30 June 2009

Discovering Your Child's Design, Part 2

Today, I'd like to share a little more from the book I started writing about yesterday, Discovering Your Child's Design by Ralph Mattson and Thom Black. In this book, the authors encourage parents to not only teach and train their children according to biblical principals, but also to help their children mature into the persons God created and gifted them to be. As each child is an unique individual, parents must carefully observe and carefully listen to their children, all the while paying close attention to consistencies in their choices, preferred modes of operation, and likes and dislikes to determine what the authors call a "distinctive operating style." Parents should be asking questions such as:
  1. Is your child pushed or pulled into action?
  2. What specifically pushes or pulls your child?
  3. How much time does your child use?
  4. To what kind of environment is your child drawn?
  5. What does your child like to encounter? (i.e. problems to solve, risky situations, ignorance so s/he can supply information, disorder to organize, an opponent, a potential audience, supporters or allies...),
  6. What capabilities does your child consistently use?

Parents are given numerous ideas of other questions to ask as they seek to discover their children's distinctive operating styles. All behavior is organized into either one or some combination of the following activities:
  1. utilitarian (doing what you have to do),
  2. developmental (doing something to improve yourself or help yourself to grow),
  3. relational (doing for someone else) and
  4. expressive (doing what you want to do).

I think the one part of the book that I've most appreciated was reading through their treatment of utilitarian behavior.

"Many necessary activities adults take for granted are still major challenges for children. We all go through our day-to-day routines at home, school, or work. As we do, we like to do certain tasks and are indifferent to others. But we have learned that some things simply need to be done regardless of whether or not we enjoy them.

Young children, however, go through the routines of their day with a different attitude. They need to play and to eat. But more than that, they need to gain the sense of security that comes through their daily routine of playtimes and mealtimes. Adults have developed a sense of continuity and have no fears about their daily schedules. They can anticipate what is going to happen based on their sense of history. Young children aren't yet able to do so.

In addition to lacking the assurance of daily routine, very young children also lack the motor skills necessary to accomplish things which to adults are simple tasks. So now we have two factors to remember about utilitarian tasks for small children. Botoh factors will dominate their behavior, as you will learn quickly from observation.

And as the child grows older, a third factor will start to show up. A distinctive operating style will start to manifest itself as the child begins to not only accomplish tasks, but to accomplish them in a particular way. As the child grows, he or she will welcome some tasks and avoid others, if possible. This will continue to increase during the child's growth until a full operating style will be clearly in evidence.

If dishwashing is the required (utilitarian) activity, one child will stack all the dishes of the same size together, collect all the forks, spoons, and knives into separate piles, and wash each group before going to the next. In contrast, another child will fill the sink and submerge everything into the soapy suds before washing a thing. Knowing this, it isn't hard to guess which child can't stand having the black checkers mixed with the red checkers in the storage box or goes into a tirade every time he discovers streaks of jam in the peanut butter jar. Nor it is difficult to guess whose closet is in perpetual chaos.

The parent supervising the dishwashing also has a distinctive operating style. The natural tendancy is to approve of one or the other dishwashing methods accordingly. But the motto of the wise parent will be, 'When it comes to dishwashing, who cares how it's done as long as it's done.' A parent who is a hands-on manager or likes to do everything in an exact sequence of steps may have difficulty accepting this idea. But its acceptance will save a lot of misunderstanding.

Such a 'manager' parent may have been given, as a gift of God's grace, a son who is highly innovative or even creative. The parent, in an attempt to teach the boy responsibility, may assign him the chore of taking out the garbage each night. The son, because of his design, will probably carry the garbage one night, use a wheelbarrow another night, and ride it down to the curb on his skateboard the next night. The down-to-business parent may not appreciate such diversity, especially all the 'wasted' energy. But what difference does it make as long as the job is consistently being (well) done? The child's variety in technique should not prevent the parent from expressing appreciation for faithful performance.

