Friday, January 15, 2021
Home Authors Posts by Donna Burke

Donna Burke

Married to your best friend

More than just sex

Research suggests that the key to a long-lasting relationship is not sex, but friendship. A study lead by Dr Laura Vanderbilt of Purdue University in Indiana found that people who put more emphasis on friendship and invested time in keeping the friendship aspect of their relationship strong, were less likely to experience a break-up than other couples whose focus was on other areas.

Now, this may not be much of a surprise to some, but the fact that a study was needed to verify this information, suggests that not everyone is aware that friendship is a vital part of keeping a relationship together.

Friends first

After nearly 11 years of marriage I can heartily recommend it to anyone. I’m a much richer and better person because of the relationship that I have with my husband. It’s been the most wonderful journey, but there have been challenges along the way. Disagreements, limited finances, a miscarriage, coping with a growing family, frustrations and disappointments at work; all these things have tested our relationship, but at the heart of who we are as a couple, is the strongest friendship I’ve ever experienced. We were friends before we began dating. I loved spending time with my husband and that part of our relationship hasn’t changed.

I know that not every relationship is the same and not everyone can say they are married to their best friend, but if you’re willing to invest the time and attention necessary, it’s easy to strengthen your friendship and, ultimately, your marriage.

Best Friends Forever

Here are a few things you can do to cultivate a stronger friendship with your spouse:

  1. Find something you enjoy doing together and go do it!
  2. Take an interest in things that your spouse enjoys.
  3. Choose to spend time with one another rather than alone or with someone else.
  4. When you disagree, think how you would respond if your spouse was your friend – sometimes we are kinder and more forgiving of our friends than our spouses.
  5. Find ways to treat your spouse or do something special for them.
  6. Share your secrets, your hopes and your fears.
  7. Be the kind of friend to your partner that you would like them to be to you.

Real intimacy

It’s so easy at times to take marriage and our spouse for granted, but marriage needs to be valued and nurtured for it to be the best it can be. Sex and romance are both important aspects of marriage, but it’s friendship that will hold it all together. Real intimacy in marriage isn’t about what you do in bed, but its about allowing the other person to see those areas that aren’t on display to the rest of the world, opening up, and being a safe place for each other.

Do you have a close friendship with your spouse? How have you invested in that area of your marriage?

Parenting isn’t for the faint-hearted

Kids should come with manuals

I love kids and I love being a parent. Having said that, parenting is most definitely not what I thought it was going to be.  To be honest, before my firstborn came into this world, I’m not sure I really had any idea what being a parent really looked liked, but like all first-timers, I learnt on the job. Now, nearly 8 years on, with four amazing kiddies running around, I’d love to say I’ve got it all figured out but the truth is I’m still learning on the job and trying not to completely mess up these incredible little individuals.

Of all the aspects of being “Mom” I’ve encountered along the way, I can, with all sincerity, say that figuring out how to set and keep healthy discipline boundaries has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced. Not only that – just when I think I’ve got it all together, and my children are behaving like the angels I know they are, and all is well with the world, something, somewhere shifts, the sky starts falling and I have to start the process again. I love being a parent but it certainly isn’t a job for the faint-hearted!

The ‘D’ word

Discipline is such a misconstrued word. In many minds it’s equated with punishment, but punishment is about paying for something you’ve done wrong. Discipline, on the other hand, is about setting limits and drawing lines to keep you from doing something that will require punishment. The purpose of discipline is to teach a child how to be in control of themselves and act in a way that is acceptable. A child without boundaries or lacking in discipline is literally out of control and it’s a very sad thing to see. There are no limits, no restrictions; and as amazing as this might sound in theory, in practice it’s a very scary place for any child.

Why are boundaries and discipline important?

  • Sense of Security: Boundaries and discipline are a vital part of a child’s sense of security. In the same way that routines surrounding meals and bedtime are comforting and build a sense of continuity, boundaries and limits that are consistent, reduce uncertainty, and consequently the anxiety that comes with it. As parents we need to remember that children are just children. As much as they may act as though they want their own way, they feel much safer when they know a trusted adult is in control.
  • Preparation for the real world: Discipline is all around us. As adults we live in a world where there are rules and boundaries that tell us what is acceptable within society and what is not. Grown-ups know that you can’t always get what you want and throwing a tantrum isn’t going to change that. Disciplining your child is a way of showing them that the world doesn’t always revolve around them and their needs and teaches them how to accept that.

