THE BLESSING OF SISTERS

Recently the mail brought one of the nicest letters I have ever received.  It wasn’t so much about me, as it was about the blessing of sisterhood and family.  The letter so perfectly expressed my feelings on the importance of family and relationships that I wanted to share it with you all.

“Sister,

This card comes with a deep appreciation for all the cards and gifts you have sent to me through the years.  Please do not think that you need to send me a present at Christmas.  I fully enjoy Christmas knowing that our family has been blessed with a wonderful mother, father, and 6 beautiful, independent, resourceful sisters!  I am so blessed with sisters and know that at any time I need a friend to talk to or just someone to rant and rave to – I can call on any one of my sisters.  As the years go by (and I get older), I realize just how much this means to me.  After talking to friends that do not have sisters to turn to, I feel so sorry for them.  For without my sisters love, I would at times be lost!

Remember, I love you and appreciate you.  At this time in your life, please, take care of yourself, Dan and your children.  Enjoy life, don’t worry about small things.  Knowing you are out there at the touch of a phone or email is priceless to me. “

The great news is that even if you don’t have biological sisters, you can find a friend to be a sister-of-the-heart.  If you don’t have someone like that in your life, pray and ask God to bring you a sister-of-the-heart.  Psalm 68:6 says “God places the lonely in families.”  What a beautiful promise from God.

LIFE INTERRUPTED

I had the best laid plans for how the last few months were supposed to go.  The best of intentions for accomplishing my goals.  Then, life happened.

Increased stress at my regular job that pays the bills, overflowed into my personal life.  We were short-staffed and facing deadlines.  I was stressed and distracted.

Technical difficulties and heartbreak ensued when my home computer crashed taking with it all my personal photos and many family history documents I had collected over the years.

Ongoing computer difficulties made it impossible at times to check email, social media, post blogs or work on my book manuscript.

Health issues robbed me of energy and motivation.

Concerns for my sweet mother who at almost 92 years of age is becoming more frail, but finds it difficult to accept help, consumed my thoughts.

I was tired.  Worn down.  Beat.  I lost my motivation.  I got off track.

Thankfully, I have found my passion for life returning and along with it my determination that no matter what, I will continue to work toward my goals.

What changed?  I made a conscious effort to take my eyes off my circumstances and all the things that were wrong with my life, and focus on the good.  Great times of worship at church, along with great teaching from our pastor pointed me back to my Savior.  Praying with my husband each day brings a peace to my soul.  Listening to Christian music reminded me that God cares for me and has a plan for my life.  Remembering that His plans are always better than my own, has helped me to let go of my timeline for when things should happen and to trust Him for the outcome.  I am a work in progress, but I am feeling more and more motivated to work toward my goals and excited about the future, whatever it brings.

Has that ever happened to you?  What do you do when “life happens” to derail your plans?

Meet a 91 year old Superhero…

When you think of superheroes you think of vibrant, young, costumed characters with supernatural powers out to save the world. Superheroes never grow old in comic books or the movies.

superhero

This last weekend I spent time with a 91 year old superhero, but she doesn’t wear a costume or a cape. Her mission isn’t to save the world or even to fight crime, but she is a superhero just the same.

mom 5/31/11

You see, fifty-two years ago her life was irrevocably changed by the birth of her disabled daughter. At a time when doctors were still telling parents to put their disabled children in an institution and forget about them, this superhero rejected the advice of the doctors and specialists and chose to bring her daughter home. When told that her baby would never walk, talk, sit-up or do anything that a normal child could do, like all good superheroes, she refused to give up.

Janice 1963

She fought tenaciously for each small victory for her child: learning to crawl, learning to walk, speaking her first words at the age of three. She never gave up.

Oct 1963

Janice school 1965

Janice and Mom

She dedicated herself to fighting every day for education and therapy for her child. She fought against stereotypes and the preconceived idea that her child could not learn, was uneducable. She fought for job training and meaningful work. She fought to find a suitable program to provide a supervised living arrangement for her daughter. And she did it all while raising six other children.

Janice at the Farm

At an age when most people were retiring and slowing down, our superhero found her life as busy as ever. You see, parenting a special needs child is a journey that never ends. Her daughter came home every other weekend to visit, and our superhero provided her care. Travel, vacations, leisure, those things are for other people. Our superhero may have thought and even longed for them, but she never complained that those things were not something she would ever get to truly enjoy.

