Posted in Family, Parenting

Learning Well

When I shared my journey toward reading more non-fiction, I didn’t quite give the full picture. You see, we are a family of bookaholics. My husband and I grew up with books, and throughout our married life we have filled our own home with books. Thousands of books, both in print and in digital format.

Our children didn’t have a chance. They were doomed to love books.

It’s not so much that they had to be great at reading. Contrary to public opinion, not all of my children learned to read easily. And I’m not really referring to learning their letters and how they went together. That process came in varying degrees of ease or difficulty with each of my children, but nothing abnormal.

What I’m referring to is the act of sitting down to read for personal growth or enjoyment. Only one of my children actually has a truly inborn love for books, and most people who know my family could pick out that one child without much thought. The love for reading that the other two now have had to be actively nurtured, built, and often persuaded, just as my love for non-fiction has had to be cultivated and nourished. Despite the fact that they are all avid readers now, there still come times of persuasion when we want to encourage a new genre or challenge.

Sometimes, though, persuading our children to read certain books is as much a willingness for us as parents to think outside the box as it is for our children to do so themselves.

For example, I remember one particular book my oldest was reading for her literature class. The book was definitely outside her reading comfort zone. It was a new style and originated in a culture foreign to her. She came to me one day and told me that she was really, really enjoying the book, but she also had a problem. The comprehension questions for that particular book were strange and did not, to her, truly reflect a sense of comprehension. She began to describe some of what she’d read recently and pointed out that none of those observations were covered by the comprehension questions. Oh, she could answer the questions. But in doing so, she was having to neglect her own responses to and engagement with the book. Comprehension questions are designed to make sure that she understands. If they actually keep her from really processing the material, are they really accomplishing their purpose?

We dumped the questions. Instead, for each day’s reading assignment, she had to note five things that stood out to her and engage with those five points, explaining what she thought about them and how they had impacted her.

Parenting can never be boiled down to nutshell advice. But, the act of setting aside those comprehension questions actually does illustrate well a great number of the lessons I’ve learned about parenting over the years: We parents have to be willing to learn as we go, thinking outside the box, if we’re ever going to raise functional, adaptable children. And sometimes we have to be willing to ditch the “tried and true” advice. Not necessarily permanently, but definitely in some situations.

Each child is unique. Even beyond that, each family is unique. My nuclear family has an identity that the family I grew up in did not have. It does not insinuate anything wrong with my upbringing. But, if I parent exactly the same way my parents did, holding exactly to every bit of advice they share, then I’m holding to a standard that will not truly nourish my children—and may even cause harm. If I instead allow my upbringing and my parents’ example to be a springboard for learning how to parent my own children, then I am honoring my parents while also acknowledging the uniqueness of my children.

That’s what it means to both learn and teach well in parenting. (And yes, that goes for all parents—not just those of the homeschooling persuasion.) It means sometimes prodding because we know it’s what good for them, as with ensuring our children to learn to read well. But, other times it means paying full attention to what doesn’t quite fit. What feels off. What might not be accomplishing a desired result, even if it’s a tried and true method passed down through generations. When we are willing to stretch outside those boundaries in parenting and in learning ourselves, we set an example for our children as well, teaching them to think outside the box and pay attention to the culture, uniqueness, and specific needs of the environment or situation they are in.

And that, my friends, is learning well.

Image by ThePixelman from Pixabay
Posted in Marriage, Parenting

Preparing Our Children for Marriage

We live in a society that is fixated on relationships. Specifically, romantic relationships. And I have two teenagers in my house, one of whom is a natural romantic.

In all honesty, arranged marriages are looking more and more tempting.

Is there a way to prepare our children for marriage?

Despite the arranged marriage temptation, my husband and I have chosen a different route. We have chosen to prepare our children for marriage. Yes, I know they are still young. But, what if we can shape their thoughts now, before the relationship temptations hit? Allow me, if you will, to share a couple of thoughts with you.

Teach Surrender to God’s Plans

I love talking to my children about Christmas and birthdays. For years, they never had a list of requests. That gave us a clean slate to direct their desires and interests. Now, they frequently have desires, but most of their requests tend to be thought-out. While they occasionally express frivolous desires, my children typically want useful things or pleasures that will have long-term delight. They want the desires that we have taught them to have.

This training also involves teaching them to hunger for the things God wants them to have, promoting a natural hunger for God’s will. They may still fall prey to adolescent puppy love crushes. But ultimately, a hunger for God’s perfect plan will remain the foundational drive for their desires, whether that includes marriage or not.

