Thirty Seconds… Part II

Last week a friend commented about my blog and the 30 second rule.  “That rule not only applies to parenting… it applies to all relationships!” She’s right!

But here’s the real kicker… this principle can also be applied between us and our Heavenly Father.

This face-full attention is exactly what our gracious Heavenly Father does for us, his children.  Are we ever surprised that great parenting tips or people skills are actually based on how God interacts with us? In Numbers 6:24-26 God gave a special blessing to be used with His people.  You may have heard it as a benediction: 

            “The LORD bless you and keep you, the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” 

The next time we feel like we are just clinging to the peripheral being of God, we need to take a moment and allow ourselves to imagine our Heavenly Father turning his face towards us.  He drops to one knee, so to speak, looks directly into our eyes and gives us his full face.  He promised that he would bless and keep us, be gracious to us and that he would turn his face toward us… so we need to envision God looking us right in the eye. 

We can tell him exactly what we are feeling.  Irrational, irreligious or even impertinent – God hears it all. In our pain and helplessness, and in full understanding and love… he faces us.  Then, in an act that can only be described as gracious, he gives us his peace. 

Because he is a perfect God, he will not limit his attention to 30 seconds.  But quite honestly, when we walk and talk with God in the moments of our lives, a 30-second prayer is often all that is needed to regain a sense of his peace.  If we are abiding in God, when we hit those moments of needing his attention, it is amazing how a 30-second connection is really all we need. It doesn’t replace the time and dedication that God wants from us in concentrated prayer and worship, but it is definitely how he wants to walk through each day with us.  This is how we live life in his strength.

So in the next 30 seconds, imagine your heavenly Father turning his face toward you.  Trust in his grace and allow his face to shine on you.  Give him your worries and let him give you his peace.  It may be the beginning of a lifestyle of enjoying 30 seconds of grace and peace…for everyone.

Thirty Seconds (Part I)

At twenty-six years of age I was eight months pregnant with our fourth child. It seemed like I spent most of my time wiping counters, faces, hands or bottoms. I often had at least one child clinging to my pant legs, either wanting my attention or just randomly tattling on the others.

In the middle of this stage of my life I learned about the 30 second rule from a parenting talk show on the radio. It’s been a while since I was 26, and quite seriously, the fact that I can remember anything from that stage of life is nothing less than miraculous (remember…I was pregnant then), so I may not explain the principle exactly as it was taught, but here it is:

When a child is fussing at your feet, or acting out unreasonably, drop to one knee and look the child straight in the eyes and listen to his complaint.  Chances are, after 30 seconds the child will be satisfied that he has been heard, and he will go back to his activities.

So…I tried it. 30seconds

I had a child hovering by my side, whining in that indiscernible language, at that unbearable pitch.  I was in the kitchen (I mean, where else would I have been??) when I remembered the 30-second challenge.  I took a deep breath and dropped to one knee, which is alot harder than it sounds…remember, I was pregnant. 

It is a significant maneuver for an eight-month pregnant woman to shuffle down to the floor.  And that is if she can even see the floor. Transferring the weight of my encumbered body I eased myself down hoping that the spot where I landed was void of lego! 

Squatting awkwardly, so I could actually look my daughter in the eye, I was greeted with a look of complete shock.  At first I thought it was the magnitude of the action, or just the magnitude of me in front of her that caught her off guard, but then I realized it was my interest that surprised her. Clearly this child was not used to having the attention of my full face (and trust me… it was a full face at that stage of pregnancy!).

Sheepishly, I realized my kids mostly speak to my back, or, more in-line with their level of sight…my butt.  Without digressing to fat bottom jokes, I do have to point out–who would want to talk to that?  I conceded that I rarely gave my children my full attention.  I multi-tasked their questions and needs. My little girl was literally speechless when I dropped to her level, looked into her eyes, and gave her my undivided attention.

“What do you want to say to Mommy?” I asked.  It took her a few moments to collect her thoughts, but with a clear voice and expressive eyes, she stated her concern.  And I listened.  She didn’t need me to solve anything; she just wanted to be heard. 

Forgive me…but throughout this whole exchange with my daughter I was counting seconds.  I was willing to try the 30 second challenge, but I could only be a beached whale, down on one knee for a designated time…especially when I realized there was no crisis to be solved.  So, you can imagine my surprise when I had not even yet counted to 10, when my daughter gave me a smile, turned on her heels and headed back to her play time.  “That was it?” was my first thought as I started the difficult tactical exercise of ascending to a standing position.  (At least heading down to the floor was aided by gravity!)

In the following years, I have been continually surprised.  Truly, 30 seconds is an exaggerated time allotment!  I didn’t always practice it–I did learn the art of “tuning out”. But when we look our kids in the eyes and give them our full attention, it doesn’t take very long to convey that they are important.   In the toddler years, this 30 second challenge became the end-point of most of the whining. 

These days, I have to look up to catch the eyes of  my kids, but I still do it.  I desperately want to be a mom that gives them my full face.  When there are things that require discussion, we can broach the subjects head on…because we’ve been facing them throughout their lives.

So, take the challenge.  Today, drop to one knee, look your little one in the eye and listen…and count if you need to.  30 seconds will likely be more than enough time.

Loud and Clear

Yesterday, as I was dropping my daughter off at the local high school we had a rather startling conversation about marital commitment. We had been talking about one of her friends whose parents had just separated.  The transition had been tough on her friend. Separation, strained living situations and the drama surrounding the family was supplanting what every teen looks forward to in their grade-twelve year.  Hurt and betrayal overshadowed grad-class celebrations.

Pulling into the school parking lot, I repeated something to my daughter that I am sure she has heard me say countless times. “You know my dear” I said with the calm assurance “that is one thing you never have to worry about with dad and me.  We will never leave each other.  We will never get a divorce.”

In the brief second before she stepped out of the car, she turned her body so that her eyes looked straight into mine.  “That is exactly what my friend’s parents had said to her”. 

She opened the car door and left…. but not before I tried to get more words in.  Still, my words sounded hollow, weak and even hubristic.  “Oh, it’ll never happen to us” ran through my mind, but instantly there was the realization that confident posturing can not protect a young heart from the fear and disillusionment that lives in a world that doesn’t know how to keep its promises.

So, what do you do when you can’t seem to be heard?  I’d suggest yelling.  And yell it loud! 

Everyday let your kids see you “yelling” your commitment to each other.  Obviously I am not talking about elevated voice levels, but through words of affirmation and commitment.  Let them hear you talk about your devotion to the family and the marriage covenant you made.  Words are important, but often they are not enough. 

Yell through your actions. Let your family see you treat each other with respect and love. Show it in your schedule, creating time for each other. There is nothing like a date night to say to your kids – we are committed.  Marriage retreats, reading marriage books even displays of affection can solidify the look and feel of commitment.

Chances are, every child at one time or another has wondered if their family will survive.  Chances are, you have even wondered yourself if your marriage is going to make it!  So, put everyone’s mind at ease.  Start by committing yourself to each other.   Through words and actions keep your commitment to each other loud and clear.

This evening my husband and I as we are speaking at a marriage event .  Guess what our topic is.  Commitment!