Tag Archive: terran williams


no

i just emailed someone to excuse myself from a creative planning dreaming meeting on Wednesday.

i imagine it is going to be an amazing meeting. i believe i would have gotten a lot out of it and also hopefully been able to put a lot into it.

But i realised on the weekend, that i don’t have the capacity for that meeting Continue reading

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My friends Terran and Julie Williams were going about life with their three delightful children, sharing regular stories of funny statements and learnt lessons and chaotic moments, when suddenly the news of a 4th child on the way… and then further news that their 4th was a set of twins… If you think three young children is hard, try to get your head around five! Terran shared this piece on Facebook yesterday and gave me permission to pass it on to you as he gets completely real about some of the harder moments of being a parent of a number of smaller children:

Permission to get SHOCKINGLY real about parenting small kids?

williams

It’s hard. Much harder than you can imagine. Much much harder.

A few months ago a friend of mine who is a professional therapist said, ‘A family with a kid under the age of 3 is in crisis mode.’ At first I thought that was a bit negative. Upon reflection, I conclude they’re right.

Yesterday someone said to me, ‘My youngest just turned 4. I am starting to think we might be coming out of it. ’ I didn’t need to ask what ‘it’ was. She clearly meant the chaos. The crisis. The crazy zone.

My experience confirms that parenting infants and toddlers puts you under a kind of constant pressure that lttle else in life comes close to matching. To be fair, Julie and my situation of having five kids aged six and under only compounds this reality, but treat me as a magnification of what is still there for parents of fewer kids. (Besides, I know, I once had fewer kids.)

Of course there’s more to parenting nascent ones than it being hard. That’s what all the photos on Facebook are about – the sweetest things in the world, they are. Your heart walking around in someone else’ body. I get that, and it keeps me going.

However, in this post I thought I would get real about the (dark) side we don’t talk about. It’s no good running a marathon, and you’re doing uphill and you’re trying to tell yourself this is wonderful. Facing the fact of the agonizing incline is necessary if you’re going to make it.

As for those parents whose kids are all four+, looking back from your hard-earned view, it’s amazing how you tend to forget the pain. (One aspect of trauma is that you tend to forget the event itself, a kind of self-protective amnesia, I think.)

Would you mind if I get VERY REAL? Just so that I never forget, and maybe to help those of you who think something’s wrong with you as you suffer the little ones.

Here goes. Julie and I are experiencing the PHYSICAL strain of parenting. We’re exhausted. In the last two weeks, I get about 5 to 6 hours of sleep per night, but here’s the catch: it’s broken by the need to get out of bed and deal with a crying or calling kid, usually about 5 to 10 times per night.

One reason is their need for constant re-assurance. On this point, a curse be upon the inventor of the Pacifier! Our little suckers fall asleep more easily with those suckable things in their mouths, but by the time they’re 8 months they have formed a dependency on them, and every time it falls out of their mouths they wake and cry, lost in the universe. Do the maths on how many times per night a wriggling infant might lose their dummy. While writing this (5:30-7am) I ran through 11 times to put dummies back. Who’s the real dummy?

Other things wake our kids. At 4:30am this morning I got head-butted by my sweet lullaby of a 2-year old Ivy as she was waking up out of a nightmare. Unsatisfied that I was not-the-Mama, she ran down the dark passageway shouting for Julie, waking up the other kids. It’s impossible to fall asleep any time soon after that kind of ill-treatment from someone I love. (By the way, this assault provoked me to write this post an hour later.) Perhaps the sleeplessness is the real, foundational problem: all the other strains would be more manageable if our bodies and brains weren’t yearning for the unconscious state. Thankfully, we can grab an afternoon nap. Not.

And sickness. You know those new viruses that sweep the globe every year? I have to admit the original viral mutation happens in my house. Families with little kids can turn an ordinary flu that would set back a single person a few days, into a plague that loops through our entire family, two or three times – lasting a month on average, sinking us parents into our own mini-Great Depression. (Sick kids wake up a lot more, and sick parents need sleep if they are to shake off the virus they got from their kids.) In the last five years I have got more colds, flu’s and tummy bugs than in the preceding decade.

