What’s Your Magnifying Glass Focused On? 6 Steps To Better Relationships

magnifyingOne of the things I remember about being at my grandpa’s house was a magnifying glass that he kept on the table beside his chair.  It was a heavy duty lens and I loved positioning it over different items and looking at them in larger-than-life form.

When you look at something under magnification it looks bigger than it really is. The magnified image is no longer congruent to real life because you’re seeing one thing larger than the other things around it.  Magnifying something gives a warped sense of how something really is.

These results happen when we look at an object under the magnifying glass. They also happen when we look at relationships under a magnified lens.

The people we live with are imperfect human beings. They have faults. They make mistakes. They let us down on occasion.  Because we live so closely with other human beings, it becomes very easy to look at their faults through a magnifying glass.  I’ll even venture to say that someone–the god of this world–the enemy who wants to steal, divide, and destroy–helps to position the magnifying lens on the actions or attitudes that cause us the most hurt, disappointment, or rejection. (John 10:10 and I Peter 5:8)

Without realizing it, we move from believing the best about our spouse, our child, our relative, or our friend to believing the worst about them.  With their faults maximized and their strengths minimized, we slowly close off our heart to them.  Before we know it, a relational wall has been erected by our skewed perspective and unrealistic expectations (that they won’t make mistakes, that they should have made a different decision, etc).

That relational wall begins a process of separation in our heart and mind.  It divides our loyalties and moves us away from the relationship rather than towards the relationship that means so much to us.

It’s not the big things that kill relationships. It’s often the little things that accumulate over time. Looking at faults through a magnifying glass is a little thing that can do damage over the long haul unless we do something about it.

Here are six ways to see others in a more balanced way:

1) Move the magnifying glass.  Move your focus from what they do wrong to what they do right.  If you’re finding yourself critical of or angry or disgusted with your spouse, you’ve likely had tunnel vision on their imperfections.  Sit down and make a list of their strengths and what they contribute positively to the relationship.

2) Stay focused on what you love. What you focus on will expand. If you focus on what bothers you, all you will see are the things that tick you off. Keep your eyes on what you love so you fill your heart with love.

3) Resist the temptation. The enemy is cunning and will do his best to get your emotions tangled up and engaged. Once your emotions are engaged it becomes easier to see your spouse, your challenging child, your sister-in-law, or your friend as an enemy.  This is the first step of dividing and destroying. Don’t take the bait!

4) Believe the best about your loved one.  Resist the urge to make their mistake a personal offense towards you.  Beware of statements you might make to yourself like, “If he really loved me he wouldn’t have done that,” or “She did that just to tick me off.” These kinds of statements are fertilizer to negative emotions.

5) Get perspective. Are you making a mountain out of a molehill?  In the big scheme of things, is this really a big deal?  When you measure this imperfection, mistake, or disappointment against all the good things about the person, you’ll quickly see that this situation isn’t worth the energy you’re giving it. You need spiritual perspective as well. Remind yourself who the real enemy is (Satan) and what his agenda is (to divide and destroy).  Don’t let yourself get sucked into his distraction and deception.

6) Learn to move forward.  Sometimes we need to give grace, forgive, and let it go.  Sometimes we need to have a conversation with the person, but only after our emotions have calmed down. And sometimes we need to realize that our own pride or insecurity is the bigger issue here and its helpful to move the magnifying glass from our loved one to ourselves for a few convicting minutes.  Don’t let it sit there for too long or you’ll move from conviction to condemnation in no time.

NMPM cover with subtitle and correct colorsThat old magnifying glass of my grandpa’s had it’s place in this world. It helped him see things more clearly at times.

Magnifying glasses in relationships can do the same.

It all depends on what you’re looking at.

What about you? Where have you had your relational magnifying glass pointed at the wrong things?  What are you making bigger than it needs to be? 

