Filling the “Love Tanks”

What is the one thing we can do for our children that will make them most likely to steer clear of unhealthy relationships and treat others with love, honor and respect? Open the Door of the Skin to loving, healing affection.

 

In an over-sexualized society, there seems to be a tendency to neglect shows of affection out of a fear that they’ll be misunderstood as inappropriate. Yes, we need to be responsible about how and why we touch, but in the meantime, people need love and affection to survive.

 

Maybe you’re aware of an event that took place where infants were deprived of touch and actually died. That story alone should make us more concerned about showing affection than being so careful that our families don’t get what they need.

 

I didn’t grow up in a family that hugged or regularly expressed love and affection openly. As we got older, touch waned and hunger for affection grew. That “skin hunger” drove me into indiscretions that arose simply from feeling empty. My “love tank” was dry, and I was willing to fill it up with most anything. It’s like shopping for food on an empty stomach.

 

Our families desperately need consistent doses of affection. If you grew up as I did, you may need to give and receive it like medicine, with a splash of humor to make it easier to swallow (don’t worry, it will come more naturally soon enough). Without it, we starve. We die emotionally. We disconnect. And we look for ways to medicate the pain, through relationships, drugs, alcohol, binge shopping, you name it.

 

People all around us are dying from a lack of love. Don’t let it happen to your family. Put your arms around them, tell them you love them, and show them daily. Your touch may accomplish more than words can ever say.

 

Purity Booster:

 

With the holidays coming up, challenge your family to accompany every gift given in person with a hug. When you open presents, encourage each person to hug the giver of each gift (if Santa isn’t present, Mom and Dad can take hugs for him). Let giving affection be a major part of your Christmas celebration.

 

 

 

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The Door of the Skin: Touching Well

When I think of physically guarding the Door of the Skin, I think of an oven mitt. Touching a hot stove is a basic no-no of childhood, and personalities are determined by a child’s insistence upon doing it! But guarding the door as a pathway to the heart involves more subtle cues, like when to touch and when not to.

 

Instead of focusing on every “bad touch” that can happen, let’s look at all the “good touch” we need for a moment. If we or our kids are starved for natural affection and the love of family and friends, they will hunger for any touch at all, good or bad. So we can focus on making our families healthy and well-fed. There are a few ways to do that.

 

First and foremost, where two parents are involved, Mom and Dad need to be openly (appropriately) affectionate with each other, and care for their intimate lives intentionally. Problems in the bedroom fester into issues that affect our kids. It can be painful to seek help for a marriage, but more tragic for everyone to ignore problems altogether. Parents must love each other well and act like they do.

 

Secondly, our children need our physical attention. Holding hands, cuddling, little kisses, wrestling, fist-bumps, praying, high-fives, bear hugs … Yes, as they grow older, our way of touching may need to evolve, but it must not disappear.

 

People need about 8 hugs a day to do well, and I know I don’t always get my quota. The way for me to overcome that is to give a hug and get one in return. Making the appropriate show of affection a constant pursuit would have many people doing better in very little time.

 

Guarding the Door of the Skin is a vital pursuit. Use the skin you’re in to give instead of take, to share instead of hoard, to love instead of manipulate. Be wise, and be generous. A touch and a smile could make the difference in your life or others’ if you can stifle the urge to go on to the next task.

 

Purity Booster:

 

With the holidays straight ahead, your family should have plenty of opportunities for healthy touch. Take the initiative to offer hugs first, and be the “point man” for your children—if you hug, they can too. At the end of the day, compare notes to see if you got/gave the eight hugs you needed, and make up for the ones anyone didn’t get!

 

 

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Little Mouths, Big Power

From the time our kids are little, they recognize the power of their mouths. If they scream, heads turn. If they tug a pantleg with repeated “Mom, mom, mom, mom, MOOOOOM” they will eventually get an answer. How can we teach them to use their mouths productively?

 

Of course, the best teacher is our example. If we yell or nag at others in the house, they’ll pick up the same habits. And if we yell right back out of exasperation, we perpetuate the problem and breed disrespect.

 

A mom I know with a strong personality overcame this by answering her children (when they were behaving inappropriately) with a short, firm, “No, THANK you.” Her response was respectful and polite, but spoken in such a way as to make it clear that no more nonsense would be tolerated.

