest part of the book. I walked away from the book still unclear how to implement most of the ideas he had discussed.

Overall, the concepts in this book are great and well explained. It could stand to be a little shorter and more concise, and needs more concrete points of application. But it is definitely worth the time to read.


The Incas and Disposable Everything

In continuing the conversation on LL’s post about Terracing, I have a couple observations:

1) The quote from the book claims that the Incas’ excellent workmanship is caused by their intention to build permanent architecture. Although slightly off the point she is trying to make, I have to question – is that really true? Did they work with excellence only because they aimed at permanence? Could it not be the other way around? Because they worked with excellence, their workmanship endured? I question this because if we take this idea to its end, then we allow ourselves to believe that if we don’t care if our work lasts or not then it is not necessary to work with excellence. And yet that very thought saturates our society: just do the least amount necessary to get by. Now, I recognize that a Cadillac solution is not necessary for every problem, but I don’t think that is the same thing as working with excellence.

2) All that said, there are similarities in the mindset of building something permanent and building something with excellence. When you are focused on permanence, you work knowing that what you are creating must last, that you will have to live with it and that it is worth your time and effort. You think about similar things when you are working with excellence: if this endures time, will I be pleased with my work? if I have to live with it, can I or would I do something differently? if this is worth my time and effort, why would I not work with all my heart to do my best?

3) Lastly, LL’s post actually commented on our “throw away society” and the effect that has on our perspective on relationships, material things and even our church. I wonder if, in part, this is related to our fierce desire to maintain our independence and our anxiety around commitment. By having the option to throw something away as soon as it no longer is useful to us, we retain some illusion of control over our lives. We don’t like to think about the consequences of our reckless disposal system (on our Earth, on other people, on the reputation of Christ) because we favor our own convenience. No strings, no commitments, no guilt…but in reality, no true satisfaction, no authentic relationships and no real meaning and purpose. Given that choice, I prefer to settle in and stay awhile.
Photo: Vineyard just outside of Florence, Italy, 2002


The sky was an eerie haze of yellowish brown as I returned home from East Texas this weekend. My friend and I saw the beginnings of two huge (but separate) fires that - oddly enough - both began behind gas stations. Meanwhile, a 60-mile an hour wind ripped through my back yard, taking down three sections of our fence. At least one section was not a surprise as it was greatly weakened during our last wind storm. Now I have to be cognizant as I walk through my living room as to what I am wearing, since my neighbor can look directly into…or even walk into my backyard from theirs. Irie has gone swimming no less than 5 times in their swimming pool already. Their three dogs and ours have enjoyed getting to chase one another across the expanse of our two backyards put together, as opposed to being limited to a jaunt along the fence line.

Already, we have spoken with our neighbor more in the past two days than we have the entire four years we have lived here. I now remember their four boys’ names, know they have three dogs (I thought they only had one), even know where their oldest son is heading to college next year (I didn’t even know he was old enough). One of their sons finished helping me dig out M’s sandbox that I’m making. This is the type of relationship I longed for when we first moved in. I miss that sense of community with neighbors. Things like fences and garage door openers (open the door, drive in, close the door, go into your house – without even the opportunity to interact with your neighbor) make it easy for us to live separate, disconnected lives. At the time, we didn’t have a child to naturally bridge the gap. I tried to get to know my neighbors, but it was just too easy not to when they didn’t respond with open arms.

It saddens me that we put up these fences to keep people out and our lives private. Fences like cell phones, iPods, and email. Fences like stereotypes, assumptions and arrogant independence. We are so individually focused that we forsake the idea of community. But we were meant to live in community! Let’s open up our lives, allow the wind to knock down a few sections of fence and get to know our neighbors.

Photo: Fence trouble, 2007

Smallness of Scale

My friend LL Barkat, over at Seedlings in Stone, recently began a series of posts on an agricultural book that she is reading. As usual, LL does a great job of applying seemingly unrelated topics (like farming techniques) to our every day life. Since I’m behind in commenting on her blog – and since I realize I have more to say about her topics than is probably appropriate for a comment – I’ve decided to blog on the topics here.

Her second blog explained a concept called “Smallness of Scale”. Basically, the technique of using smaller farms permitted attention to be acutely focused, with the proper attention paid to the details. LL offers some great thoughts and practical ideas for implementing “smallness of scale”, as do her readers. Overall, the idea that “less is more” is promoted.