Each person has different standards when it comes to neatness.... We all know families surrounded by permanent mess and other families where everything has its place. Each family should have the liberty to decide what degree of order makes sense for their situation. The decision usually comes from the operating style of the leading decider, and may or may not clash with the operating styles of others in the family.

An essential responsibility of leadership is to put aside one's personal operating style for the sake of the people being managed. This is true whether you are leading employees or children. When you find yourself in the position of leadership, you should objectively evaluate whether the necessary tasks have to be done in a certain way. And you need to know why or why not.

Sometimes a job has to be done a specific way, and the child needs to be so advised. All children need to encounter the realities of authority and obedience. They need to learn that aside from what they or even their parents want to do, certain tasks must be completed in a particular sequence. They must support and adjust to certain givens in life....(but) this procedure works best when the child also has plenty of opportunity to do other things his way (according to his natural design) with some degree of frequency."

From "The Stuff of Everyday Living," pp 127-132, Discovering Your Child's Design by Ralph Mattson and Thom Black.


Downloading my camera is always discovery time, since a few "unnamed" children are known to abscond with said apparatus and take many photos of which I am unaware. Maybe that is slack parenting... not being sufficiently aware of what my kiddos are up to, but then again, I try not to micromanage the oldest two in their daily tasks and responsibilities.

So, I downloaded the camera the other night... 468 photos and videos... Maybe that doesn't seem like a huge number to some of you (right, Gampie?), but I don't know that I've ever had that many photos stored on my camera ~ it is still a relatively new-to-me device and I'm enjoying learning how to use it.

After I downloaded those 468 photos, I scanned through the pics, and several surprised me...

Like this one. Our little peanut is growing and changing fast, but I really didn't think Mary Michelle was old enough to start in on the self portraiture... yet...

However, after discovering these two photos, I was beginning to wonder???

Until a few photos later, the mystery was solved. And I really should have known, since Rebekah is the most likely culprit when my camera goes mysteriously missing.

Sisters! Aren't they sweet?

This last photo is my favorite... I love how the flash so perfectly caught their eyes... no wonder one of our friends only ever calls Rebekah "Blue eyes."

...makes me think of the old Elton John song from high school days (I think??)...

Blue eyes
Baby's got blue eyes
Like a deep blue sea
On a blue blue day

29 June 2009

Discovering Your Child's Design, Part 1

I just finished reading a really good book on parenting. It isn't one I'd heard of before (you can pick up some pretty amazing and interesting stuff at garage sales in an expat community), but the general idea of the book wasn't revolutionary or even new-to-me, but I appreciated the reminder, once again.

The first time I heard some of these ideas was at Brendan's baby shower, before he actually arrived, nearly 14 years ago. The devotional was given by a dear friend and fellow missionary, a lady whom I admire greatly and for whom I am so thankful. She challenged all of us, but especially me, that our job as parents is to train up a child in the way that he should go... and that isn't necessarily the way I think he should go, but rather the way that God created him to be... if that makes sense. That was the beginning of a shattering of any illusion that I'd be able to find a perfect parenting formula and then simply follow that pattern with simple modifications for each child to find that... "Voilà! I've successfully raise godly kids!"

Parenting itself, as well as a recognition of all the times I blow it and fall so short of what I consider ideal (and that is so much less than what God expects) has shattered the any of those illusions that might have remained.

The book I've been reading, Discovering Your Child's Design, by Ralph Mattson and Thom Black, pursues further explanation and application of this same idea. Over the course of this next week or so, I'd like to share some excerpts from the book that I've particularly appreciated ~ and to hear some of your feedback, too.

We must see that God designed a unique personality and not an undefined hunk of clay to be shaped into what man wants... We must give up the idea of seeing children through rose-tinted glasses of: 1) What we want them to be; 2) What society expects of them; 3) Our measuring sticks; 4) Our categories, boxes, classifications, and groupings... Each child is designed and you can know something of that design.

...the heart is not a vague spiritual capacity tucked somewhere within us. It is the foundation of human personality from which all actions emerge. This heart has a shape, as design which can be described in great detail. In your child it can be described in enough detail to transform your understanding of who he or she is.