We have endured the FINANCIAL strain of parenting. Having kids necessitated that Julie and I fork out enough, not all at once thankfully, for a home more suitable for a family (bigger, garden, near a decent school), a bigger car, Mon-Fri domestic and child-care assistance and (gulp!) educational fees. Then there’s medical bills. For example, little Charlie (10 months) has cost us about 5k in doctor’s bills and medicines over the last 3 months. Next week he goes in for surgery to get grommets.

There’s also more mouths to feed. I spoke to a single dad in the beach-front parking lot of my surf spot the other day. He has one kid. He said, ‘Terran, I just got back from the shop. I am shocked by how much it costs to feed my little family. How on earth do you feed yours?’ Good question. By the time they’re two they’re eating almost as much as I do on some occasions. All these new costs are often augmented by a diminished income. In our case, Julie’s earning power went down (up till now she’s been a pay-by-the-job, part-time freelancer) at the very moment our costs escalated. That’s pressure.

There’s the MARITAL strain of parenting. On our better days Julie and I team together like Batman and Robin, but on our more stressed days, we turn on each other. Beat down people tend to beat others down if they’re not very careful. In the nights, we keep count of how many times we got out of bed, and when our number is higher, ‘gently’ nudge the other person who is pretending to be sleeping through the baby cry. By day, we play the ‘who is suffering more’ card, and sometimes have a go at each other verbally in front of these not-yet-pyschologically-scarred kids. Yes, we know how damaging it is upon a young child’s psyche to see mom and dad at each other. But the guilt doesn’t have power to stop the bickering.

This paragraph for the guys: there’s also little and sometimes weeks of no sex. Since it’s public knowledge that Julie and I have had sex at least five times (once on our honeymoon night, and four times for our five kids, the last arrow splitting into two), I feel the liberty to make this point. No seriously, pregnancy means less sex. Birth-recovering and breast-feeding moms (sorry Julie, I don’t know what other words to use) means no sex. The smells and sights related to changing nappies and wiping toilet-training bums mitigates against the daylong foreplay-messages that spice up a marriage. Stress and exhaustion work against one’s sexual capacities. As for the rare moments when the stars align, I am thankful that the Flight of the Conchords are right: two minutes in heaven really is better than no minutes in heaven.

There’s the SOCIAL strain. Friendships go into maintenance-mode. We have hardly anyone round. For all kinds of reasons: our house is a mess, we will be embarrassed if people glimpsed the real chaos of our lives, we keep telling ourselves that on the day we stabilize we will open diaries and think who to invite over for a meal. Would you be my friend?

There’s the SPIRITUAL strain. Maybe you can’t relate, but since I was a teen, early mornings have been a sacred time for me to tune into God so that I can keep sensitive to his promptings and stay within reach of his power and guidance throughout the day. Now that I need this kind of spiritual alertness and empowering more than ever, I seldom get the time that I need. I know God understands and loves me anyway. But I also know that not spending this daily time with God tends to put me out of frequency with the Spirit’s energies and nudges, setting me up for yet further stress-inducing errors of judgment and lapses of sanity.

There’s PROFESSIONAL strain. In the last decade, I have had two notably under-performing years in my work-life. My lack of sharpness has been evidenced in emails not responded to quickly enough, under-preparedness for critical meetings, increased strain from less quality attention to fellow-workers, and a tendency to lose composure when leading people requires that I stay calm. Those two years just happen to be the ones that immediately followed the birth of my third, and now the birth of my twins. (Would you let a pilot fly you if you knew he was bottle-feeding one baby, while trying to tame a volcanic tantrum in a toddler running amok in the cockpit, threatening to push ‘eject’? My policy: smile and wave boys.)

There’s LOGISTICAL strain. Our house is a mess almost all the time. Julie and I who are not A-type when it comes to neatness, but we start to come undone with the constant mess. Trying to keep a kid-inhabited house tidy is like trying to shovel snow while it snows. As for leaving house as a family: for every kid you have, add another 30 minutes to get-ready time. (For our first few months after the twins came, I was okay with us not having a car big enough for seven. I thought to myself, ‘Where can we go with this many kids? And when we get there, what will we do?’ So we just stayed at home.)

Air travel is another story. The fact that kids under-2 fly free makes bargain-hunters like me want to capitalize upon this fleeting opportunity. Bait for us fools. We just flew our family to another part of the country. It was as simple as one, two, three. One day of packing. Two cars to take us to the airport. Three tons of stuff. You have never seen people in a plane praying as much as when we queue in. ‘God, please no! Not next to me! No.’) When I notice enough people doing the count, and mouthing a silent ‘five’ to the person they just elbowed, I usually break the ice with one of my two jokes: ‘Yes, everyone. There are five! Our TV was broken.’ Or, ‘Who’s the lucky person who gets to sit next to us?’ The cabin laughter at that moment helps us all for what is about to happen in the next two hours.