If You Named Your House

KathyKoch 12-2013Today’s guest post is from Dr. Kathy Koch.  Dr. Kathy Koch, the founder of Celebrate Kids, Inc., of Fort Worth, Texas, loves helping parents understand children’s uniqueness and how to raise them with that in mind. You can find her online at www.CelebrateKids.com!

Dr. Kathy is one of our keynote speakers at the 2014 Hearts at Home conferences! Registration is open for the National Conference in Bloomington, Illinois March 14-15.  You can find more info at www.HeartsatHome.org

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How’s your home? Its culture is more important than you might realize to your children’s healthy development.

How might your children describe their home? Is it friendly or unfriendly? Safe or unsafe? Pleasant or unpleasant? Joyful or sad? Encouraging or discouraging? Refreshing or exhausting? Positive or negative? Calm or crazy?

Would you like to make some changes? Sometimes naming things helps us see specifics. Names are powerful and empowering. Naming your house doesn’t make it true, but it gives you something to aim for.

If you named your house today, what name would fit? Are you happy with the name? Happy home? Stressed space? Living loud? Rushed reality? Imperfectly perfect? Grace place? What name do you wish you could choose? How can you make that new name true?

A missions team from my church visited the “House of Hope” in India. I haven’t been able to get that name off my mind. It’s beautiful. Refreshing. Open. Future-oriented. Optimistic. Home.

Does it describe your home? Would you like it to? Or, is something more valuable to you? Safe Place. Open Home. Passion Cottage.

A friend’s house was known as the “Kool-Aid House” when she was a child. Children in the neighborhood knew they would be welcome there and they could help themselves to the Kool-Aid that was always in the orange plastic pitcher on the top shelf in the refrigerator. Always. Imagine this home’s climate and culture and how children felt there.

What could you change to make a difference in the climate, culture, and purpose of your home? Don’t wait any longer.

Change can seem hard and overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be.  Here are some practical steps to take:

  • Set a goal. What name do you hope will accurately describe your home? The name can help you get specific.
  • Decide what you will no longer do so that name becomes reality. Think of one thing interfering with the culture you want to raise your children in. It’s probably the main reason you chose the new name you did. If your children are old enough, discuss the new goal with them and ask them to help you think of one thing to stop doing. Just one.
  • 2014posterIf you don’t involve your children in the process, do tell them after you decide. In addition to telling them what you will no longer do, ask them or tell them what they can stop doing that’s related. For instance, if you no longer want to nag them, they’ll need to stop ignoring you. Help them agree this is a good idea.
  • Decide what you will do instead. It’s always – always – essential that when making a change, we decide both what not to do and what to do. Again, involve your children, as appropriate. You might decide to be physically present with them when asking them to do something, rather than yelling to them from another room. They can decide to immediately comply or politely ask for another minute when it’s appropriate. Perhaps they’re almost done with an assignment and another minute or two would help. Rather than ignoring you or complaining, they can learn to state their request respectively.
  • For changes to become permanent, the mind needs to be renewed. It’s because beliefs drive behavior. With our will alone, we can change actions, but the changes won’t be natural or permanent if we don’t deal with the belief causing the behavior. It might be a belief about ourselves. It could be a belief about our children. For instance, parents who believe their children won’t listen may yell, stop talking altogether, or quickly repeat requests without giving kids time to comply. Now they’re nagging. Reading, studying, and reflecting upon relevant sections of the holy, accurate, and living Word of God is essential to renew the mind.
  • After the one new behavior becomes more natural, think of a second thing to stop doing that’s interfering with your goal and what to do instead. If you’re not sure, ask God to show you what to do next. The Holy Spirit is a powerfully relevant Teacher.
  • Thank God when your Nagging Home becomes the Pleasant Place, Listener’s Cabin, or Relationship Central! 

What about you?  If you had to name your home today, what would it be?  What do you WANT it to be? What’s the first practical step you will take?

It’s the Ultimate Blog Party: Daily giveaways on my blog April 1-8!

Ultimate Blog Party 2011

Last year I was introduced to the Ultimate Blog Party (UPB) sponsored by 5minutesformom. It was a great online party where I was introduced to some wonderful moms who hang out online! I know there are some of you who hang out on my blog that actually found me at the UPB10.