Teach a Right Attitude About Relationships

It is important to teach our children that all relationships are a gift from God, provided by Him to fill a need. And yes, marriage is a need when it is a part of God’s plan. But we greatly limit need fulfillment when every relationship with the opposite sex revolves around determining whether or not that person fills the marriage need.

It is so much better to teach our children how to honor God to the best of their abilities in every single relationship. When our children approach relationships with that mentality, they will be stronger when the romantic inclinations creep in. They will naturally pray for protection, direction, and guidance to help them meet the needs of their friends. And those prayers will form a hedge of protection around their hearts.

The desire for romantic relationships probably will not go away. But, our children will know that those desires, like any other thought or desire, must be held in submission to God’s will for the relationship.

No Guarantees-Just Trust

Now, I know that the real world is still out there. Temptations are strong, and no amount of teaching will guarantee that none of my children will fall prey to those temptations. But working to ingrain these thought patterns in the minds of our children will definitely point them in the right direction.

And if that doesn’t work, we can always fall back on the arranged marriage idea.

Originally published at wellplannedgal.com. Republished with permission. 

Posted in Family, Parenting, Reviews, Tricia Goyer

Calming Angry Kids

I love sharing books. I often have a list of books that I want to keep extras of on hand so I can loan or give them away. But, typically those books fit a targeted audience. Wives. Moms. Young women. Those who love historical fiction or fantasy or some other specific genre. Recently, though, I had the privilege of reading a book that I wanted to share with everyone.

Calming Angry Kids comes from the pen of prolific author Tricia Goyer. But, Calming Angry Kids was not just the next great book idea in a list of many. Instead, this particular endeavor was the result of tears, heartache, and pure determination. It was written with her skill as an author, but the credit goes to an entire family who chose to fight the fight and not give up. They chose to push through until they could see beauty birthed from the victory of overcoming the pure ugliness of anger. As much as I love reading everything that Tricia writes, I can honestly say that none of her books come close to the powerful message of Calming Angry Kids. And it seems others agree. Weeks before its scheduled October 1 release, Tricia shared the news that her book had already entered its third printing!

So, what is so powerful about Calming Angry Kids? Tricia doesn’t just speak from the perspective of a mom who has been there, although that would be a fitting description. She also doesn’t speak only from a clinical voice, although she has read exhaustively enough and interacted with enough professionals on the topic that she probably should be handed a degree! Instead, she combines the two concepts, delving into the psychology behind understanding anger at its very source while simultaneously offering help that is more than just clinical – it works in real life. In fact, it worked in her very real life.

The Goyers’ story is one of adoption and dealing with anger birthed from childhood trauma. It is a powerful story, and one that I know will help equip, strengthen, and encourage many adoptive parents. But, to say that Calming Angry Kids is only useful for adoptive parents – or even only for parents – is short selling the value of this book. This is about relationships. It is about understanding what causes others to behave in hurtful anger. What causes them to push away the very love they so greatly crave. My best friend regularly reminds me that “hurting people hurt people,” and that simple phrase fits beautifully with the message of Calming Angry Kids. When we find ways to work through our immediate emotional responses and choose instead to act out of truth, we can conquer the anger that plagues not only our children and others we come into contact with, but ourselves as well.

Calming Angry Kids is not a be-all, end-all solution to anger issues that plague our homes and our lives. But, it is a resource that shines a light in dark places, sharing tools and resources that will point us in the right direction. It encourages us to keep fighting even when victory seems impossible. It helps us to know that there is no shame in admitting that we need help. And it reminds us that there really is hope, even in a relationship that seems to be consumed by anger.

Yes, Calming Angry Kids is definitely a book I will readily and wholeheartedly recommend, not only to parents but to anyone struggling to find victory in a relationship haunted by anger.

Click here to read chapter one of Calming Angry Kids.

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Family

Learning from One Another

Friday is my family’s day of rest.

There are certain things lacking in our Friday Sabbath, like the corporate worship portion of Sabbath that is such a critical part of our rest. But, the honest truth is that we are in a season where Sunday and rest simply cannot coincide. That does not, however, give us an excuse to disobey the command to rest. The command is still there. Not just moments caught here and there, but intentional, weekly, full-day rest.

And, for this season in the life of the Hibbards, that day is typically Friday.

The thing about our Fridays is that we have had to learn how to make the rest happen. And, we’ve had to learn how to do it as a family. Or, maybe I should say that we are having to learn to do it as a family. It doesn’t come naturally, partly because we live in a culture that works against true rest. In our culture, nothing is truly restful. Days off work are filled with catching up on chores that cannot be done during the week, engaging in an overly exhausting pile-up of ball games and tournaments, or filling the time with non-stop “vacation” activity. Days off do not equal rest. True rest has to be learned.