There’s EMOTIONAL strain. Parenting introduces a panoply of negative emotions that are new to the lifetraveller: new fears and anxieties, feelings of inadequacy, the crippling curse of comparison, and post-natal depression for some moms.

In my view the most emotion-intensifying thing about family life is that we tend to absorb each other’s emotions. If we were all emotionally self-contained units, that would be easier. But as it is, every tantrum and tear and sibling-tiff emits an emotional toxin that the try-hard parents tend to take into their tender hearts. Our kids bounce back remarkably, but we parents, the emotional filters, are left with the residue. Keeping your head while all those around you lose theirs is easier said that done. I once came across a best-selling book on parenting titled ‘Keep calm and parent on.’ It’s one of those titles that say so much, you don’t need to read the book. That title is probably the best advice there is. But also the most unachievable advice there is. It’s like telling a person who is tumbling down a mountainside to keep calm and enjoy the ride.

My point? Parenting the youngest of humanity is not for the fainthearted. It’s brutal at times. It’s incessant in its challenges. To complicate it all, these strains – physical, social, financial, spiritual, etc – have a domino-effect, one causing or exacerbating the other. The result: life in a fully fledged crisis mode. A trauma being inflicted in slow motion.

It’s true. Parents of little lives are in nose-dive.

I don’t want to sound like I am complaining. Some of you have it much harder. I think of parents who lose their income, or single parents, or kids with severe disabilities. You guys are the masters of the universe. We are in awe of you. Some of you don’t have it as hard. The thing so many parents say to us is, ‘You know, when Lee and I are freaking out as parents, we think of you with five, and that helps us. So thank you!’ Glad we could help.

Do I have any perspective to share for the fellow-traumatized? Other than ‘Keep calm and parent on’? For starters, one thing I can say: You Are Not The Only One. Parenting is hard for almost all of us. The other thing I can say is that You Are Not Alone. A small verse hidden in the massive book of Isaiah says ‘God carries us close to his heart, especially those who have young’. It has helped Julie and me when we’ve been at our lowest. It reminds us there’s a Parent in heaven who’s there for you as you parent another. Our vulnerability, as we rear the most vulnerable, catches the loving attention of One Above. We might feel alone, but in reality there’s a Heartbeat as close to you as your child is to yours.

(Permission given to share with the so-journers who can identify.)

[For some other stories shared from those who are finding parenting tough, click here]

[How to raise your young children as World Changers, click here]

savemoneySaw this by my good friend Terran Williams on Facebook and having just come out of our study of the book ‘Free: Spending your Time and Money on what matters most’ [which i would highly recommend that you and a group of friends get hold of and work through over 8 weeks!] a lot of this looked similar and definitely worth taking a look at especially as we gear up to the Christmas season with goodwill and debt for all… it doesn’t have to be that way…

If you want to spend less, here’s 59 ways how.

Reading this won’t cost you anything, but can save you a lot of money – especially in silly season when sellers conspire to get you into a feeding frenzy of purchases.

When it comes to money, if your outflow exceeds your inflow, the shortfall will be your downfall. Conversely, if your inflow exceeds your outflow, what remains is retained.

And what is retained can be used for giving more, saving more and getting out of debt. Now, we’re talking.

On facebook, I started a conversation asking people their best advice for spending less. I did not expect the sheer amount of potent insight that would arrive. I have edited through close on 60 comments. And have added in my own stuff, which I have collected over the years from financial wizards the world-over.

CONTENTMENT

1. Decide on what is enough years ahead of the time. Most people simply increase their standard of living to fit the income they receive. In the book ‘The millionaire next door’ the case is made that most millionaires don’t appear to be as wealthy as they are, because they have learnt to limit their expenses. Though their income has increased, they don’t increase the lavishness of their lifestyle along with it. They didn’t become wealthy through making more money than you, but through spending less.

