Sunday, June 1, 2008

10 Ways to Make Your Home a Haven

By Mary E. DeMuth

Here are ten ways you can make your home a haven in this shifting world:

1. Let kindness reign. Determine to treat your children and spouse with the same sweetness you'd give a stranger you're trying to impress. Remember it's God's kindness that leads us to repentance. What makes us think anything different would evoke our children's repentance?

2. Welcome hard questions. It's okay to question. You did it, didn't you? Give your children the same leeway. Let them vent. Let them worry. Welcome their wrestling. Don't give pat answers; instead, let them work through their questions. Love them through a period of questioning.

3. Be there. Give your children the rare gift of your focused attention. Look into their eyes. Ask great questions. Relax alongside them. Dr. Ross Campbell says, "In short, focused attention makes a child feel he is the most important person in the world in his parents' eyes."

4. Limit media. Steer your children away from mindless interaction with the TV or video games. Set limits and stick to them. Dare to believe your children are creative, innovative kids who can create instead of idly recreate.

5. Play outside. We've lost the importance of outdoor play. Even if it means walking to the park with your kids, or swimming alongside them, or taking a nature hike, dare to move beyond the four walls of your home to venture out to see God's creation.

6. Weep and rejoice at the right times. We are to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15). When a child has a difficult day, scoop her into your arms and cry alongside. When she makes a great grade, jump up and down and celebrate with ice cream.

7. Cherish childhood. Our kids grow up so fast in this crazy culture. Keep them kids as long as you can. Let them play, run, stretch, linger. Limit activities when they're younger so they don't become little stressed-out adults at age ten.

8. Read together. The most haven-producing thing I do as a mommy is simply to read to my kids. I still read to my fourteen year old! Discover books on CD as a family, lessening the tedium of car rides without popping in a DVD. My kids have stayed in the car to listen to a story finish.

9. Laugh hard, but not at another's expense. Joking and laughter are blessings you can add to create a fun-loving haven, but be cautious not to laugh at your kids' expense or allow them to laugh at yours or others' expense. Watch funny, clean movies together. Tell jokes. Tell funny family stories over and over until they become ridiculous. A lighthearted family that doesn't take itself too seriously is a haven-home.

10. Practice God's presence in the mundane. Require chores of your kids. It teaches them important life skills. Even so, introduce joy as you work. Turn on the radio, dance, laugh. By learning to practice the presence of God during the chores of life, you create a productive, gratitude-based home.

Adapted from “Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture” (Harvest House, 2007)

Raindrops and Rewards

What happens when rain threatens to ruin a beautiful outdoor wedding?

by Lindy Ford

I guess I was no different from most brides; I dreamed of the perfect wedding. After setting my June date many months beforehand, I felt very good about my special day. No detail was left to chance. The dress and flowers were breathtaking, attendants’ outfits were stunning, invitations were unique, and a meal fit for royalty was planned. A friend was bringing an elaborate sound system and electric keyboard for soloists during the ceremony. I hired a professional guitar player for some of the music.

Although all these arrangements were special, the crowning glory was the location. I have always loved historic places and happened to find the perfect place on the Chesapeake Bay. The house was grand with a huge oak tree on the property. I wistfully envisioned my lovely processional traveling down an aisle of white chairs to stop right at that tree. The Bay in the background would be an incredible backdrop. I just knew it.

That particular Maryland spring was unusual. April and May were the wettest on record. In June a large calendar in the local paper showed darkened blocks for all rainy days of the past two months. Only three were not darkened. In my thinking, by the time my date rolled around, it would have rained so much that I was safe; certainly the sky could yield no more moisture. On top of that, I was praying. All my family members were praying, even strangers. I would tell the bank teller to pray as well as the grocery store clerk. Prayer would seal the deal.

I confidently and busily soared to the week before the wedding. I met with the caterer and they asked about plan B (the rain plan). The weather reports stated a 30% chance of rain, so I cavalierly told them not to worry; no plan B needed—my day would be perfect. The night before the wedding, my future husband, Bryan, sweetly called and said, “Honey, I hate to tell you this, but I looked at the weather report and it doesn’t look good. There is a big green rain blob headed in our direction.” In firm denial, I wouldn’t hear of it. It couldn’t rain on all my hard work, dreams and worst of all – my prayers.

The next morning I woke to a torrential downpour. This rain had something to prove; even ducks were uncomfortable. By this time, reality and self-pity had set in. I took a half-hour shower just to cry and not upset anyone. How could this happen? What were we going to do? I told Bryan to call the officiating pastor to see if we could get married in a Denny’s booth over Grand Slams. I wanted to get married; I just didn’t want to attend my wedding.

As the day progressed, the rain poured down vengefully. The historic location people called my cell phone, which unfortunately was turned off. They wanted to know if I would pay extra to put flaps on the reception tent needed to house the ceremony. I guess the oak tree was out. When my brother-in-law arrived, the water on the tent floor was several inches deep. He, along with my sister-in-law, in their gown and tuxedo, paid for the flaps, got up on a ladder, and installed them.

I can’t believe my sister insisted I go to my own wedding, but she did. While I was teary and negative, we battled the elements all the way to the hair salon. My sister chirped along staying positive. She went around gingerly telling everyone not to mention the weather—like none of us could hear the pelting sheets of rain. What pink elephant?