In recent years the health of her disabled daughter has declined and once again she needs much help with everyday tasks like bathing and dressing. Her lifelong struggle with seizures has left her weak and her walk unsteady. She struggles with incontinence and needs to be woke several times at night to be taken to the bathroom.

I watched in wonder this weekend as our 91 year old superhero, now weak and frail with age, insisted that she is still able to care for her daughter. She gets up with her in the middle of the night and pushes her to the restroom in a transport chair. She changes wet clothing and puts dry sheets on the bed. Knees stiff with arthritis, back hunched with age, she bends and struggles to put socks on her daughters feet. Hands spotted with age rub lotion on her daughters back. Not a word of complaint ever leaves her mouth.

All the while, she jokes and cajoles to get her daughter to cooperate. To get her to lift her arms to put a shirt on she says, “Hands up! This is a stick-up!” Her daughter replies, “Oh mom, you are just teasing me.” She entices a beautiful smile onto her daughter’s face. My eyes fill with tears at the sight of unconditional love and sacrifice that I am blessed to witness.

Many people would deem this superhero’s life unfulfilling and lacking in reward. However, I was there when her daughter turned to her and said, “Have I kissed you good morning yet, Mom?” How many 91 year olds are lucky enough to hear those sweet words?

Jean Evanger and Janice Evanger

I am not impressed by the superheroes I see in the comics or the movies. Pretend superheroes don’t stand a chance compared to the real life superhero I lived with every day of my life growing up. But, I don’t call her superhero, I just call her mom.

11 Tips For Making Your Marriage Last a Lifetime

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Image courtesy of Boykung at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The ring is on…the ceremony is over…the guests have left. Now what?

11 Tips For Making Your Marriage Last a Lifetime:

1) Choose to forgive. Holding grudges is TOXIC to a relationship. Be the first to ask forgiveness. A strong person is not afraid to admit when they are wrong.

2) Choose love. Don’t let small irritations cause you to forget all the wonderful qualities your spouse has that made you fall in love with them in the first place. Make a list of their good qualities and focus on those.

3) Be a servant to one another. Treat your spouse with the same kindness and graciousness that you would treat a guest in your home. Let your home be a haven of peace for you and your spouse.

4) Live within your means. Debt brings anxiety and kills marriages. Sit down together and make a budget. Vow to live within the constraints of your budget.

5) Make time for one another. Keep your relationship fresh and alive by having date nights once a week or once a month. Set your cell phone aside, or better yet, turn it off and focus all your attention on your spouse.

6) Be supportive and encouraging. The world is full of people who want to tear us down. If your spouse works outside the home, they probably deal with negative people all day long. Let them know that you will always be there for them with words of encouragement and love.

7) Commit to one another for life. Determine never to consider divorce as an option.

8) Share similar goals. Talk about your dreams for the future. Work on them together. You can’t reach those goals if you are pulling in opposite directions.

9) Share a hobby. Shared memories are the best. Find something you both enjoy doing and make time to do it.

10) Pray together. I can’t think of anything else that has meant more to keeping our marriage strong. It is hard to be angry at someone when you are praying together.

11) Put God first in your marriage. Faith is the glue that has held us together. When our love for one another has waned, our love for God has commanded us to love one another. God has never failed us.

Truth be told, my husband, Dan Morrison, has taught me these lessons over the 35 years of our marriage. Growing up I was blessed to learn love, self-sacrifice and devotion watching my mother care for my disabled sibling. I knew love. My parents were married for over 64 years. I understood faithfulness and commitment. What I didn’t understand was unconditional love and forgiveness. My father (a wonderful, but flawed human being) was a perfectionist for whom my siblings and I could never do anything right. He had trouble admitting when he was wrong and asking forgiveness. His standards were so high, none of us could ever hope to attain them, and neither could he. He was harder on himself than anyone else. Critical words do much damage to tender spirits. It took many years of God working on my heart and mind, and Dan continually speaking love and encouragement in my heart, to crack my shell. I am here to attest that God can change hearts and minds. We have a strong marriage today because God has worked on both our hearts and given us more love for one another every day. Don’t give up!

Want to Be Happy?

People are searching for happiness. Does it come from money, success, popularity? Television ads try to tell us that the ultimate item, experience, or relationship is guaranteed to bring us happiness and fulfillment. But, after the suicide of yet another wealthy, wildly successful celebrity who appeared to have it all, how can the average person expect to find happiness in this world?