 

It may seem old-fashioned, but common courtesy is a powerful tool in helping kids guard their mouths to keep their hearts pure. “Please” and “thank you” and “I’m sorry” and “excuse me” are not options, ESPECIALLY at home, not when we’re out. We should be at our best when we speak with family members in preparation to be courteous outside the home.

 

The mother who helps post these blogs for me insists on “thank you, mommy” as the answer when she responds to her children’s requests. Her children recognize the value of their mother’s service to them and also are learning to say “thank you” to others.

 

The mouth must also be managed by practicing silence as well as speech. Children who master this by having regular quiet times (without technology) learn self-control and patience. A child who can sit quietly is a joy, as is a child who uses his or her voice in a respectful way. Who would you more likely respond to—a child who says “gimme” or a child who says, “May I?” Personally my heart flutters when any child says “Yes, ma’am.” I instantly want to respect that child in the same way. Teaching our children such courtesies will give them a huge advantage in a discourteous world, by learning to use the door of the mouth for good.

 

Purity Booster:

 

Play a Word Power game with your child. Let them pick words to say, and respond with your face. For example, if they say, “I don’t like you,” look sad and hurt. If they say, “You’re pretty,” look radiantly happy. Overact the responses so they can clearly see the impact of their words on another person. If you take a turn and use words and phrases like “please” and “excuse me,” you’ll also be giving them some manners lessons. Do this anytime and often. Then, on a daily basis, if an unkind word is used, do the same to make your point.

 

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The Door of the Mouth: Speaking into Existence

When I start a talk about the mouth, I use one of those football mouth guards that boys wear (yuk) to show what we might do to physically guard the mouth from outside harm. Unfortunately, a lot more harm comes from what goes out of the mouth and hurts others.

 

Do we understand that we actually speak things into existence? Many of us as Christians believe that God spoke, and the world came into being. If we’re made in his image, then we actually reflect that creative trait. We speak, and it comes into existence. A physical mountain may not appear, but a hurt that’s as hard as a mountain to remove may appear in someone’s life.

 

When I was 12, I sat in a “circle of affirmation” where each of us took a turn in the center. Those in the circle were supposed to say a word that described the person in the center, to affirm them.

 

Unfortunately, I stumped the people in the circle. We were all growing up in a farm town, and I admittedly did not fit in very well. I always wore different clothes, spoke up when other were silent, and made a social nuisance of myself (I’m smiling as I write this). So it was a few moments before someone piped up with the first word: Odd. Then the person next to them agreed, and before long the entire circle was nodding. That’s the only word I remember from that day.

 

Now, I made the best of this as an eternal optimist and became the very best “odd” I could be. I had always majored in originality anyhow. But it wasn’t until many years later that I recognized I was having trouble feeling like I belonged anywhere. I still felt odd.

 

I’ve now embraced “unique” as a gift and asset, given so that I could stand out with the message I give. But think of the power of three letters given voice. Amazing.

 

Maybe you have a word like that. I encourage you to overcome that word and replace it. I also encourage us all to daily think of the power of words we’re using in conversation, especially at home. Outside the home we’re often on our best behavior, but our guard is down sometimes with our families and we slip terribly. One of the greatest lessons I’m still learning is that it’s often best to keep my mouth CLOSED.

 

We speak things into existence. Our words are powerful. Let’s use them to create strong, healthy, whole people, at home and all around us every day.

 

Purity Booster:

 

What is one word that you have heard yourself use lately that may have built a mountain in someone’s life? Maybe it’s a word you use often. Make a conscious effort to come up with a replacement word, and speak it to the same person (especially a child or spouse) this week, more than once if you can. Ask forgiveness for the first word you spoke. Now, consciously choose this new word in days to come, with this person and others. Put a sticky note with the new word on it in a place you can see it every day, to remind yourself.

 

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The Importance of Being Earnest

I own an ancient novel of my grandmother’s that features a family with young children who solemnly hold funeral service for worms drowned by the rain, calling them “poor innocents.” It may seem to be foolishness to some, but this youthful respect for life delights me.