A marathon, not a sprint

Discipline is never a quick fix or about finding an easy shortcut. It requires patience and buckets of self-control (and a healthy sense of humour is a helpful bonus). Discipline is an integral part to raising well-rounded, lovely, healthy individuals who will hopefully add something good to the world rather than just take.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when setting boundaries for your children:

  1. Plan ahead: It’s hard to create discipline in the heat of the moment. Have boundaries and limits in place and make sure your child knows what you expect from them before things start to fall apart.
  2. Look ahead: When setting limits, think about what kind of person you want your child to be when they’re older. If you want them to be courteous and treat people with respect, tailor your discipline around how they treat others.
  3. Be consistent: Once you’ve set a boundary or a rule, stick to it. This applies to your routines as well, e.g. bed time, meals, etc.
  4. Stay in control: This one is two-fold: remember you’re the parent and you’re in charge but also keep yourself under control. Never let your anger or frustration get the better of you.
  5. Keep your expectations age-appropriate: You’re setting everyone up for a fall if you’re asking a three-year-old to follow the same discipline as a nine-year-old.
  6. Love your child: Discipline can be tough and frustrating for everyone involved but your child still needs to know that you’re on their side and your love is not conditional.

Children are a gift from God. They are precious beyond words and the task of raising a child is an amazing privilege – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I think at some point most parents feel completely out of their depth and wonder what on earth they’re doing.  There are days when you will feel that it’s all gone wrong and other days when everything will work like a dream. Yet, regardless of whether it’s plain sailing or a perfect storm: tomorrow is another day to pick yourself up and try again.

A few thoughts on the GOP Presidential candidate race

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I’m not a particularly political animal but the latest round of presidential candidates vying to be ‘the man’ (or woman) for the Republicans in the next presidential election, has definitely caught my interest.

By the people, for the people

I’m not an American so I can’t vote in their elections, and to be honest I don’t fully understand all the workings of their political system, but I have become fascinated by the way in which candidates are treated by the public, by the press and by each other. The insults being thrown around, speculation about this one’s eligibility, questioning of that one’s capabilities and so forth; it really is the ultimate reality television show, keeping us tuned in to see who will outwit, outlast and outplay the rest of the field.

The ‘In Crowd’

The defining characteristic of this particular race has been the battle between the establishment (career politicians) and the outsiders (business people, doctors, etc.) and leading the pack from the get go has been Donald Trump. Much has been said as to why Mr Trump and the other ‘outsiders’ have taken such a strong and enduring lead in this process. Many commentators suggest that the American public are disillusioned with Washington, politicians and government in general and the likes of Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson and to some extend Senator Ted Cruz (a politician seen as an outsider) offer a welcome change from the status quo.

The question that seems to stump most people is why, while other candidates are struggling to gather support, Donald Trump is able to make the polarising, blunt and at times hugely controversial comments that he does without seeming to shock anyone in his audience and still have people in their masses supporting his bid to be the candidate for the next presidential election.

Swings and Round-abouts

When Ben Carson’s honesty was questioned over details about his education and experiences growing up, his numbers in the polls took a nosedive. When Donald Trump was called out by the media over his comments regarding Muslims celebrating when the World Trade Center fell, his numbers hardly changed. Both candidates were challenged over their honesty and integrity but the public seems to hold one more accountable than the other.

I believe this has something to do with familiarity, or at least perceived familiarity. Before this candidacy race began I would hazard a guess that the majority of Americans were unfamiliar with most of the individuals stepping forward. Mr Trump, however, was a whole different kettle of fish. He’s not just a very successful business person but a celebrity whose life has been documented in the press, followed on news broadcasts and whose way of doing business, dealing with people and conducting himself has been displayed on televisions internationally thanks to the reality TV show ‘The Apprentice’.