Not only did we have a tough time getting to the wedding location, so did our guests. Roads were closed and traffic was horrendous. My sister finally had enough of my attitude and lectured me, “Stop the negativity. Do you realize how many women would give an appendage to marry a great guy like Bryan? Thank God He has blessed you so much.” Sisters have a way of getting real. I decided to change my attitude and look on the bright side. It was hard.

When I arrived at the wedding sight, I was told that because of the water none of the electronics for music could be used. I didn’t say anything and walked upstairs to get ready. I did happen to see my fiancĂ© who was as chipper and happy as if we had a bright sunny day. It sort of irritated me.

When I was adorned and descended the stairs, an incredible happened. The skies started to clear! Walking down the wedding aisle, I could see sunshine through the parted tent flaps. The rain completely stopped. As we said our vows, I noticed my photographer excitedly jumping up and down outside the tent. I wasn’t sure why. I also noticed that the music sounded incredibly beautiful. Later I discovered that my wonderful guitar player took it upon himself to quickly learn all the music and accompanied the singers with an acoustic guitar.

After the recessional, we found out why the photographer was so elated. Bryan looked up and said, “Look what God brought us!” I looked up to see double rainbows! Our photographer said that, in twenty years of work, he had never seen anything like it.

We laugh about the wedding now, but I assure you it was not funny at the time. God has taught me lessons through this ordeal like persevering when things look bleak and seeing the “big picture” instead of developing instant tunnel vision.

I love what the Bible says in Hebrews 10:35-36, “So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.(NLT)” My encouragement to you is to hang in there, keep doing what is right and trust God. Perhaps a double rainbow is hiding, just above the clouds, ready to emerge in your life.

Crawling into the Lap of Love

By Rachel Harris

The essence of peace. Complete security and comfort. Rest. These are words that describe my memory of lying across my father’s lap as a child, rocking softly in his blue Lazy-Boy recliner while he lightly rubbed my back. That was my cherished spot because in those moments, I knew I was cherished.

I was at a spiritual retreat in December, and toward the end of the weekend, we were led in making a covenant with our Lord for the upcoming year. We were asked several questions, the most important being, “How would you describe what you would like your relationship with God to look like?” As I was waiting for my turn, I reflected back on the things I had learned during the retreat. One of the recurring themes was that our relationship with our earthly father, and how we view him, is often intimately tied to and resemble how we view our Heavenly Father. Unfortunately, for most attendees, this was a negative relationship, so the focus of that statement was tied to overcoming the past, and letting go of the harbored anger and anguish. But, that was not my experience.

Growing up, my father always worked so hard to be able to provide a comfortable home for our family. As hard as he worked, he put even more effort into creating quality family experiences with me, my mother and brother. Playing putt-putt in freezing temperatures --completely alone, I might add, since no one else was crazy enough to be outside in that weather, playing board games, having crawfish boils and barbeques, and dancing around our kitchen table on Christmas morning. We went on tons of family vacations, and for each of them, the fun shared during the long drive in the confines of the mini-van was better than arriving at the destination! But for me, none of those experiences compared to the memory of lying in my daddy’s lap, feeling completely secure and loved.

When it was my turn to create a covenant, and to say how I wanted my relationship with my Heavenly Father to look this year, I chose to honor the earthly father that He blessed me with. I realized that God knew me before I was born, someone who has always accepted His unconditional love for others, but has struggled with believing in it for myself. He knew I would need that example in my life to really start to grasp and understand His personal, intimate love for ME! That reality is so amazing, so precious, that it is still difficult to believe at times, and hard to put into words, yet I tried. The statement that I created, my covenant for this year (and beyond) is that I will “Crawl into my Heavenly Father’s lap and LET Him love on me daily.” Don’t we all need to do that?

As a home schooling mom, it is tempting to think it is my job to lead my two little princesses to God. After all, I am the one that is with them all day, everyday, teaching them His word, singing songs about His love and faithfulness, reading bible stories and acting them out. All these things are great – and necessary! But, the reality is that their relationship with their daddy will have the most impact on their Christian walk. I have realized that in everything I do, in everything I say, I need to remember that fact and honor my husband. I need to continue to build him up in their presence, make sure that they know how much he does for us and how much he desperately loves them. I need to create opportunities to allow him to share in our learning experiences and adventures, and not feel left out when they have special ‘Daddy dates.’ I need to respect the relationship they share and do all that I can to help cultivate our own special family memories that they can later look back on and reflect onto their ultimate relationship, the one with their Heavenly Father.

Father, God, I thank you for loving me before I was born and giving me such a beautiful example of that love. I realize today, God, that many may be reading this who do not share those wonderful memories of their earthly fathers, and I pray a special blessing upon them. Let them experience your presence today in an intimate way and bring healing to their hurting hearts. And, Lord, I pray that you give all of the parents reading this wisdom in how to help lead the little ones you have entrusted to our care back to You. That they see Your love for them shining through all of our words and actions. Help us to all learn how to set aside time to just crawl into your lap and allow you to love on us daily. It is in your Son’s precious name I pray, Amen.

Rachel Harris, married to the love of her life, resides in Texas with their two preschool princesses. Rachel is a writer and assistant at Heart of the Matter Online, and also journals about their homeschooling adventures and day-to-day life experiences at her personal blog at