 

Much of a child’s sensitivity and compassion can be formed in simple interactions with living things and pets, but so many parents make light of this. Catching a dragonfly in a jar to release it instead of swatting it says a lot to a child. Arranging a funeral for a goldfish is a great opportunity to prepare a child for the death of loved ones. Rescuing a hurt bird or a baby animal (even if they die) is an act of compassion that equips a child with a powerful memory—that life is not to be trifled with, and pain is not to be ignored.

 

Children have earnest feelings and sensibilities that can so easily be hammered out of them as they grow. But not all this “growing up” is good or necessary. Part of preserving innocence at any age involves guarding this tender door of the breath that views living things with wonder and recoils at acts of harm.

 

Enter into your child’s world of the living things that delight him. Let him be delighted by plants, animals, babies, old folks and everyone in between. Introduce him to those who are disabled and those who are different from him. Let him grow into the kind of man that delights in life and nobly protects his family and community.

 

Purity Booster:

 

Next time anything happens where a living thing is involved, take special note of the opportunity. Make the death of a pet extra meaningful and set aside time to talk about it later. Bug in the house? Have a jar ready for an unscheduled catch-and-release (so much more fun than swatting anyhow). Grow a tree from a seedling. Be extra sensitive with babies, the elderly, and those who are hurting in day-to-day life. Take the time to notice and respectfully walk through life and death in small things with your child.

 

 

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Guarding the Door of the Breath

We used to live on two acres outside of a small town in Michigan. Mowing that lawn was quite a job, even for kids who grew up in the country.

 

In caring for the lawn, I found my most necessary piece of gear was not the lawnmower, but a mask that kept me from breathing too many allergens. Otherwise, I came in the house sneezing, red-eyed and miserable.

 

In guarding the breath as a door of the heart, we focus on how we’ll value life—ours and others’ around us. We SEE others, and acknowledge them. We see needs, and respond to them. We value the miracle of life that even our best scientists can’t completely explain.

 

Life, when guarding the door of the heart, is seen as an incredible gift, to be protected at all costs. The life of a baby. The life of a mother. The life of someone older. Someone crippled. Someone marginalized. Someone simply ignored. A cashier. A waitress. A prostitute. An ordinary guy. Every last one is invaluable.

 

The concept of “random acts of kindness” is good, but guarding the heart is an intentional and daily practice of such acts. Maybe a simple smile or compliment is the order of one day, while on another hours may be sacrificed in (happy) service. Life is not a scheduled event.

 

Do our children see us place value on others, or are we simply consumers, consuming not only products but the time and energy of others, avoiding their personal lives out of convenience?

 

Do we care about the environment that supports us all, and the fierce, teeming life of the animals and plants that fill it and make it complete? Or do we snuff out that life around us without a thought except our own modern convenience and comfort?

 

It’s all part of guarding the door of the breath, and keeping the heart pure.

 

Purity Booster:

 

Intentionally practice some kindnesses this week. Compliment a cashier on her nails or hair. Pay for the person behind you in line at a toll booth or leave some cash to go towards the next person’s check-out at the grocery. Choose a family or individual (anytime) to provide a meal or treat for as a family. Do something that requires an inconvenience to you for another to benefit.

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Hear Your Kids

Stay aware of your children’s listening choices as they grow. It’s so easy to check out as a parent because styles are changing and you just aren’t interested anymore. But these lyrics are informing and teaching your child, and many pop lyrics are extremely explicit. Don’t let your child marinate in messages that negate the values you’ve worked so hard to instill.

 

But also, keep in mind—music will be a roadblock between you and your child emotionally if you don’t intentionally choose to make it a bridge. Don’t allow wars over preferred styles place you and your child at odds. Too many families have lost touch with each other over music just as churches have divided over pews vs. chairs!

 

So much of guarding the doors of the eyes and ears is overlooked just because we’re so saturated with noise and screens and become numbed or jaded to all the sight and sound. But is this normal? Research shows that screen time is directly related to depression and to ability to learn, not to mention a degradation of character. We need to get out more, and unplug more often!

 

Unfortunately, our passive listening and viewing lulls us into being satisfied with the ease of clicking a remote or a button. And mediums that engage the eyes and ears make great babysitters! It is a sort of brainwashing that happens with us, a kind of pacifier that eventually causes a tantrum when removed.