2. Draw a circle – the circle of ‘enough’ – and put what’s enough for you in the next decade inside of it: What kind of car will be enough? What kind of house? In which area? What kind of holidays? Then – even if you can afford more than this, don’t go beyond this. Need inspiration? Think of Warren Buffet – second wealthiest man in the US – who lives in the same modest house he bought in 1958.

3. Ignore the Jones’. Don’t buy things you don’t need, with money you don’t have, to impress people you don’t even like. Comparison is a curse.

KNOW THE FACTS

4. Get into the habit of keeping a simple record of how much you spend and on what. Seeing it in black and white should be enough to shock you into spending less.

NEEDS AND WANTS

5. Ask yourself if you need it or want it. My 3 year old told me, ‘Daddy, I need choccy.’

I responded: ‘Eli, need or want? Need means you can’t live with out it, like air and water. Want means it’s nice but you can live without it.’

‘Daddy, I NEED it,’ was his unflinching reply. The consumerism of our day has blinded us to the difference. Do you really need Levis jeans? Won’t Mr Price’s denims do? Buying your first house – do you really need a third room, garage and pool? Your first car – do you really need rims?

6. When retailers say ‘save’ they mean spend. Don’t ask, ‘Is it a deal?’ Ask, ‘Do I need this?’ If you don’t need it, you’re a sucker, not a saver.

BIGGER PURCHASES

7. Get three quotes before buying something expensive.

8. Re-use. Secondhand will do.

9. Don’t buy every new gadget. Use your phone and computer for at least two years.

10. Buy good used cars – a brand new car usually loses 10% of its value as it is driven from the showroom.

MONEY BACK

11. Have loyalty cards where you shop – Pick n Pay, Clicks, Vitality for example. If used diligently, every month you will get back in vouchers a few hundred bucks.

12. If with Discovery, make sure you get to gold status and milk the rewards. Many families of four get back about R12000 a year – and are forced into healthier lifestyles too.

FOOD

13. Eat before you shop. A hungry tummy causes you to buy stuff you never intended on buying.

14. Waste not, want not. Reduce wastage – don’t throw food away. Left overs are great. Get creative with how you use them to make another dish.

15. Cook with less meat per week. Start adding beans and lentils to food for protein.

16. Less coffee. Spending R20 a day equals R100 a week equals R400 a month.

17. Take lunch to work. This will easily save you between R600 – R1000 a month.

18. Date night? What about date afternoon or morning? A coffee and dessert date, or a picnic, can sometimes be more special than a full meal out.

19. Buy food in bulk and do once monthly cooking of large quantities, and freeze.

20. Plan a weekly menu (e.g. Monday chicken night, Tuesday no-meats night, Wednesday fish night). This way you are less lightly to buy take-away or pre-made meals.

21. Stop throwing hundreds of rands on your lawns, and rather save hundreds by growing a vegetable garden.

22. Eat at restaurants less. You’ll enjoy them more anyway.

23. Shop online and order a delivery. The delivery cost is always less that the ad hoc spend you undertake when walking the aisles.

GIFTS

24. Don’t spoil kids at Christmas time. Buy them something to wear, something to read, something they need (e.g. a tooth brush), and something to play with.

25. Keep unneeded presents – and pass them on. (Try remember who gave you what, so you don’t give the same gift back to the person a year later!)

SHOP AROUND

26. Look at your bank fees. Take a bank statement and add all those fees to see what you really pay. Compare with other banks. FNB and Capitec seem to lead the pack at the moment when it comes to less fees.

27. Take your Homeowners Insurance off your bond a/c and add it to your Householders Insurance – you could save up to 50%.

28. Make use of the amazing factory shops – whether it’s baby food or clothing or household goods you’re looking for.

29. Reprice household and car insurance, without forfeiting the required levels of coverage. Make the effort to phone around, and request better deals. Don’t use Hippo – it owns all the companies it will get quotes from for you.

30. Get a cheaper phone contract. Cell C leads the cheaper-rates charge at the moment.

AVOID DEBT

31. Save up for things you want (even if you have the cash already, pretend you don’t!)

32. Tear up your credit cards. If you don’t have the courage to do this, then tear up all but one, and set a low limit on the amount you can borrow from the creditor.

33. Freeze your credit card in a tub of water. If you really need it you can wait for it to defrost. Seriously.

34. Don’t use a credit card unless you have the discipline to settle the full balance every month. Credit card interest is extremely expensive.
Clothing accounts are a definite problem. Buy clothing cash.