Happiness lies not in the amount of stuff you own, nor in having the most successful career or the most money. While there is nothing wrong with working towards those goals, achieving them won’t bring you lasting happiness.

Numerous research polls find that spiritual people are twice as likely to report being happy as non-spiritual people.

    True contentment and happiness are found only when we are in right relationship with God. It’s a fact.

The key to happiness starts with seeing yourself as you really are: spiritually bankrupt and lost.

You acknowledge honestly to God that you are a sinner, lost and in need of a Savior. Understand that your sins have separated you from a holy God.

When you accept the death of His Son Jesus on the cross as the payment for your sins, God brings you into right relationship with Himself and promises you eternal life.

Life takes on a different focus as you realize that your life purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. When you keep your focus on pleasing God and serving Him, happiness and contentment are the natural byproducts. Happiness comes to those who love God and live to make Him happy.

It is only in seeking to know God and to discover His purpose for our lives that we will find happiness and fulfillment.

“The person who has a firm trust in the Supreme Being is powerful in his power, wise by his wisdom, happy by his happiness.” Joseph Addison

10 Inexpensive Date Night Ideas

couple, date night Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Keeping your love alive, especially after you begin having children, takes a lot of work. In your quest to be the best parent, don’t forget to take time as a couple to nurture your love and appreciation for one another.

The first thing you have to do is line up another couple with children and swap childcare once a month (or more often) so each couple can go on a date without babysitter fees.

Here are ten inexpensive date night ideas to get you started:

1) Visit a museum. In the area where I live, the Seattle Art Museum, the Museum of Flight, Burke Museum, the Asian Art Museum and many others have one free admission day every month. Take advantage of this awesome opportunity to soak up the arts.

farmers market Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

2) Visit local farmers market. Pike Place Market in Seattle is the ultimate farmers market, but many cities have great ones, some all year round.

couple by water Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

3) Check out a local waterfront park. Find one that allows beach fires, like Alki Beach or Golden Gardens Park in Seattle. Come early in the day and bring a picnic lunch. Fly kites. Sit and watch the sunset and toast marshmallows over the fire.

beachfire Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

4) Take a hike. Explore your local parks and hikes. Wallace Falls in Gold Bar, WA was a family favorite for us. There is beauty in every area of the country. Most of us never explore the parks we fund with our taxes.

5) Attend a free concert. The newspaper frequently lists free concerts in the park, or other venues. We have attended free Youth Symphony concerts (excellent!), the US Marine Band, the US Navy Band and many others of high quality. Keep your eyes open for free events.

6) Tour local landmarks. The Ballard Locks is a favorite destination in our area. Many places offer free tours. Bring a picnic lunch and spend the day.

7) Attend an author book reading/signing at a local book store. Sit in the coffee shop and people watch.

8) Learn to dance. Many local dance organizations offer a free one hour class before the dance. Watch your local newspaper in the events section. Every style of dance is represented.

starry night Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

9) Go stargazing. You can do this in your own backyard on a clear night. If you are lucky enough to live in Seattle, you can go to the University of Washington Jacobsen Observatory for free public shows on the first and third Wednesdays of the month. How cool is that?

10) Volunteer together. Find an organization you both believe in and volunteer some time together. Helping others forces you to take your eyes off your own troubles and focus on someone else. What a great way to build unity in your marriage while making a positive difference in your world.

The best thing is that this list could be endless. All you have to do is google “free activities in (your city)”.

Do you have a favorite inexpensive date night idea? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Do You Make These Parenting Mistakes?

tips logo Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1. Trying to be your child’s friend. You are the parent. The time to be your child’s friend is when they are grown. They need you to be their parent now.

2. No consequences for bad behavior. Children need discipline. It is your job to train them to behave and follow instructions. The discipline years are the early years. If you begin to train them to obey when they are young (birth – seven), then they will obey when they are older. Don’t wait until your child is a teenager to try to begin teaching them obedience.

3. No consistent discipline. Make sure your rules and expectations for behavior are always the same. Your child shouldn’t have to guess what the rule might be today. Consistency gives children security and lessens anxiety.