Many books and resources are available these days to help us learn what true rest is – and just how counter-cultural it is! In fact, if you’re interested, I could recommend some of the best of those resources to you. (Be warned – your toes WILL be stepped on.) Ultimately, though, it all comes back to the reality that we each have to learn what rest looks like for our individual circumstances. The specific details of rest will look different for you than for me because our needs, personalities, and circumstances are different. Unique. Specific.

Here’s the catch. When we share advice or experience with one another, we make one of two mistakes. Either we share what has worked perfectly for us and expect it to also meet others’ needs perfectly (or we’re on the receiving end of that sort of advice!) or we refrain from sharing because we know that we’re unique and weird and different and that what works for us will not work for someone else. What we should be doing is sharing with one another because we know we need motivation, encouragement, ideas, and foundations upon which to build.

I’ll be honest. Our family has struggled to figure out what our day of rest should look like. Why? Because in past seasons, rest flowed more naturally. It presented itself in the rhythms of our life. We didn’t have to actively protect it and be as intentional about it as we do now. It just happened. Which, in a way, was nice because it wasn’t a struggle. In another way, though, obedience was easy and we didn’t have to think about it. So, we didn’t grow in that aspect of obedience.

Now we do have to be intentional. We do have to work at it. And, we have had to rethink every aspect of what it means to rest as a family. We’ve researched and read and explored (thus finding all of those awesome resources that we can recommend!), learning much through books and commentaries and blog posts and such. Sadly, in all of our exploration, there has been very little exchange of thoughts and ideas with our immediate community.

Friends, that ought not be.

First, we should be obeying the command to observe regular rest. Second, we should be sharing as a community in the process. Sabbath is counter-cultural in our society – it should be the norm within our Christian communities.

Last year I “met” a new “friend” named Shelly Miller. No, I don’t really know her. I enjoyed her book Rhythms of Rest, I read her Sabbath Society e-mails each week, and we exchanged a few e-mails at one point. None of it is enough to allow me to truly claim her as part of my community. Yet, what she has to offer is what I long for in a community. She shares as she learns, engages in conversation with those who are learning alongside her, and craves growth as a community.

That’s what WE should be. A community that encourages one another to learn, whether it be about rest or any other area of obedience.

So, what are you learning? How are you sharing what you’re learning? Who is sharing their lessons with you? And if you cannot answer any of those questions, what are you going to actively do to change? Let’s actively learn from one another!

Posted in Family, Thoughts from Life

Together

A couple of weeks ago, we headed out for a much-needed and highly anticipated family getaway. We left early on a Thursday morning because our mouth-watering, start-vacation-off-right, pancake and omelet breakfast treat was an hour away in the destination city of Hot Springs. It was a delight to hear the proclamations of, “Wow, that’s just good,” and see the expressions of delight as the kids tasted phenomenal apple pancakes, delectable omelets, fresh-squeezed orange juice, local sausage, thick bacon, and delightful apple butter. Before climbing back into the car to head on to our cabin twenty miles away, we walked off our fullness by browsing the shops that were open at such an early hour, and I once again delighted in the responses of my children as we entered a cute shop with pottery and carvings and jewelry. We ended up having to drag them out, even after they’d made small purchases and thought they were done looking. They kept finding new treasures they’d missed!

And then there was the cabin on the lake. A glorious retreat into peace and quiet and fresh air and beautiful views. A treasure for each and every one of us. Some of the time, we interacted. Walking around the park. Hiking a trail. Skipping rocks at the lake. Closing out each day with s’mores or warm beverages and a game of some sort. Other times, we did our own thing. Curling up with books either in separate rooms or scattered around the cabin’s living room. Wandering around outdoors. Sitting out on the porch with a cup of something or other, watching the rain fall.

But even when we did our own thing, we were together.

And that’s what I love about our family. We love being together. Oh, we frequently go our separate ways out of necessity, but we all like coming back together. We enjoy sharing things with one another. Laughing together. Discussing with one another. Speaking in movie or book quotes and pursuing philosophic contemplations together.

Just being together. Whether we’re interacting or doing our own thing.

When I think of all of the families I’ve known through the years, the consistent reality is that the happiest of those families are those who enjoy being together. Whether they have plans or are just being. And there is a very distinct common thread that runs through all of the families who enjoy one another. They are all intentional about their togetherness.

Togetherness doesn’t happen by accident. Neither does the desire to be together. Both must be intentionally chosen. Actively cultivated. Even stubbornly pursued through the times when togetherness is not the pleasure and bliss we enjoyed during our recent vacation.

Sometimes togetherness is hard. Sometimes we get on one another’s nerves or wish for someone else – anyone else – to be with. (And yes, there are many times when we need to be with other people, but that’s another topic for another day.) But the good only comes when we choose the work. The discipline. The intentional interaction.