35. Slam the phone down on the sweet salesperson who kindly offers you more credit. No, they are not the answer to your prayers.

36. Be weary of paying via debit orders. R200 a month doesn’t sound like much, but that adds up over time. Rather save up for a few months and pay cash for the item.

37. If you do have debt (loans, store cards, store credit facilities) try and consolidate the debt. This may reduce the total installment and use money saved to further pay off the debt.

38. If you don’t consolidate the debt, list them and conquer them one at a time. Pay minimum amounts on all, but pay all excess money you have into the smaller ones until they are wiped out. That feeling of crossing it from the list, will give you the boost to wipe out yet another debt.

JUST SAY NO

39. Don’t buy if you can’t afford or don’t need. (Write this somewhere you can see everyday.)

40. Think ‘functional economics’. This means that you weigh up what the item will be used for (how important is it?) over the cost of the item. Example:

41. Should you use that extra money on new tennis shoes and racket (if you play twice a month) or on a bigger dining table (which your family will use twice a day)?

BUDGET

42. The word budget has gotten a bad rap – it is basically just a plan. When you budget, you’re spending on paper, on purpose, before the month begins. But many people view a budget as a straight jacket that keeps them constrained. Freedom and budget just don’t seem to go together. However, when you see that a budget is just spending your money with intention, you’ll actually experience more freedom than before. Some pointers: Give it three to four months to start working. It won’t be perfect the first time you do it. Spend every dime on paper before the month begins. Over-fund your groceries category – most people underfund that category. If married, spouses budget together (and husbands – if applicable – need to loosen up and quit using the budget as a whipping tool on their wives).

43. Use the time-tested envelope system. Each month draw a large lump sum of cash from your account, which reduces charges for the month. Then take a pile of envelopes and label them each with the different things that need to be paid – e.g. petrol, house-cleaner, gardener, toiletries, cleaning products, food etc – and place in the envelope the relevant monies for that month. If, say, you allow yourself R600 for petrol in the month then when that is coming to and end you just go out less in the car until you have seen that month through. Always allow an envelope for emergencies. Once all these bills are accounted for in envelopes, then you know exactly how much you have spare to spend on incidentals or a luxury perhaps.

SPEND MORE TO SPEND LESS 

44. Spend more in the short term to save more in the long term. Two examples: solar geysers pay for themselves in no time, and a low fuel consumption car may cost a bit more, but it quickly pays for itself – and you start to save considerably.

45. The most substantial debt people face is their home loans. When purchasing a house, fight for lower rates – get at least two bond originator agencies competing for your business. Whenever you get a pay rise, be sure to increase your monthly repayments by that same amount. If you get a pay rise of 10% per year, and follow this plan, then you will save yourself in effect nine years of repayments!

WORK TOGETHER

46. Discover the potential of Ubuntu – the collective and co-owning of some of the things of life. You don’t have to own everything to enjoy and use it.

47. It could helps to grocery shop with a friend. Often there are 2 for 1 but you don’t need 2 and it won’t keep, shopping with a friend can help keep grocery budget down.

48. Join a co-op of people who order food with you.

49. Arrange a toy swap group.

50. Buy big items which you will not use often with a friend and share the cost. Lawn mowers and boats are examples.

OTHER SAVERS

51. Ditch DSTV and borrow DVDs from friends, or the library. Read more.

52. Use public transport. Golden Arrow busses are cheap, as are trains, and you avoid expensive parking and petrol costs. Finally, some reading time too.

GET HONEST 

53. Ask yourself searching questions like, ‘Can you really afford the car you’re driving? And the house you’re living in? And the school you’re sending your kids to? And the restaurants you’re eating out at? And the shoes you’re wearing?’

54. Stop using shopping as therapy. Emotional spending causes a lot of people to end up in serious debt. 79 percent of women go on spending sprees to cheer themselves up, according to a 2009 study released by the University of Hertfordshire, in England. 40 percent of the women surveyed named ‘depression’ as a reason to go shopping.

MAKE IT LAST

55. Take care of your stuff. Bottom line – purchasing something is the start of the relationship, the hard work has only just begun. This means: don’t put your clothes in the wash after wearing them once (the machine damages it over time); get your car serviced regularly etc.