How glorious to realize that children are designed like jewels that bear the beauty of God intended from the very beginning of their creation. So does that mean we already have little doctors, plumbers, mathematicians, cabinet makers, and artists running around in our houses? Does that mean all we have to do now is feed and water these diminutive professionals to have themautomatically turn out to be whatever is already fixed in their makeup?

The answer is that God does not create doctors and plumbers. rather, He creates individuals who possess the gifts to become a doctor or a plumber. we, in turn, need to equip ourselves by acquiring the education and training necessary to become proficient in our designed areas. We are required to develop skills and acquire knowledge to match our gifts. Only after people have applied their God-given gifts towards their designed professions is it right to conclude that Godo has indeed given us those doctors and plumbers.

With this in mind, let us look at your child. If you have more than one child, keep in mind that each one is designed in a unique way. In this sinful world, we cannot actually see the designs of our children. Sometime, in a future kingdom, our spiritual sight will be restoreed. Then, as we look at our children as God designed them, we will be stunned to see what wondrous creations were running around our houses. Meanwhile, we do not have to proceed entirely by faith in this matter. There is much that you as a parent can do to be better informed about your child's design while you have the opportunity.

Evidence for your child's design is all about you....the real child begins to appear when you are able to get behind their actions to discover a common theme -- what we will call a motif.

A motif is a recurring salient element in a work of art. The first fact we discover here is that your child is a work of art. Physical appearance may or may not indicate outer beauty, but that is not especially important. Our real appearances are seen by Godo since He looks on the heart. Each child is created beautiful by God -- no matter what may ultimately happen to both exterior and inner beauty. Your child's beauty also has a salient element (a striking theme or an outstanding characteristic). This is further established by the next phrase of the definition.

A motif is a dominant idea or central theme. Your child is unique, like no other. His or her prominent qualities can be described and woven together to make up the essential characteristics (theme) of his or her life. These dominant qualities are authored by God. They embrace all the physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological dimensions of our being.

A motif is a repeated design, an influence or stimulus prompting to action. Your child's design is not just a shape somewhere in the interior of the personality, but rather a motivation to action. It involves the heart, from which all actions emerge. The heart is the place of the will, the seat of intentionality. There is consistency to all that y our child does. Your child does certain things in ways that are unlike any other child.

...if you really want to see some of the God-given design of your child, you need to find a repeated theme that influences all of your child's actions and decisions.

I don't know about you, but I love watching and talking people (in general), and trying to figure out what makes the tick... it is even more exciting when the little people I'm watching are the special ones God has entrusted to me for this time... What a responsibility! What an opportunity! What a delight!

Material quoted from the chapter entitled "Tools for Your Use" in the book Discovering Your Child's Design by Ralph Mattson and Thom Black.

"Pawdners..." (said with my best southern drawl)

~ which I really can do, since I grew up in Oklahoma and since my parents/ grandparents/etc., are all from S. Illinois... like as far south in the state of Illinois as you can go and have it still be considered Illinois... but that is all totally off the subject.

Since we first arrived in Niger, we've seen our team change... go from three families --- to only us... then start to grow again... we are still reeling a little from disappointment, as this spring/summer, we've seen God directing some of those partners to other teams and ministires... which makes us all the more thankful for those who are still here. Working in a place like Niger, while there is no other place we'd rather be, is hard in many ways. I can't pick up the phone and call my mom or sister... letters and emails often disappear into cyberspace and responses never come because life is just so busy... I blog, which I love and which helps others feel like they know us a little, know our kids - but "feedback" and reciprocity is more unlikely than common. Facebook is fun, and it is amazing the little pieces of daily life to which you have access... that I've never had before. I don't want it to sound like I'm complaining because I'm not. When we told God, "Yes," this was all part of the counted cost. But it does make me sad.

And reality is - those people who are here, doing similar things to what we are doing, leaving and living elsewhere - whether a part of our particular organization or not - DO become family. So while we anticipate many wonderful hellos and so-DELIGHTED-to-see-yous in just a few weeks, it is a bit bittersweet because it also signifies many sad and difficult goodbyes to those we love here. I know it is hard for me... I think it is even harder for our kids.