4. Let them watch or listen to anything they want. As a parent, it is your job to protect your child’s innocence. Images and sounds are imprinted on the brain forever. I am appalled when I hear a parent say they let their child watch violent movies, horror films or even some stories on the nightly news. The same goes for soap operas or adult programs that deal with sex. Let them be a child for as long as possible. Yes, they will have to face the real world and be aware of safety concerns, but don’t burden them with adult topics and concerns that they are not equipped to handle.

5. Encourage them to grow up too fast. It breaks my heart to hear people tease eight and nine year olds about boyfriends and girlfriends. Children should not be thinking about boyfriends/girlfriends at that age. Encourage your children to wait until they are older to think about boy/girl relationships. (Don’t even get me started on dressing little girls like adults. Teach your girls to dress modestly.)

6. Laugh when your kids throw a tantrum, use bad language or hit other children. Teach your child to treat others with respect and kindness. As parents, we must model this behavior to our children. Do your children see you treating others with respect and kindness?

7. Don’t give them any spiritual training. The most important investment a parent can make is in the spiritual development of their children. It is the primary role of the parent. Every day is an opportunity to impart spiritual values and lessons to your child. Sending your child out into the world without a spiritual compass is like sending them to sea in a ship without a rudder. Help your child develop a strong faith in God and His plan for their life.

8. Make your home a child centered home. Giving children everything they want and putting your spouse and the needs of your marriage last is not good for the child or the family. Children thrive when parents are in control and providing a structured home environment. Parents are to be the leaders and decision makers in the home.

9. Do everything for them. Don’t give them any responsibilities. When we do everything for our children we rob them of the satisfaction of learning how to do things for themselves. We do it because it makes us feel good to have someone utterly dependent on us. It is not good for the child. Teach your child life skills by giving them chores around the house. Help them to learn the joy of a job well-done.

10. Talk bad about your spouse. Treating our spouse with honor and respect and teaching our children to do the same builds strong families. That doesn’t mean we never disagree, but we should never disparage our spouse in front of our children. Never allow your children to disrespect your spouse, either.

11. Refuse to apologize when you have been wrong. Refusing to admit our failures and mistakes can build walls between parents and children. Never be afraid to apologize and ask forgiveness.

My husband and I were far from perfect as parents. I struggled in some of these areas. It is only by the grace of God that we made it through and have great relationships with our grown children today. I share these thoughts with the goal of encouraging healthy parenting and happy homes.

What are your parenting do’s and don’ts?

14 Steps to End Bullying

bullying 3 Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Bullying is a national epidemic. The consequences of bullying are low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and declining academic performance. Here are some tips on how to prevent bullying and how to prepare your child to deal with bullies.

TEACH YOUR CHILD NOT TO BULLY:

1. Model good behavior and social skills to your child. Treat people with respect and kindness. Bullies learn their behavior by watching others.

2. Monitor what your children watch on TV and the video games they play. If you see bullying behavior in a program, talk about it with your child.

3. Teach your child how to deal with their emotions in a healthy way. You can start at a young age to help a child learn to deal with anger and disappointment appropriately.

4. Teach your child empathy for others. Talk about feelings. Teach appropriate social skills: sharing, taking turns, saying please and thank you.

5. Go to the library and check out books on bullying. Read them together and talk about the pain of bullying.

6. Build your child’s self-esteem. Remind them of how precious they are to you and God. Remind them that God made them just the way they are and that He has a special plan for their life. Bullies usually have low self-esteem and bully to make themselves feel better.

TEACH YOUR CHILD HOW TO RESPOND TO BULLYING

1. Teach your child to look people directly in the eye when they speak to them. Maintaining eye contact conveys strength. Bullies like to pick on children that appear weak and fearful.

2. Role play conflict resolution with your child. Teach them how to respond appropriately and defuse the situation.

3. Teach younger children to say “NO!” in a loud voice and walk away.

4. Teach your child to ask for help from trusted adults: parent, teacher, counselor.

5. Have your child find a buddy to sit with or a group of friends. Bullies tend to pick on kids that are alone.

6. Talk to your child, their teacher, and the school. Have a meeting at the school with the parents of the bully and school staff. If the school is not responsive, go to the school board, the police, and the newspaper. You are your child’s advocate.

7. Remind your child again and again that they are precious to you and valuable to God.

8. Pray, pray, pray.

15 Ways to Affair Proof your Marriage

An affair means death to a marriage. Here are some easy ways for you to affair proof your marriage.