All of these things have led to a level of familiarity. When Donald Trump insults a fellow candidate it’s not surprising because he’s done the same on numerous occasions on television. When he seems to exaggerate a claim or is sketchy on details, it’s excused because that’s just his ‘usual’ way. The reason why people seem not to be shocked by much of what he says is because making shocking statements is what Donald Trump does and anyone who has watched him for any length of time knows this. The same cannot be said of the other candidates. When another individual makes a slip or says something unwise, their whole character is called into question as though a single mistake is an indication that they aren’t who people initially thought they were. It seems as though the old adage of ‘better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t’ is working well in Donald Trump’s favour.

What you see is what you get

When it comes to trusting people in any sphere, but especially those leading our countries, we like to feel that we know the whole story. Even if the story isn’t always the prettiest or most attractive, we’d rather know what we’re dealing with upfront than be surprised by something unexpected along the way. Transparency and consistent behaviour build a sense of confidence that otherwise would be difficult to establish. Jesus taught us that we should let our “yes” be yes and our “no” be no rather than making grand promises that we can’t keep. Imagine a world where leaders and politicians lived according to this life philosophy.  

Watch this space

With a few more months to go before America goes to the polls I will continue to watch this process with interest. America plays a pivotal role on the world’s stage and her Commander in Chief has a significant contribution to make in global matters. I pray that whoever is elected, whether Democrat or Republican, establishment or outsider, they have the wisdom needed to do the job well. The bible tells us that God establishes authority and leaders and that we should pray for those in leadership. It seems apt then that the motto of the United States doesn’t look to man but declares ‘In God we Trust’.

Have you been following the build up to these elections? I’d love to know your thoughts on the race so far and who you think is likely to be the winning candidate.

 

Allowing your children to face challenges

Set up for a loss

I read a really interesting blog post this week about why Generation Y folks aren’t happy. It was interesting for a few reasons, firstly because as a 30-something I fall into the age group of the Gen-Y demographic (anyone born between the late 1970’s and the mid 1990’s) and yet I would say that I am (on most days) happy with my lot in life. But also it made a claim that I got me thinking. According to the writer, one of the reasons why this age group is seemingly dissatisfied is because we were raised to believe that we, as individuals, are special and generally given an easy ride. This led to unrealistic expectations when we entered the ‘real world’.

Special is the new average

The fact is we can’t all be special. We can be interesting, intelligent, gifted and downright wonderful but not everyone can be given the label special. Special by definition means better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual. If we believe that everyone is special, then what we are actually saying is no-one is.

I love telling my kids that they are amazing! Praising my children and encouraging them is second nature to me but if I constantly tell them that they are wonderful for being able to finish their dinner or so clever for remembering to say thank you I am probably doing them a disservice because I’m celebrating things that should be the norm.

Don’t get me wrong: I believe that the right kind of praise and encouragement is vital, but very often praise isn’t given because it is genuinely deserved. We live in a society that likes to reward people for just having a go. Some schools no longer give prizes at sports day or athletic tournaments to the winners, but instead reward anyone who participated. While I love the idea of every child getting some recognition I know that in the adult world just showing up isn’t going to win you anything and I’d rather my children understand that they have to reach and work to achieve their goals than have them believe life is going to be a cakewalk.

Hands-off approach

Moms and Dads have a tricky job. On top of all the other wonderful and ticklish aspects of parenting (of which there are many), they must walk the tightrope between building healthy self-confidence and giving their offspring the idea that they are the next superhero. They must make the decision over which challenges they allow their children to face and work through and possibly fail at, and which difficulties to lend a hand with, cushioning the blow and saving the day.

The truth is that difficulties and challenges aren’t all negative. Very often the hard times can be the most valuable learning experiences. Being one of the crowd and an ‘average Joe’ doesn’t mean you don’t have value, it just means you may have to work a bit harder to rise above common-place. By allowing your child the opportunity to work for the things they want in life you are giving them the gift of being able to appreciate the true value of the things they earn.