As our children grow older, we know we are rapidly approaching the day when togetherness will not be so frequent or so easily accomplished. My prayer is that we will never lose the joy of our togetherness, even if it has to be enjoyed through phone calls and sporadic visits. But I also pray that our children are able to take that joy into their own adult lives as they marry and have children of their own. That they are able to cultivate and celebrate their own togetherness and teach their children the joy of that interaction.

Because it’s a beautiful thing to enjoy life…together.

Posted in Marriage

Celebrating 19 Years

It’s a funny thing to look back. Experiences that were incredibly hard to walk through become moments to give thanks for because certain growth would never have happened without those experiences – even if we never would willfully choose to experience them again. Joyous moments produce a bit of nostalgia, knowing that we would choose to relive those times, even though they tend to be much more fleeting that the challenges.

Then there are those decisions made, those moments experienced, that trump it all. Those are the things that form the core around which all else is experienced.

Nineteen years ago, a young man and a young woman made one of those decisions. Experienced one of those moments. They said, “‘Til death do us part,” and then chose every day, through the joys and the challenges, to live up to that commitment.

Looking back over the past nineteen years, I can’t say it has all been glorious and wonderful. There have been some tough years. And those tough years have brought many challenges that have stretched and pulled at our marriage. But the marriage itself? That, my friends, has been good. So very good. And part of the goodness has come from knowing what we’ve weathered together and the ways we’ve grown together.

What we have today has been forged through all of the ups and downs, the joys and the challenges, the laughter and the tears. And I love what we have today. Every single detail of it.

So, happy anniversary, my love! Thank you for not just sticking with this thing called marriage, but for being fully devoted to us. To growing us and strengthening us and being us. I love you!

Posted in Marriage

Shared Community

Doug and I had been married for several years when he began working for UPS. For the first time in our married life, I had no real connection to his job or his coworkers. Each morning, he would walk through a security gate into a huge warehouse that I could never enter. With the exception of one coworker who became a family friend, I never met the people who surrounded my husband day in and day out. My only understanding of his work and work relationships came through his descriptions. Meanwhile, I worked two days a week at a local mother’s day out. Doug had met many of my coworkers, but we as a couple never engaged with any of them socially.

Then there was church. An hour-plus drive to a small, rural community in the northeastern corner of Arkansas – very different from the busy Memphis suburbs where we lived and worked our secular jobs. There was no doubt that we needed a church family; but they just needed a part-time pastor and we lived too far away to forge any real relationships. And our immediate community? Well, the neighborhood felt closed and so very different from the seminary community we’d just left.We never really learned the key to unlocking relationships there.

Bottom line: we as a couple had no natural, joint community.

Much is often said about women having the chance to get away regularly with their girlfriends and men being able to hang out with other men. And yes, those things are necessary. I’m smiling just thinking about the reality that my best friend and I are both married to men who understand that she and I need each other. They go out of their way to make sure we get that connection time as often as we possibly can – even if it’s a Skype text chat across thousands of miles and a vast ocean! They know we are better because we strengthen, encourage, and sharpen one another.

But, it is not enough that I spend time with Joanna, just like it’s not enough for Doug to spend time with her husband Aaron or some of the fellow ministry guys he chats with from time to time. No, we also need opportunities for Doug and I to have relationships that merge. We need double dates like the recent ones we’ve been blessed to have not only with Aaron and Joanna but with another dear, dear couple. We need to know the same people and share a circle of interactions. We need to be unified in at least some joint community.

Why? Because it’s far too easy in our culture to live completely separate lives even when under the same roof.

That doesn’t mean it’s wrong for each of us to have our own communities. We live in a culture where husband and wife both tend to work, and they cannot help but walk in separate communities part of the time. But, when we do not make an effort to merge our worlds at least now and then, we run the risk of ending up more as roommates than as a husband and wife who are walking through this life together.

God very intentionally designed us for community. When a husband and wife choose to maintain separate communities, only coming together in private interaction, they run the risk of being pulled apart instead of remaining bound together. Each finds that the other just doesn’t understand the life they live because each is outside the other’s community. They forge separate interests. Separate connections. Separate lives.

It takes effort to center ourselves in joint communities when our lives naturally pull us apart, but it is possible. Through church. Through getting to know our neighbors. Through choosing to introduce our spouses to close coworkers and getting to know their spouses. (I can’t wait for the day when Doug will get to meet my boss’s husband!) The more we pour energy into creating these communities, the more reward we see from it.

What joint community exists in your marriage? What can you do to strengthen it? If none exists, what can you do to build it?