MORE ON CONTENTMENT

56. Discontentment is the root of greed. Friederick Nietsche said it best: ‘What causes one man to use false weights? Another to set his house on fire after having insured it for more than its worth? Three quarters of our upper classes to indulge in legalized fraud? What gives rise to all of this? It is not real need … for their existence is by no means precarious. No, they are urged on day and night by a terrible impatience at seeing their wealth pile up so slowly, and by an equally terrible longing and love for these heaps of gold.’

57. Love people and use things, rather than use people and love things. Many of us spend far more time weekly buying stuff than playing with our kids. For example, in USA the average parent spends 6 hours a week shopping and only 40 minutes playing with their kids. Don’t be that guy.

WORK AT IT

58. Financial planning and living is like being on a diet. If you are serious about losing weight, you draw up a plan of what you should and should not eat, you avoid temptations and get excited about even the smallest change or success. With money you need to plan what you should and should not spend (not can and cannot), avoid temptations and get excited about the smallest change or success. Imagine if you joined a financial Weigh Less club called “Save More” and every week you had to bring in your credit card and bank statements for the weekly weigh in. Yeah, spending less requires a rigorous, constantly re-inforced decision.

59. Abundance tends to undermine discipline. Yet discipline is what undergirds abundance. So keep disciplined, and your life will head in the direction of abundance.

Thankx Terran Wiliams [https://www.facebook.com/terran.williams.7568] and friends…

What about you? Do you have any helpful suggestions to add to this list that have worked for you?

questionsSo my mate Terran Williams and his wide network of people put together a bunch of questions that they are going to use to make dinner time with their children more exciting and interesting and he has kindly shared them with the world so if you don’t eat together as a family you should probably start doing that and then try using some of these…

[and yes, mine was the one about two animals changing sounds cos imagine a lion chasing you screaming “Polly want a cracker.” I know!]

So, here’s my questions for dinner conversations. Feel free to cut, paste and print them yourself.

I am going to use them to get our kids (and Julie and I) talking about experiences, opinions and feelings. Many nights a week everyone will pull out of a bag a random piece of paper with one printed question and answer It.

Thanks to all of you who helped me brainstorm the list.

General Questions:
If you were an animal, what kind of animal do you think you would be and why?
If you could put your day into a dance, what would it look like? (Show us)
If you could have any super power what would it be?
Share a high of the day, low of the day, and something interesting that happened in between.
If you could make friends with one person who you aren’t already friends with, who would it be?
Which famous person would you like to invite to dinner and why?
If you have a R1000 that you have to use to help someone not in our family, how would you spend it?
What is one thing that you would love to learn to do?
Where is your favourite place and why?
If you could do something you did today a little differently, what would it be?
What made your heart happy today?
What colour was your day? Why?
If you could compare your day to an animal, what animal would it be?
How were you a blessing or help to someone else today?
What happened today that made you mad or glad?
If you could change something that happened today, what would it be and why?
What happened today that really amazed you?
What did you see or hear today that called for you to act courageously?
What do you know how to do that you can teach to others?
If you could be a sound, what would it be?
If you could choose a new name for yourself, what would it be, and why?
What dream(s) do you have for your future?
The one thing that you don’t like that much about this family is…
The one thing that you like best about this family is…
Tell us the one thing you like most about being you.
If you could keep your room any way you wanted, how would it look?
If you were going to have a weird, unusual pet, what would it be?
What is the grossest thing you can think of?
What would you do if you were invisible for a day?
Who do you think you are most like in our family? Why?
What’s the most daring thing you remember doing?
Name 1 thing you love about your brother, sister, mom and dad.
If I give you R100 what will you do to double it?
Did you see someone today who looked happy and why?
Anyone you see today who looked sad – is there anything you can do to change how they’re feeling tomorrow?
If you could swap the sounds two different animals make, what would they be? 
What is something you don’t think you’re that good at that could somehow be a blessing in disguise?
What scares you?
What would you like to do this weekend as a family?
What is one skill/talent you would like to try and learn?
Would you rather be ugly and wise or great-looking and foolish?
Would you rather get everything you want now or work hard for it before getting it?
What are you most grateful for today?

Faith-related questions:
What did you learn about God today?
When you think of God, how do you picture him?
If you could ask God a question, what would it be?
What do you like most about God?
What happened today that you think would have made God laugh, smile or cry?
If you had to choose between having all four limbs and having a close friendship with God what would it be?
If you had to choose between having lots of money and having a close friendship with God what would it be?