You’ll never walk alone

As parents we aren’t supposed to be a fairy god-mother who fixes every problem or supplies an escape route whenever times get hard. We’re there to support, give guidance and comfort when needed. God’s role is much the same. Very often people get angry at God when things go wrong or life isn’t fair, but God never said he’d fix all our issues, keep us from tragedy or make life full of daisies and rainbows. He’s not that kind of parent. He did promise that he’d never leave us. God has promised to always be there, no matter what we are facing, no matter what life throws at us or how badly we fail.

Being a Person of Influence

Influence:  the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.

Making the grade

At the end of one year and the beginning of the next, it has become the trend for magazines and television shows to list and announce the people they consider to have had the biggest influence on society in the previous 12 months. I’m always interested to see the list of those honoured in these countdowns. Actors, sports people, politicians, musicians, business people, doctors and innovators. The diversity is widespread but each individual contributed something that, in someway, shaped the culture around them.

These lists are usually limited though. In a world of seven, or so, billion people a mere handful are recognized as making a meaningful mark. So what about the rest of us?

You may never break the Internet, discover the cure for anything or create a technology that changes the way we interact with each other but that doesn’t mean you are not a person of influence. Influence is about making a difference and having an effect on the people or situation around you and this is something that we all can achieve, regardless of education, career, background or position.

What does influence look like?

You could argue that my life is fairly small. My sphere is likewise, limited but even though I may not have a large reach I have the ability to have a great influence in the circumstances I currently inhabit. My life, my attitude and my action have a huge impact on my children. The relative influence I am able to exercise on their lives is monumental. Granted my existence may not change the world as we know it, but who I am and how I live will most certainly change their world and I’m the only person on the planet who can be me. You may not have children but the people who you regularly interact with; your family, your work colleagues, your friends and neighbours are all points of contact where you are able to make a difference, for better or for worse and you’re the only you there is.

Making a difference

God made each of us unique. We each have gifts and abilities that can be used to touch the lives of those around us and it’s through our relationships with others that very often we are able to have the most influence and make the most difference. You may not consider what you do to be terribly important or in anyway significant but don’t underestimate how important the smallest act of kindness, genuine display of care or sincere encourage can be.

In the New Testament Jesus told us that we should love one another as he loves us. Regardless of who you believe Jesus to be, he is without a doubt a person of enormous influence and at the heart of who and what he is, is love.

Taking care of your budget

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To budget or not to budget?

It’s the beginning of a new year.  All the parties and celebrations have come to an end and it’s time to dismantle the tree and return to the usual routine. Sadly for many families the Christmas season may have taken as much toll on their bank balance as it did on their waistline and now it’s time to assess the damage. In circumstances like this there is only one sensible plan of action, budget! Yes, I know that this may be a scary word and has no fun or happiness attached to it but when applied in the right way and approached with a positive mindset a budget can make your life a whole lot simpler.

The fact of the matter is that no matter whether you’re in debt and need to find a way out, or if you’re earning enough for your household needs, budgeting your finances is still a good idea. A budget isn’t just a tool to curb spending and take the fun out of shopping trips, it’s actually about taking control of your finances and knowing where your money is going. When done right a budget can liberate you from money worries because you are controlling your finances, instead of your finances controlling you!

Where to start

The best place to begin a plan for your finances is to write it down. There are many budget templates available online to help you do this and it’s an important place to start because you can’t stick to something you’ve forgotten.

Next you need to figure out your income. How much money comes into your account every month after tax? If you are paid on a weekly, biweekly or on a commission basis you may need to do some calculations to get to the final figure but working on a month by month basis will easier to manage.

Once you have this figure, you need to look at your expenses. This can be a bit daunting but break it up into categories and it will make life easier. Start with your fixed outgoings, things like rent or bond payments, medical insurance, car payments, school fees, water and electricity etc. that are always the same month on month. When you’ve done that, start adding in your other expenses. This is where you would include things like phone bills, groceries, entertainment and recreation costs. Don’t leave anything out. If you like to get a coffee on a Saturday morning or go to the movies once a month, include this in your breakdown, because if it’s not there you wont get an accurate picture of what you’re spending.