I loved that thought and the ideas that accompanied it, and am still pondering the idea about really focusing on a smaller number of relationships, rather than many. However, one reader’s comment really struck me: Marcia said, “Tiny moments or gestures of love make me happy, small steps are big steps in my eyes, I love 'stolen moments'.” I loved that interpretation. I immediately remembered something Beth Moore said in a conference I attended yesterday (more specifically on the conference in a forthcoming post) – “God doesn’t just have the power to change our lives, He has the power to change our day.” We keep looking for God do something way out in our lives (think big), and we miss the ways and the opportunities that God wants to do something in our today (think smallness of scale). Small things happen every day that are blessings or encouragement or learnings, and if we’re always looking for that big thing – we’ll miss out on so much. Likewise, performing those small deeds of kindness and love are just as important and just as powerful (if not, sometimes, more) as those huge, outrageous acts of love. It’s amazing the response I receive every time I drop a friend a little note of encouragement in the mail, or send her my prayer for the day for her in an email or call her up just to say that I’m glad she’s my friend. When I pay attention to little things that make my husband’s day easier and that encourage him and that communicate that I love him – just little things – they touch his heart deeply and motivate him.

When I think of smallness of scale in this way (in addition to the less is more perspective), I realize it is so easy to implement. Small things seem manageable, easier to fit into my every days.

For more on Smallness of Scale, check out LL's blog here .

Photo: Crossvine in Sue's backyard, 2005


Pass the grapes!

It feels almost like the beginning of summer here! The temperature has been in the 80's the past two days. M and I love being able to get back outside to play in the yard and dig in the garden. It may be unseasonably warm (can Texas really be "unseasonably" anything, though?), but for me it sure beats the 20's of last week. We had some fresh grapes for a snack this morning, and I started thinking of summer already. Fresh fruit, warm days and lots of fun. Too bad it's only February. I'm sure the weather will shift again in the next week or so. What a tease!

Photos: Holding grapes, 2007 and Fresh grapes, 2007


I’m really going to kick this thing…

I suppose I should not be surprised that we all got sick. Really, we haven’t been that sick this winter, so I guess we’re due. But the excuse this time for my short hiatus is the common cold. First M got sick (thanks to a friend coughing all over her), and then I got it this weekend. Poor hubby picked up the cough early this week, and now we’re all sort of pathetic. M is taking it like a trooper. She’s still happy as a lark and having a good time – thank goodness! I moped around for the last couple days, but decided today to get my wimpy butt in gear. I aired out the house, sterilized everything in sight, did the laundry and ran some errands (including a stop at Jamba Juice for a Cold Buster!). I read a little while M took her nap, and then decided to come in and catch up on my blogging. I’m posting one I started this weekend, and I’ll try to get a couple more out today and tomorrow that have been bouncing around in my head. Stay tuned! I’m determined to kick this bug – I’ve got too much to do not to!


Surreal Life

As I rocked my daughter tonight, in the quietness of her room a surreal feeling swept over me. I looked at myself (not physically, this isn’t some out of body experience tale…well, kind of but not really) and I wondered when I became old enough to be the mother of a toddler. Am I really at this point in life? Diapers, station wagons, play dates, toys constantly exploded all over the living room, little girl tugging at my pant leg demanding my attention? It seems like yesterday that I was a high school student and graduating college was a decade away (much less a decade past). Then I thought of my mother. Does she often ponder the same thoughts about her station in life? Does she feel like the years have passed by too quickly and that she’s not old enough yet to be a grandmother? Does it feel slightly odd to her that she watches her daughter mothering a sweet, yet independent little girl just as she did not so long ago? Pondering the passage of time always leaves me somewhat befuddled and overwhelmed. How can this intangible, man-made device pass so quickly and yet so slowly? How is it that time rules us, and yet we created it (and I’d propose, can’t live without it)? How strange is it that things we waited so long to achieve, once attained are overshadowed by the next thing? Life is surreal, at times. I guess that’s part of the mystery.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways”, declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:8

Photo: Tired tornado, 2007


Little Wordsmith

I know every mom thinks they have the smartest, cutest, best kid in the world – and I’m no different. M is at an age where she is constantly learning, and I am amazed. Kids like her truly are little sponges, soaking up everything (including things I don’t even realize).