This year I’m throwing open the doors and really diving into the Ultimate Blog Party 2011! Every day, April 1-8, I will be giving away at least two (sometimes more!) copies of Hearts at Home books.   Normally, I only blog Monday-Friday, but since the UPB11 is running through the weekend, I’ll be posting daily even through the weekend.

I’m looking forward to meeting some new moms and checking out some great mom blogs!  If this is your first time here, pull up a chair and stay a while.  You’ll find my posts listed by category over on the right (If you’re viewing my blog in an RSS feed or by email subscription, you’ll need to click over to www.jillsavage.org to actually see the categories!)

And don’t forget to check out www.hearts-at-home.org where you’ll learn about our mom conferences and even more great mom resources!

Today’s featured book is My Hearts at Home.  Let me tell you a little about it.  I once heard that the foundation of your life is laid in the first 20 years.  After that, you’re building the remainder of your life on what was laid in that first 20 years.  When I thought about that as a parent, I realized that I needed to be intentional about the foundation I was laying in my children’s life.

We would never even think about building a house without a set of blueprints.  Those blueprints provide a vision of what we are building.  Yet, everyday many of us are building families without a plan…without a vision…without a blueprint of what a healthy family experiences or what a firm foundation really looks like.  My Heart’s at Home casts a vision for what you are working toward as a mom.  It provides both the vision and the practical strategies you need to be the intentional mom your family needs.

If you’d like to be entered into a random drawing for one of the two copies of My Heart’s at Home I’m giving away today, leave a comment about one thing you intentionally do as a mom.  (If you receive my posts by email or you came to this post via Mr. Linky from the UBP11 party, click HERE to leave a comment.)

I’ll share first…I intentionally try to listen with my eyes.  Sometimes it’s hard to make it happen, but I try to stop what I’m doing, look at my husband or son or daughter, and listen with both my ears and my eyes.

Don’t forget to check back tomorrow and the next 7 days for some more wonderful giveaways!

Oh and one more thing…congratulations to Melissa whose email address begins with “ourheartforadoption”.  She won Tuesday’s giveaway of the book Praying Through Your Adoption.  You’ll receive an email, Melissa, with instructions for receiving the book.  Thank you to all 52 of you who entered to win the book!

Living With Less: Affordable College Education

As Mark and I state in the first few sentences of our “College: Higher Education at Lower Cost” chapter in Living With Less So Your Family Has More book…”If you want to know one Savage parenting regret, just ask us about our experience leading our older children through college.”  Both Anne and Evan have school loans that they will be paying off for a long, long time.

Bottom line, we didn’t discuss our strategy for college for our kids until it was too late.  And when we did discuss it, we didn’t agree.  And quite frankly, we had too many kids and too little income to be able to give them the finances for college.

However, after early mistakes and lessons learned from those mistakes, we do have a plan now that we both agree upon.  It’s not a nest egg for their college tuition, but it is the strategy and guidance they need to successfully find an affordable college education.

In a recent newspaper article by Claudia Dreifus and Andrew Hacker, authors of the book Higher Education?, state that “After so many years of researching the American Way of Higher Education, we’ve come to believe that when parents are selecting a college for Jennifer or Jason, their primary target should be a school that permits their child to graduate debt-free.  That means thinking creatively and forgoing dreams of luxury or prestige.”

Indeed this is what Mark and I have discovered.  In our case, assuming there are no full-ride scholarships on the table, our local community college has become the default first two years of college for our kids.  After that, a state school trumps a private university any day.
Check out the tuition differences:

Average Community College: $88/credit hour = $1320/semester
Average State University: $350-$400/credit hour = $6,000/semester
Average Private University:  $850-$900/credit hour = $12,000/semeste

If Mark and I had just educated ourselves better, we could have better led our older children in their higher education choices.  You can bet we’re leading our younger ones differently.