When this is done you need to compare the amount that you are bringing in with the amount that is going out. This can be hard to see, especially if your spending is larger than your income but don’t worry this is where you need to start making some changes. You need to decide which expenses are absolutely indispensable and which you can amend or do without completely. You need to be honest with yourself and possibly make some hard decisions but it’s the only way, if you’re living beyond your means, that you will get some control of your financial situation. Maybe you don’t need to get a coffee every week? If you’re eating out regularly or going to the movies or paying for extra TV channels these are all things you limit, if your earnings don’t stretch far enough. It’s not going be easy to say goodbye to some of the ‘nice-to-haves’ but they are, after all, luxury items and until you are able to afford them, they aren’t worth the stress that comes with overspending and getting further and further into debt.   If you are really struggling the most sensible thing to do is find a financial advisor who will be able to give you proper guidance and advice to help you plan your way forward.

Don’t be anxious

Our finances are one of those areas in life that can dominate and cause anxiety if we let it take control. It doesn’t matter how you look at it, money is a necessary part of life but that doesn’t mean it is the be all and end all. It is a means to an end and needs to serve us rather than us serving it. The bible has a lot to say about this topic. In Luke chapter 12 verse 22 Jesus said:

do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.  Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!

God is interested in our finances. He doesn’t want us to weighed down with worry about our daily needs to a point that it consumes us. The bible tells us that if we are so concerned with money and wealth it will become like a master to us, taking the place that rightfully belongs to God. We need to remember that money is no more than a tool, but it is the way in which we use it and manage it that can cause problems and if we are seeking security in wealth that we can only find in God, we will always be disappointed.

Bottoms Up! – The importance of drinking water

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Water. One of the most everyday, normal substances on the planet and yet without it we’d be in serious trouble.

As a mom I know that water is important and I’m always telling my children to drink up but you’re more likely to find me with a mug of tea in my hand than a water bottle. Like many of my mommy friends, I’m great at taking care of my kids but tend to be less concerned with my own health.  It’s bad I know so I’ve decided to do some digging and find out more about this miracle substance to back up my mommy-sense and convince myself I should make more of an effort for my own health’s sake.

What’s in it for me?

We are made up of 60% water! It makes sense when you see how much of our bodily functions involve fluid. The water in your body transports nutrients, is involved in digestion, circulation, temperature control, saliva production and absorption. Without it your body can’t function properly and by drinking more water you help to keep the balance of fluid as it should be.

Water helps keep your skin looking good. If you’re dehydrated, your skin will become dry and wrinkled which is never a particularly great look. The water you drink keeps your kidneys functioning properly and their primary role is to remove toxins from your body. When your fluid levels are low, your muscles don’t function as well as they can. It’s also important to bare in mind that when using your muscles and doing physical activities you are losing more fluid through sweat.

How much do I need?

Popular thinking is that you need to drink around 8 eight ounce glasses of water a day. That’s about 1.9 litres of fluid. This can vary depending on who you talk to (and on whether you’re in a hot climate or not) but the general consensus seems to be if you’re thirsty, drink! According to the Mayo Clinic, the Institute of Medicine says that the adequate intact for an adult man is closer to 3 litres a day and for a woman 2.2 litres a day.

When it comes to what to drink, water of course is first prize but this isn’t your only option. According to a study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) the presence of caffeine in drinks has no significant effect on hydration level. That means coffee and tea count as part of your 1.9 litres a day! (cue Happy dance!) Food can also contribute towards your daily fluid intact.

Starting a good habit

This is all good and helpful to know but as we all know, information alone doesn’t change much, you need to apply it, in order for it to have some effect. Here are a few ideas to help boost your intake and make drinking enough water part of your daily routine.

  1. If you work at a desk, have a bottle of water on your desk. If you’re out and about keep a bottle in your bag. It’s easier to make sure you drink water, if you have water where you are. If you have to go looking for it, you’re less likely to drink it.
  2. If you struggle to drink water in it’s natural form you can get a bit creative by adding things to it to make it more palatable. Try adding fruit slices like oranges, lemons or berries. Herbs like mint also make a nice addition and fizzy bubbles may also help keep things interesting.
  3. Try setting yourself a drinking schedule. Maybe have a glass of water at the start of every hour, or every time you go to the toilet take a detour and top up with a glass of water at the same time. If you tie your drinking to something that happens as part of your usual routine, your routine will automatically act as a reminder to grab a drink.
  4. At the start of every meal drink a glass of water before you eat. That way you won’t eat more than your body needs and you’ll get your water in before you’re too full – double bonus!
  5. Keep a glass of water by your bed. First thing in the morning before you do anything else, have a drink. Don’t forget to put a glass there before you go to bed the night before.