See? It is making Anna act just a little wierd! *smile*

These photos were taken back in May, at a picnic with the Sahel Academy dorm family. Our colleagues, Tim and Janice Phillips are the dorm parents. They've been in Niger for a little over a year now, and they are a part of our missionary family. Although their ministry does not center on Nigeriens, what they do makes it possible for many other missionary families (from all over W. Africa) to continue to live, work, minister and live out God's calling on their lives.

This afternoon, we ate pig roasted in a barbecue pit, ate yummy salads and desserts (like homemade banana pudding... totally from scratch - even the vanilla wafers - which, by the way, can't be beat!). The kids swam in the river (that's why they look so icky and grimey), enjoyed the flame of a campfire (even though it was well over 100' ~ we missos are a strange lot, sometimes), sat and visited under the shade of luscious mango trees, spent some time singing, praising and worshipping the Lord and were encouraged by the example of Esther in the Bible as she faced upcoming changes and unknowns in her life.

Even with all the hard and heartbreaking twists of this path along which God is leading us, I don't think we'd change a thing... unless it would be to trust Him more completely, to believe Him always... to truly taste and see that He is good.

25 June 2009

Nadia's News


Nadia has completed her CFEPD... now we just wait for the results, which will hopefully be out (they say next Tuesday) before we leave... 19 days and counting!

22 June 2009

I think he looks like ~

~ actually, hold that thought... but see if you can figure it out before I get to the end of this post.


A quick update on Elsie Mae: she's still sick, although we do see some moments of improvement. She's not a "good" patient. Some of our kids, when they are sick, lay around, ask for help when they need it, sleep a lot and watch and rewatch their favorite videos and maybe request favorite foods and drinks. Not Elsie Mae. Personally, I've decided her goal is to make someone else feel just as miserable as she does (and, if you've ever suffered from intestinal amoebas or a UTI - try both at the same time... she does feel rotten), and she's determined that Mom is her most likely victim. We are hoping to have some lab results within the next few days to see if we need to try different medications and may also need to start a different, even less friendly treatment for the amoebas in the next few days; whatever critters she's got in her system appear to be of the more stubborn variety.

Many of you have let us know that you've been praying for her... please continue to do so, as "it ain't over yet." We'd love to see her strong, healthy and with a little reserve on her little body before we make the big move back for our home assignment.

And now back to my regularly scheduled programming, at least for this post. I took these photos of Jonathan several weeks back, after our colleague said one afternoon, "Every time I see him in that outfit, I think he looks just like __________________"

We had to agree, especially once you add the bat (or club, as Jonathan likes to call it).

Any ideas who I'm talking about?

Scroll on down to find out... and let us know what you think... if you agree or disagree!


Hee hee!

I just need to find him a little hat and a few bones!

19 June 2009

"Life is hard...

... but God is good."

Those were words in a song I used to hear (and like) on the radio several years ago, and I've been hearing that refrain echoing through my mind and reflecting on that thought quite a bit the past few days... in particular how I heartily agree with the first part ...and how sometimes it is really hard to choose to believe the second half.

Our sweet little Elsie Mae has had a really rotten week. Monday morning started off well. It was moving day (moving out of our home and into temporary housing where we will be until we leave in mid July... and to where we are hoping to return after furlough for a longer term set-up - and I'll write more about that another day). Kids were excited and played well all morning, except that Elsie required more frequent trips to use the facilities than normal. Then, right about the time the girls were due to arrive home from school, she curled up on the couch and began crying while her temperature started rising.

Since we've been fighting a persistant UTI, we called and took her into the clinic rather than waiting and watching - our normal protocol. A few orders for lab work and treating symptoms until we got the results from said lab work as well as a malaria test (with a negative result) brought us to Monday night, and things got worse. Lab results showed she had amoebic and bacterial dysentery, possibly complicated by an ongoing UTI - but we couldn't get a clean sample for the lab to analyse.