Everyone answers:
(Many of the questions above would be suitable for everyone to answer.)
Say one thing you appreciate about the person on your right. Then that person does the same, until all are done.

One person per dinner:
Ask each person what aspect of their life they wish could be better, then have them solve the problem, thus feeling a sense of intellectual ability, achievement, independence in small areas of his life.

Do you have an interesting question to add to this list? Or a funny or interesting story to add having tried a question from this list? I’d dig to hear it…

My kids are evil.

Good. Now that I’ve got your attention, let me explain. Little kids are a lot of things – sweet, cute, sticky (most of the time), small, lovable, smelly (again, most of the time). But compassionate, kind, gracious and selfless? Nope, nope, nope and… nope. And here in lies the rub. All too often we mistake their sweetness and smallness for goodness. Our children are wonderful gifts. But they are not born with great character – the kind that will ultimately lead to world changers and planet shakers. Goodness is not a birthright.

Julie Now, teaching our kids these kinds of qualities is easier said than done. I mean, just keeping them alive, fed, clothed and (relatively) clean is a quantum job! As a parent with three children under the age of five, I’m discovering that it’s better to integrate big life lessons than to separate them from our day-to-day lives. I’m hoping that as the days, weeks and years go by, my kids’ lives will be peppered with lots of useful moments that help them to become people of real character and to navigate their way through this oft upside-down world.

Here are some examples of character attributes we want our kids to have, and some ways we’re trying to instill them into the little buggers:

 Compassion – I remember the first time I tried to teach my eldest this virtue. We pulled up at a traffic light and saw a man begging for food. I rolled down my window, greeted him warmly and gave him an orange. As we drove away, I explained to Eli what we’d just done. He cried all the way home. Not out of sympathy for the poor man, but out of utter self pity that I had given away our food. Our orange! He wailed as if it was the last piece of fruit known to mankind. Another time, he asked me why a man was digging in the bins. I knelt down and told him gently about the huge disparity between rich and poor in our country, about how that man probably had kids at home, and that their home was nothing like ours, and how different their supper would look to ours. And that, despite how different our lives were, we were no better than that man. Again, Eli wept. And again, not out of compassion, but because somewhere in my story I had mentioned the word cupcake, and now he was sure he would die if he did not have a cupcake right this very minute. I’m not making this up. My kids are evil!

Courage – One of our kids is inherently skittish. We feel it’s our job to build into him the confidence he’ll need to face life well. So we don’t just let him get away with not trying new, scary things. We encourage him. We often say, ‘Just because you’re scared, doesn’t mean you can’t do it – you can!’ And he’s always so glad when he does eventually try and succeed at something new.

Robustness – This is such an undervalued attribute these days. When was the last time you heard someone say, “John is such a catch. He’s so robust!” And yet it’s one of the make-or-break qualities to get through life alive and happy! We try to teach our kids to suck it up when life sucks. We don’t say that of course, we say ‘It’s not the end of the world.’ And we say it sooo often that most of the time now, we just say, “It’s not the end of the?” and they finish the sentence themselves, as they take a deep breath and wipe their snotty faces clean with their sleeves. Children are charming like that.

So to sum up, I’m learning that good character isn’t going to fall from the sky onto my little ones. But every day is jam-packed with great opportunities to teach, inspire and drag them (kicking and screaming) toward it!

[Julie, among other things is someone with a gifted prophetic voice, a writer of note and an amazing woman role model for hundreds of younger women around her. She is the wife of Terran who is a friend of mine i have done a bunch of speaking with or near for many years and they keep their friends constantly amused with an assortment of things their kids say via the Facebook]

[To read the next inspiring piece on raising world changers, shared by my great friend Bruce Collins, click here]

i’ve been wanting to get some different perspectives on this whole dating thing and so i asked my friend Terran if he would be able to write something on the one aspect of dating. And he said no. Something about having two children and a job or something… BUT what he did do for me [he is a super busy dude and i suspected he wouldn’t have time so this is great] is send me a link to a preach he did on the topic which i have heard before and which is very much worth listening to if you have the capacity and bandwidth and so on – so if you do then please head over here for a talk called “When sparks fly”

the talk was part of a series that Common Ground church in Rondebosch did and in fact, if you are able to i would encourage you to go and listen to the whole Sex in the City series which you can do over here.

let me know what u think… there’s some good stuff there.

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