 

When you listen, listen well, and loudly! If a song is positive, don’t be afraid of cranking it up for fun or listening to it more than once (irritating as it may seem). Sing like a banshee with your children, and play air guitar with your teens. Teach by example to walk away or turn off lyrics that reek, and always make listening a joy.

 

Guard the heart by guarding input to the ears. Have more fun with the music that is good. And take time to listen to natural sounds—of the voices of friends and family, of the wind or the sea, and sometimes (so hard for Americans) the sounds of silence. Don’t let your child miss the beautiful soundscapes that are so often drowned out by simple noise.

 

Purity Booster:

 

During “tech breaks” (your family gets to choose how long and from what), list every sound you hear. In a minute or an hour, write down every single sound you hear. Which ones do you like best? How can you spend more time listening as a family to things other than prerecorded music or entertainment?

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Guarding the Heart: The Door of the Ears

Remember your mom saying, “Don’t stick that Q-tip in there too far or you’ll hurt your ear!” (Well, mine did, anyway.) No parent wants to end up with her child in the hospital with a punctured eardrum.

But because the door of the ears is a pathway to the heart, many of our children’s hearts are in an ambulance on the way to the emergency room, riddled with muck. Music wars have gone on in every generation as styles have changed, but the key isn’t as much in the music as in the message, which has of late become blatant.

Producers and advertisers know that a catchy tune can sell anything. That’s why they call memorable phrases of music a “hook.” Unfortunately, they catch a lot more than our kids’ money. They get them believing that what they hear sung is the truth, a battle cry for revolt, an anthem of identity.

That power can be used positively, as when we sing the national anthem or set scriptural truths to music for easier memorization and worship. But when lies are set to popular music, they take deep root, especially when songs are listened to again and again, and paired with the visuals of modern videos, which often turn pornographic.

Those lies are sung in country music, in easy listening music, in rock music and rap, in music from any era you please. It isn’t about style or the age of the listener. Lies set to music can form and rot a good heart with eventual belief and actions.

Do you listen to your music intentionally, evaluating how it is affecting your heart? Music is a great joy! But there are times when an enjoyable piece of music might need to be set aside for the sake of keeping a pure heart. Are you ready to begin a discussion and evaluation of choices for yourself and your whole household?

Don’t let a war ensue. Appreciate what your kids are drawn to musically. Let music be an opportunity for sharing and not dividing. But don’t hesitate to print out lyrics if they need to be looked at critically. Clearly discuss your standards as a family, and take time to keep talking about them.

Music isn’t the only dangerous bringer of negative messages, but it’s certainly a very powerful influence in our culture. The question is, are we using that influence for good? We can if we learn to guard this door of the heart.

Purity Booster:

As a family, compare what you’re listening to on your technology. Print out some words. Talk about how they do or don’t meet up with family standards. Make the time fun, not simply critical. Encourage your kids to consider how one favorite song might affect them differently than another. When might it be best to sacrifice a song from your playlist? Which songs might need to be removed from playlists right now? (Mom and Dad, you’ll have to evaluate what you listen to just as critically.)

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Looking for Truth

Young children have a hard time discerning the difference between fantasy and reality. It’s important for them to recognize that the people on the screen are actors, people in ads are airbrushed models, and that these portrayals often don’t reflect truth or honor. They need us to guard their hearts via the door of their eyes by setting high standards, and by teaching them to evaluate viewing themselves.

Scenes that graphically portray sexuality are never necessary, but are performed or modeled at the discretion of the producer, photographer or advertiser. Such acting a very few years ago would not have been allowed publicly, and would have been relegated to stores selling erotica. Now such scenes are casually overlooked, but they are loudly speaking into our beliefs about sexuality, about privacy and about marriage and relationships.

These images also relieve our children of their innocence at a very early age. One father replied to a precocious daughter that just as he would not expect her to handle an overweight suitcase, neither would he burden her with sexual information that she was not yet ready to manage. But our culture is more than glad to overload our kids from their first TV viewing if we abdicate!

Our children still deserve years of youthful discovery and innocence. We as parents can control viewing choices, explain confusing images, and teach boundaries and limits—if only we aren’t misled ourselves.