1. Respect your spouse and speak highly of them to others.

2. Compliment your spouse in front of your children and other adults. Children learn how to treat others by watching how their parents interact. Show them love, mercy and forgiveness.

3. Make a decision that you are committed to your spouse no matter what. Make the decision to love them every day. Find something about them to appreciate and admire. Compliment them on it.

4. Let go of offenses. Don’t keep a record of wrongs. Someone once said, “A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”

5. Be available to meet the physical needs of your spouse. This can be difficult in the years when small children or careers sap your strength. Make it a priority to be sure you are meeting the needs of your spouse for intimacy.

6. Arrange to have a date night without kids at least once a month. Date night does not have to be expensive. Arrange to swap child care with another couple and then take a walk, go to the beach, or buy an ice cream cone and sit at the park and talk.

7. Write love notes and leave them where your spouse can find them. Send your spouse a text or email during the day letting them know you are thinking of them and praying for their day.

8. Pray together. Make this a priority.

9. Put God first in your marriage. Ask God to help you find ways to honor and love your spouse.

10. Don’t make your children the priority in your marriage. Children are important, but your relationship with your spouse is more important.

11. Say “no” to porn. This is toxic to your relationship and to your sexual intimacy. Stand firm and do not allow this in your home or to be accessed on your computers or television.

12. Pay attention to warning signs in your marriage.

13. Don’t spend private time with people of the opposite sex. Don’t put yourself in a place of temptation.

14. No flirting with someone of the opposite sex. There is no such thing as innocent flirting.

15. Take care of yourself and your appearance. Show them you care enough about them that you want to look nice just for them.

Marriage takes a lot of work, but it is worth it. Commit yourself to building a strong and lasting marriage. Your children will thank you for it.

16 Tips to Prepare Your Child for Middle School

Students and parents alike fear the transition to middle school. Here are a few tips to ease the transition and prepare your student to succeed in middle school.

1) Be positive. Yes, there will be lots of changes, but it means your child is growing up and becoming independent. Focus on the positive and help your child have a good attitude and outlook towards middle school. Your attitude sets the tone of your home.

2) Talk about it. Ask your child questions. Do they have any fears or concerns? Find out what those are and address those specific fears. Knowledge of what to expect eases fear of the unknown.

3) Check out the school website with your student. There is a lot of information on the school website.

4) Attend orientation and open house with your student. Take a tour of the building. Find out where the cafeteria, office, gym, etc. are located. Make it a group tour by bringing their friends and their parents along. Shared memories build friendships.

5) Reassure your student that every other student will be experiencing the same feelings and emotions at the start of the new school year. “You are not alone.”

6) Equip them to begin to handle issues on their own. Remind them to ask questions and go to the teacher or school counselor for help, if needed. Remind them that you will be available to them at any time.

7) Help your child develop their social skills. Role play how to introduce yourself to new people. Talk about what it means to be a friend and how to treat people with respect.

8) Encourage them to get involved in clubs, sports, youth group, volunteering, etc. They will build friendships and gain social skills through their involvement.

9) Teach them to be organized and write down their assignments and test dates for each class. This is one of the best tools you can give them and they will use it throughout their lives.

10) Help them develop good study skills. Do they need extra help? Find a tutor or call the school homework line for help. Ask them, “How can I help?”

11) Ensure your child has the supplies and tools necessary for academic success. Help them come to class prepared to work.

12) Talk about bullying and what to do about it. There are books and resources to teach children about bullying. Check these out and read them together. Teach them to walk away from people who would tear them down. Not everyone will like them, and that is okay. Give them resources and skills to deal with difficult people.

13) Talk about the physical changes they will experience as they go through puberty. Please don’t leave this up to the school to teach your child or just ignore the topic all together. Talk about these changes with your child. Make sure they know they can talk to you about anything. Teach them about modesty and treating your body with respect.

14) Teach them cell phone/internet etiquette. Remind them that things posted online or sent in a text can last forever and be forwarded on to many people. Keep private things private. Teach them to NEVER post or forward inappropriate pictures of themselves or others.

15) Ensure your child gets the needed rest to be able to do well in school. Children need a lot of sleep. Set a bedtime and enforce it. Your child’s teachers will thank you. Your students grades will improve along with their attitude when they are getting enough sleep.

16) No cell phones at night. Cell phones should be recharged at night in mom and dad’s bedroom. No child needs to be texting or on the phone after bedtime.