The best way to increase your water intake is to make it a habit. So which every way you decide to boost your consumption, find something that will fit into your daily schedule and is easy to maintain. It’s probably not going to help completely changing your lifestyle because you won’t stick at it and will most likely only end up feeling defeated in the process.

As moms, it’s very easy to put everyone else first and neglect our own health, but we’re really very little use if we’re not healthy and taking care of ourselves.  Our bodies have been wonderfully designed by God but unless put the right things in, we make it difficult for them to function as they should.  Our families need us to be around and functioning, because if ‘Mama’s doing ok, everyone’s doing ok’, so look after yourself Mama, you’re a valuable and vital part of your family.

New Years Resolutions

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Ring in the new

With January practically upon us, it’s time to think of New Year’s resolutions again. Those promises that we make to ourselves to improve on the things we didn’t do so well at in the previous year. I have to admit I’m pretty useless when it comes to resolutions and don’t normally make them but out of sheer curiosity I did a little search for those resolutions that are the most popular and according to wikipedia these are the things you are most likely to find on people’s New Years resolution list.

  • Be more positive, laugh more often, enjoy life
  • Get out of debt, save money, make small investments
  • Perform better at current job, get a better job, establish own business
  • Get a better education, learn something new, study often, read more books, improve talents
  • Become more organized, be less stressed, watch less television
  • Take a trip
  • Volunteer to help others, give to charity
    Get along better with people
  • Make new friends
  • Spend time with family members
  • Get engaged/get married, have kids
  • Pray more, be closer to God, be more spiritual
  • Be more involved in sports or different activities

Not as easy as it seems

Sadly according to Forbes magazine, only 8% of those who set themselves resolutions actually succeed. That’s not a great success rate, and yet every year a large number of us continue to make goals for the New Year to improve ourselves and our lifestyle.

Where it all began

The origins of New Year resolutions can be traced as far back as the Babylonians, when the people vowed to return things they had borrowed and to pay off their debts. It wasn’t until the days of the Roman empire that New Year was celebrated in January as we do today. When this tradition first emerged the theme was very much to do with moral behaviour and invariably focused on treating others well.

Looking back, looking forward

I’ve never been great at setting or keeping resolutions but I do think that the beginning of a new year is a great opportunity to look back over the past 12 months and consider your successes and struggles. It’s also the ideal time to dream big for the coming year and put together a game plan on how best to achieve those things your want to add to your life. It’s about being intentional and not leaving the important things to chance and letting the time you have slip by without taking action.

Have a game plan

If you are hoping to make and keep your New Year’s resolutions here are a few things that can help you make goals you can stick to.

1. Keep it simple – don’t create a list as long as your arm that you have trouble remembering. Pick one or two things you want to achieve and leave it there. It’s better to be successful at one thing than to fail at six.

2. Be specific – instead of saying I want to read more, try saying I will read a book a month. Give yourself mile markers along the way so you can take small steps to your overall goal.

3. Keep your goal in plain view – write down your goal and keep it where you can see it. Remind yourself of what you’re trying to do and tick off your achievements as you go and keep yourself motivated.

In Proverbs chapter 16 and verse 9 the bible says:

We plan the way we want to live, but only GOD makes us able to live it. (The Message)

As much as we like to plan and make personal goals and resolutions, statistics tell us that even our best intentions can fail to make a difference in the long run. This doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea to plan, but in our own strength real change is difficult to achieve. It’s God in us that really makes the difference.

Why is Christmas such a big deal?