One fact of life in W. Africa (and probably in other developping countries) is that dysentery (not malaria) of whatever type is the leading cause of death for children under the age of 5. Now don't worry - Elsie Mae has actually done a little better today, but I included that statistic because it always seemed a little crazy to me. After all, you keep the child hydrated while you treat the cause and all should be well, right? Then we had our first experience with this type of serious illness back in 2006 - Anna was hospitalized on IV treatments for nearly a week with similar issues.

It is amazing how quickly a little one goes from sick to bad to worse... Monday morning, Elsie Mae weighed 28 lbs+. This morning, she weighed 23... almost a 18% loss in body weight... in 4 days. We're measuring her food and liquid intake by sips and bites - her sisters were applauding at lunch today because she ate 6 Ramen noodles!

As I mentioned earlier, we do think she's doing quite a bit better. But she still has 9 days of a treatment that is about as nasty as the disease. We still have to beg, plead and pray to get her to eat - thankfully, she is drinking now without one of her parents having to do gymnastics.

Please pray for her. She's improved a bit... but is not really better yet. There are still risks and potential complications of which the local doctor we use heartily reminded us. And if you think of it, can you pray for me, too... because I'm right now I'm having to choose (and my batting average attitude could improve) to believe that God is good ~ after watching this sweet little one so miserable and so sick this week? ...it doesn't really feel like it.

14 June 2009

Mission Impossible... or May Madness?!?

Mission Impossible has become an annual event. Each year, in May (the hottest month - I'm not sure why they wait until May each year to do this??), it's two teams of kids against the adults to see who can complete their secret mission. Everyone usually dresses in dark colors, paints (or darkens their skin) by some method so that they can run around the Sahel Academy grounds in the dark, seeking clues, picking up "microfilm," safely taking microfilm to appointed drop-off points, avoiding the bad guys, finding bombs and trying to stay alive. It appears to mildly ressemble the games of Capture the Flag I used to play, many moons ago.

Each year, the kids come home dirty, sweaty and exhausted - but talking incessantly about the most recent M.I. -- and immediately anticipating the next one... the next year!

Here's a smattering of pictures from this year's M.I. - I'm late in getting the photos up because life has been so busy, but the kiddos will be glad that I finally have.

Adults preparing...

(This is how dark it really was.)!

Kids waiting...

...anxious to begin...

...strategizing... and showing-off...


...still waiting...

...hanging around....

...until the adults have their act together and the fun is ready to begin!

A quick run down of the rules...

... with everyone listening attentively!

Instead of the Men in Black, this year they had the Guys in White.

...and the game is almost ready to begin!

In the game, you are still alive if you have a string bracelet in your team's color still tied on your wrist...

You die when the "bad guys" rip that string off your wrist, at which point you return to a central locale where willing volunteers tie another string back on your arm, at which point you can initiate intrigue and strategy once again.

In years past, I've been one of those folks who ties strings on sweaty, grimy wrists. That is one reason why I know just how hot, sweaty and gross the kids tend to become over the course of the game. It is also why I know just how hot and sticky it is for everyone who is participating.

This year, I decided to spare M&M. I stayed home with the little ones while Tim took the school-aged crew to participate... and snapped photos.

Watch out for Mr. G!

Where's he heading? What's he hiding?

Finally, the game is over! While the scorers make their tabulations, the kids guzzle water and wait to find out who won, as well as who was the most "dangerous" adults.

Look at those Chamberlain boyz...

(Haven't we already seen this pose elsewhere?)

This is still my favorite picture - my "bad" girls! It also leads me to the second reason I know just how icky kids get in the course of this game... who do you think gets to help with all the grime removal?

However, my very favorite story from this year's M.I.? One of our friends drove up to pick up kids after everything was over, and found Victoria sitting outside with a very grumpy and angry expression on her face. When asked if she was upset because her team lost, Tori shook her head, and replied, "No. MY team finally WON. But... we didn't get a prize. What's the point of winning if you don't GET anything?!"

Guess we've got a bit of teaching still to do with that one, eh?


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