In addition to two years of community college, these strategies can also be pursued to keep higher education affordable:

  • Commute: Living at home and finishing your education can save thousands of dollars of education.
  • Grades/ACT/SAT scores: Grades and scores do make a difference…sometimes.  When Anne went to Taylor University for 3 semesters her good grades helped a little…about $1000/year off tuition–not much, however, when you consider the $24,000 price tag.  When Erica scored a 27 on her ACT we learned that if we lived one county over, she could have had a full-ride scholarship to the community college in Champaign who offered that to ACT scores of 27 and higher.  Too bad our community college didn’t offer the same academic scholarship, but this illustrates that every college is different and you have to do your homework.
  • Dual Credit High School Classes: Some community colleges offer dual credit programs that allow high school students to take college classes and get high school and college credit at the same time.  Sometimes these programs require parents to pay tuition and sometimes the school district picks up the tab.
  • Good money management skills: Once your high schooler starts working, guide him/her with good strategies for managing money.  Include setting aside a percentage of each paycheck for college expenses.  If you need a template for money management for teens, check out my free Financial Notebook download on my Free Resources page.  Click HERE to find it!

Whatever strategy you come up with for your family, discuss it early, agree upon it with your spouse, and lead it well.

What about you?  What strategies could you add for pursuing higher education for less?

Wednesday’s Words of Encouragement: The Value of Recalculating

“Recalculating,” states the voice on the GPS unit. “Recalculating,” she repeats once again as we find ourselves off course on a trip.

It’s a scene most of us are familiar with in some way. Even if we don’t have a GPS unit, we’ve likely been around this new technology at one time or another.

I recently was struck by the word “recalculating” and how that word can be used to describe what happens when we are considering or navigating change. In fact, the concept of “examining” the realities of life and how those measure up to our vision for our family is an important strategy for parents to be doing on a regular basis. If reality doesn’t match up to vision, then the option to “recalculate” may be important.

What does recalculating look like practically? Here are some ways families I personally know have chosen to recalculate:

o Jeff and Sienna chose to cut back on their volunteer commitments because they realized they were both away from home in the evenings too often.

o John chose to say no to overtime hours so he could spend more time with his family.

o Todd and Laura chose to move from two incomes to one income to simplify their lives.

o As a single mom, Jennifer decided to search for a new job that was less stressful than her current job.

o Savannah and her husband realized that they were drifting apart in their marriage. They recalculated and put monthly date nights on their calendar to invest in their marriage.

o After trying every consequence and motivational strategy for their son’s academic struggles, Tom and Sarah made the decision to seek professional help for their child who was eventually diagnosed with ADHD.

o Paul and Brenda wanted their family to have dinner together at least five nights a week. In order to regain that balance they realized that they needed to limit their children’s extra curricular sports and activities to no more than two per child.

The only way we can recalculate is to slow down enough to examine and evaluate the condition of our relationships, the habits of our family, and the daily stresses of our life. By asking, “Is this the life I want to live?” we can begin the process of evaluating. If the answer is “No,” then recalculate and get your family headed back in the right direction.

Classic Movies for the Family

Last week I rented the movie “Brian’s Song” to watch with my boys. As a child I remember watching the show on television and being powerfully moved by the movie.

I posted on Facebook that we were watching this classic movie and asked for other classic movies or TV series that are great to share with our kids.

Wow! I got a great response to that simple question. So today I’m sharing the suggestions with you so that you and I have a list to consult when we’re standing at the video store wondering what movie could possibly be good for the whole family to watch!

Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Avonlea
Road to Avonlea
Old Yeller
The Harold Lloyd silent movies
Yours Mine and Ours
Lassie
Little Rascals
Gentle Ben
Leave it to Beaver
Swiss Family Robinson
Dick Van Dyke Show
Howdy Doody
The Cosby Show
The Andy Griffith Show
The Sound of Music
White Christmas
It’s A Wonderful Life
Music Man
Mary Poppins
Little House on the Prairie
The Waltons
Horse Soldiers
Snowball Express
The Apple Dumpling Gang
The Never Ending Story
Beverly Hillbillies
Shenendoah
Pink Panther
The Road Series with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope
Arsenic and Old Lace
Dragnet
Adam 12
Emergency
Shakiest Gun in the West
Princess Bride
Groundhog Day
Rudy
Remember the Titans
Robin Hood – Errol Flynn version
Red Skelton
The Three Stooges
Road to Bali
The Pistol (Pistol Pete)
Shirley Temple movies
Pollyanna
The Parent Trap
The Incredible Journey
The Grinch That Stole Christmas
Flubber
Please Don’t Eat the Daisies
Something for Joey
Kidnapped by Disney

What about you?  What movies or television series would you add to this list?

Be Your Kid’s Advocate

When Kolya first arrived 7 years ago he spoke no English.  We adopted him at the age of 9.  He started school one week later. 

And I started school, too.  I started researching what an ESL–English As A Second Language–students (or what is now commonly called ELL–English Language Learners) educational needs are.

He wasn’t in a school where ESL services were offered.  And some of his teachers in the first four years at the Christian school he attended were very accommodating.  Others not so much.  I found myself, sometimes almost daily, having to step in and be Kolya’s educational advocate.  At times it was hard–especially with a teacher who didn’t like to be told that one of her students had special learning needs that she needed to adjust for. 

But I kept advocating.  And his educational experiences kept improving.

And then there was another of my children.

Throughout grade school his grades continually dropped.  Missing assignments were more present than actual grades.  We instituted a “responsibility” reward and consequence motivational system at home. 

It didn’t work.

We staying in close contact with his teachers and increased accountability. 

It didn’t work.

We sat with him while he did he homework…but you still have to turn it in on your own and by the time he got to school, no matter how you helped him organize his school work he couldn’t find it.

It didn’t work.

Again, I went to school.  I talked to other moms.  I talked to our doctor. I researched on the internet.  And the subject of ADHD kept coming to the top.  We had no hyperactivity.  No major defiant behavior. 

I went to school some more and learned about ADHD–inattentive type.  My pediatrician recommended a counselor and we scheduled appointments for testing. 

He didn’t want to go.  He didn’t have a choice.

The tests were borderline but she recommended medication.  He resisted the idea of it.  Mark and I hesitated about it as well.  We all agreed to give it a month. 

The results were astonishing.  Seriously the kid with straight D’s moved to all A’s and B’s.  The teachers–who we did not tell about the medication–were reporting a new kid in class. 

The advocating…even though it took us years to figure out—paid off! 

If you have a child with learning struggles, don’t give up.  Hang in there!  Your advocacy makes a difference!

Have you had any experience advocating for your child?  Share it with us so we can all be encouraged!

Happy Birthday, Austin!

 At 6am this morning we awoke to get our birthday celebration of cake and ice cream for breakfast started! Funny…6am is just about the same time I was awakened by labor pains 14 years ago.
In fact, today I was thinking about how birth is an appropriate start to parenting.  Let me see if you can relate:

  • During birth there’s a balance of pushing and not pushing. As you parent, one of the biggest challenges is knowing when to encourage them to do something new and when to help them have boundaries in their life.
  • During birth, a mother finds Lamaze breathing helpful. As she heads into parenting a teen, she finds Lamaze once again helpful as she deals with her teen’s moods or waits up for a teen who is past his curfew.
  • During birth there’s a sense of no return. Nobody else can do the hard work for you to get that baby out. As a parent, there are days you’d like to resign from the job of mom, but the truth is that no one else can do the job quite like you.
  • During birth you are tired. So tired. That continues through parenting for somewhere around 18 years.

    • During birth your body is not your own. As you parent, it’s your heart that is no longer your own. During pregnancy, a mom carries a baby on the inside and upon birth, she then wears her heart on the outside.

     Happy Birthday, Austin!  I may have given birth to you today 14 years ago, but you have brought life and laughter to me for just as many years!