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The most wonderful time

According to the popular song this season is the most wonderful time of the year.  Christmas! The word alone is enough to fill you with either a thrill of excitement or an overwhelming sense of ‘Bah! Humbug!’ depending on your point of view. For every person I know who begins preparations and planning sometime in September, I know of another, who greets the whole holiday with a roll of the eyes and look of bored resignation. I have to be honest, and own up to the fact, that I am one of the former. I think Christmas is amazing! But I do understand the point of view of those who would rather forgo the festivities for something with a little less sparkle and fewer jingling bells.

I’m a Christian, so for me the meaning of Christmas goes beyond the tree, the gifts and the food. As much as I love all of those things, they are just the dressing. The heart of this holiday is a celebration of hope; it’s the celebration of a promise fulfilled and if that was the only gift I received each year, to be completely honest, that would be more than enough for me.

Back to basics

The story of the birth of Jesus has been told many times. If you have never read it for yourself the best place to go is the book of Luke or Matthew in the bible. For many, it is little more than a children’s story about a star, angels and a baby. Good for a play and some nice carols may be, but nothing more. I have a slightly different point of view. For me, remembering and celebrating the arrival of Jesus is hugely significant.

The birth of Christ was the moment that God became a man and came to live with us. One of the names that Jesus is given in the bible is Immanuel, this literally means God with us. The God who made everything, humbled himself to become like one of his creation, subjecting himself to the trials and the rules that govern man, just so that he could be with us and one day experience death. By Jesus being born, the gap that formed between God and man when Adam disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden became smaller.

A New Hope

This one event marks a new era of hope for the world. The song ‘Oh Holy Night’ puts it this way:

‘Long lay the world in sin and e’er pining. ‘Till He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth. A Thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. While yonder breaks a new an glorious morn’.

The bible also tells us about the choir of Angels who sang when Jesus was born. We read about the shepherds who came and praised God for what they saw. We read of the magi or wise men who, followed a star and traveled to bring him gifts. All of these things are acts of worship. This word comes from the old English word ‘woerthship’, which means to state, proclaim or give back worth. The response to the gift of Jesus was worship and we can still have the same response today.

For me Christmas is many things. Yes it’s a time to enjoy being with my friends and family. Yes it includes gifts and celebration, but above all it’s a time to remember that Jesus is the greatest gift. I celebrate because, his coming means, I don’t need to be afraid or face life’s challenges alone. Christmas is a beautiful step forward in the plan God had to restore the broken relationship between him self and mankind.

Manners Matter

Manners Maketh the (little) Man

There is something incredibly satisfying as a parent when you hear your child being well mannered. A well-behaved and courteous child is the stuff of dreams and no matter how you look at it, their behaviour, good or bad, is a reflection on your skill as a parent (ouch!).

Etiquette or good manners may seem like an old-fashioned approach to life, especially in a society that functions at such a high speed but at the root of good manners is our ability to treat people with respect and should be of the utmost importance.

Manners are a habit. They should not be kept for special social occasions or for when you want to impress but they should be part of your everyday life and of how you deal with those around you.

To train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” – Proverbs 22:6

Monkey see, Monkey do

As a parent you need to show and teach your child how they should act and how they should treat others. This process starts from birth and it all begins with how you treat your child. When you get to the heart of it, manners are all about respect and respect is being aware of how you make other people feel. If you don’t show your child respect and consider their feelings, it’s highly unlikely that they will be able to show respect to you or to anyone else for that matter.

“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” – Emily Post

As with most aspects of parenting, consistency is the key, but so is age appropriateness. It’s no good expecting a two year old to have the table manners appropriate for an eight year old but you can structure your expectations depending on the developmental stage of your child. Bare in mind that if you force the issue, it may have the reverse of the desired effect and make manners a point of conflict, which won’t help at all.

Another way to make good manners a habit that sticks, is to praise good manners rather that pointing out all the occasions that manners have been forgotten. When correction is needed, remember to do it politely. Ranting and raving is the direct opposite of good manners and will only succeed in exhibiting the wrong way of dealing with people.

Remember the Golden Rule – ‘Do As You Would Be Done By’

In Matthew chapter seven and verse 12, the bible tells us that we should treat others in the way that we would like to be treated. Our manners say an awful lot about who we are and how much we value others. It’s difficult to say that we care about people who we don’t treat well or bother to be courteous too.

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