Just for kicks, we started writing down the words that she consistently and correctly uses. In part, because we wanted to remember the way she calls a “jacket” a “jack jack” or a “slide” a “weeee”. As we recalled the words, our list got longer and longer. I transferred our frantic notes to an excel spreadsheet and to my surprise, she knew over 150 words! Granted, she cannot pronounce every word correctly nor does she use the right word in every case, but they are without a doubt all words to her. She uses the same pronunciation each time and refers to the same object or action with the same word. And those were just the words she uses consistently. She repeats many more words (including dang and crap…whoops!), but I don’t think she has mastery over them yet.

It’s amazing how those little brains work. I’ve listed a few of my favorite words below.
potty = “pah pie”
toothbrush = “teef”
amen = “aaaaaaameh”
where = “weh” (accompanied by her little hands facing palm up)

Photo: M on a cooler, 2007


An Experiment in Submission, Part 2

Last month I wrote about my experiment in submission. Since then, I continue to learn through experience that submission does not come easily for me. For some reason, at the time I wrote the first blog, I thought I had cracked the code to being a submissive wife. All I had to do was follow the formula, and I would live in harmony, intimacy and (I’ll be honest here) perfection with my husband.

I was wrong.

I began to enjoy the routine of preparing for my husband’s arrival. I liked having the house picked up and dinner ready for us to eat together as a family. Not that finding enjoyment and appreciating a clean house and a family meal are bad, but those soon became the reasons for my actions. My focus on encouraging my husband decreased as my own pleasure increased. And, as you might have guessed already, the positive effect on our marriage those actions originally had became void. Life was no different than it was before my experiment began.

And then came 16 days of scrapbooking insanity.

I walk away from this experience realizing that, for me, I need to find different ways to encourage my husband each day. I still intend to prepare for his arrival home each day, but I can’t depend on that to be my act of encouragement. I also understand that being busy or stressed is no excuse. I am hopeful that as time passes, this will become easier. Right now it still feels like everything goes to pot when our lives get crazy. I don’t want it to always be that way. Lastly, and most importantly, I am recommitted to the heart of this issue. As Elizabeth George puts it, I want to ensure that my husband is my highest human priority. I realize that’s what submission is really all about.

Photo: Family photo in Botanic Gardens, 2006

66 hours, 205 pages

Scrapbooking has dominated my life during the past 16 days. This project began over two years ago when one of my best friends and I decided to explore starting a business together. My friend’s aunt volunteered to be our first customer. Neither my friend nor I had ever really scrapbooked before, so we gave her a good deal (probably too good of a deal) on her albums so we could learn. We began with a box full of unorganized pictures, dating back about 20 years or so. Since that first box of pictures, my friend moved to California, M arrived and I picked up a couple more boxes worth of pictures from the aunt to do by myself. I’ve struggled doing this last box because I find so many other things that need to be done in my spare time. Well, that, and I miss cropping with a friend; it’s not nearly as fun by myself.

I’m also just tired of doing it. What has been most frustrating is that for many of the pictures, the aunt does not remember when or where they were taken. I spend most of my creative energy trying to figure out what is going on in the picture and how to describe it. Essentially, I make up the stories behind the pictures by observing details like the date, the activity, signs in the background, nametags, etc. It feels odd to be paid to create someone else’s memories…literally. It’s not so much that I’m putting the scrapbook together for her; it’s that I invent so much of the journaling and comments on each page (which is also why there is not much). I put myself in those pictures and imagine what I would have been thinking or doing, and I incorporate it into the page as if it is their memories. And the weirder part is that I don’t think it’s strange to her.

Originally, this project was fun because I was doing it with my friend, and it provided a creative outlet for me. After a while, however, I ran out of creativity and was just doing it to get it done. It is a relief to finally have it off my plate.

And believe it or not, I’m looking forward to catching up on my own scrapbooks.
Photos: Scrapbook pages, 2007


Some light reading...

I've posted over at Headline Girls to catch up on my articles. There's even a nice little haiku, for those poetry fans. I'll be back up and running on my blogging this weekend! Stay tuned!