What is really worth looking at? Entertainment is often an empty choice in comparison to natural beauty or time spent face-to-face with a friend. As we teach our child to guard their eyes as a door of the heart, we can help them understand exactly which images should be let in, and which ones should be kept out!

Purity Booster:

Use an object lesson to teach your child about the eyes and the heart. Take them to a clean window in the house and let them look out. Ask them what they see. Then smear the window with mud or chocolate (whatever’s easiest to clean off later!). Explain that this is what happens when we look at too many images that don’t tell the truth, or that show things that ought to be private. Because our eyes of our hearts get cloudy, we have a much harder time being able to “see” what is right. That’s why we need to keep our hearts pure!

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The Unwelcome Gift- Shawn’s Story

Have you ever received a gift you didn’t want to open? Not all gifts are wrapped with that big, red bow we girls love so much. Some gifts are wrapped with fear, pain, anxiety, and anger, and are delivered as if the mailman has been playing basketball with them.

This was the kind of gift delivered to me on June 16th, 2003. I knew that God would provide me with the “how to” directions. But a “gift” of breast cancer at 36? I had two small kids, a house to tend, a husband, a job and an active church life. This gift couldn’t be meant for me— but no matter how hard I begged, God would not take an exchange or return. I know now that he wanted to bless me.

It’s been 10 years now since I opened this “gift.” Those days were and are taped together in sickness, weakness, pain and fear. The illnesses I live with include extreme bone pain, tremors, fibromyalgia , arthritis and others. But I vowed not to let the cancer or the results of chemotherapy define me. I discovered that my gift also included love, humility, strength … and a deeper walk with God.

I thought I had a close relationship with him—but when I was told I may die, every breath, spiritually and physically, depended upon him. This closeness was something I never knew could exist, and I finally began to understand what the gift was for.

I told God that if it was his will for me to live, I wanted to have a breast cancer ministry. I wanted to give back to women the hope, strength and perseverance that so many gave me along the way.

My cancer lit my passion to start Braz Cauz. During so many of my hospitalizations and doctor appointments (daily, for 2 years) I had conversations with the wonderful nurses and lady staff members that took care of me. I was astonished by how many of them had never had a mammogram due to fear of the unknown or their finances.  Speaking with friends, neighbors and the women in our community, I heard the same stories over and over.

I have always has a gift for art. In 2009, I came up with a fun and artistic way to educate women by having them decorate bras and turn them into pieces of artwork to be auctioned off in local galleries. One day I had lunch with a friend I hadn’t seen in a few years that worked for the local hospital. She loved the idea.

Their hospital had a breast cancer lunch every October, and needed something new and exciting in the mix. We formed a partnership foundation for women in our community to provide free or low-cost mammograms.

But my journey wasn’t over. Braz Cauz had gotten our 501C3 when I tested positive for the BRACAII gene. This diagnosis requires a double mastectomy and hysterectomy to get estrogen out of the body. I spent a lot of time on my knees. How could God allow this when I had already lost so much?

Things don’t always go the way they do in the movies. Impossibly, I’ve had a double and two single mastectomies. What else could happen?

I soon found out. During my 2nd mastectomy (I am now on my third), I found out my mom was dying from breast cancer and had 8 days left to live.

I push forward now for my mother personally and for Braz Cauz because she so believed in it.

I am still living, day by day, in the good my unwelcome, blessed gift is bringing. And I’m no longer looking for a red bow on my present. My gift has a pink bow, and I’ll be wearing one for the rest of my life to encourage those who have had the same package placed at their door. I hope you’ll do the same.

Here are some things I want you to remember. First, breast cancer has a face, and mine is one of many. I want to be an example of what is possible when we face trials in our lives. I truly believe we can each rise up to meet each challenge with God’s help.

Secondly, please get involved and make a difference. Braz Cauz’s desire is to make the public aware of breast cancer, to memorialize those lost to the disease, and to honor the survivors. Wear your pink bow with me to do that, and click below to learn more on the Facebook page or web site.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Braz-Cauz-Inc/357315570964118?fref=ts

https://sites.google.com/site/brazcauz/who-we-are

Romans 15:13: May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Shawn-Marie Batchelder

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