Character Lessons in Everyday Living

It is sad to say, but another school year is about to begin.  At our house we are scrambling to finish summer reading, shocked once again that our good intentions of finishing that assignment early did not pan out.

Once I wrap my brain around the fact that my beloved summer is coming to a close, I always get a little bit excited about school starting back.  I like the routine.  It feels like “New Years” much more than January 1.  My teacher genes kick in and I start making mental lists of all the things I want my kids to learn.  Yes, if I am not careful, I can be one of those over-achieving moms who wants to teach her toddlers to recognize famous paintings.  But most of all, I want my kids to have integrity.  I formed a whole company around that desire.  (www.integritytime.com, if your are interested!)  So, character lessons are of upmost importance in my heart.

I remember the day when the high-pitched sound of little girls playing found its way down the stairs and into the living room. Wow! They are having fun! I thought somewhat nervously. A bit later, my almost-four-year-old, Sally, came into the room urgently requesting water. “You have to come now, Mama! We need water.”

A little while later, I walked with my mouth wide open, unable to comprehend what I was seeing. Apparently, the girls had found an extra large bottle of baby powder and had turned the upstairs into a “winter wonderland”. Circles of white were found on every surface of the once-brown hardwood floors, evidence of the fun time of “skating” they had just experienced. Anna and Elsa would be proud.  Puddles of milky-white water were also evidence of their attempts to clean up their mess.

The floor was mopped six times, and it still looked like a winter wonderland, although more like the snow dusting typical in North Mississippi. How can three little girls do so much damage in such a short amount of time? Obviously, we had an opportunity to teach some character lessons to our precious princess.

At a very early age, Sally is learning that just because it is fun, does not mean that it is right. She is learning how to ‘fess up to her mistakes, and how to take responsibility for her choices. She is learning how to clean up her messes, and make right what went wrong. Most importantly, she is learning how to say, “I’m sorry”—not just with words, but also with feeling. She is learning to take “I’m sorry” to the final step, by also asking, “Will you forgive me?” And of course, the answer is a responding yes!

Character lessons start at a very young age. As parents, we are daily confronted with teaching moments. If we see these situations as teaching moments which will help mold our children’s character, we will be less likely to react in anger and more likely to make the most of the situation.

As we sat on the couch, discussing the situation with our sweet angel, I had an unexpected feeling considering the moment we were experiencing. I felt extreme pride. She sat with her dark hair streaked with white powder, eyes wide and serious. And the first thing out of her mouth was, “I’m sorry. It was my fault.” Bingo! That is a life-long lesson learned. Well worth the bottle of baby powder it required.

2015-02-01 01.16.39

I have often heard, and I whole-heartedly agree, that character is how you act when no one is watching. But I believe it is more than that. Character is how you react when you know you are wrong. Character is admitting you are wrong and taking full responsibility. Character is saying, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” Character is tested and proved in how you react to wrong choices as much as it is choosing what is right.

I am happy to report that Sally is back on the right road of character, at least until the next “teaching moment”.

How do you teach good character to your children?

PS If you want to check out a biblical approach to teaching integrity to your children or grandchildren, check out my program, Integrity Time Bible Lessons!

Integrity Time Bible Lessons


Dear America

This letter recently appeared in North Mississippi Parent magazine.  I thought that this holiday weekend would be the perfect time to share it.  Happy 4th!Dear America logo

Dear America,

First, let me say, you are beautiful. There is no other like you on the face of the earth. You were created by God and for God to be a force of good and righteousness. I love you, America.

I have had the great opportunity to travel to many countries all over the world. And there is no place like home. The feeling of touching down on American soil always brings a smile and a happy sign—Ahhh, I am home! I get the same feeling no matter if I am landing in Miami, New York, Atlanta, or Chicago.

I celebrate you, America. I want you to remember the foundation on which you were created. It was a good foundation, a righteous foundation. It was born in the hearts of men who dared to look ahead to future generations—to us. They were willing to give themselves for our sake.

Last year, I got to see my sweet little Asian in her end of the year preschool program. She sang and danced and jumped up and down. I was a proud mom, and just as every mother there felt about her own child, I secretly thought mine was the cutest.

The program had a patriotic theme and at one point I got a little misty-eyed when they sang This Land Is My Land.

This land is your land, this land is my land

From California, to the New York Island

From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters

This land was made for you and me

 

As I was walking a ribbon of highway

I saw above me an endless skyway

I saw below me a golden valley

This land was made for you and me.

I looked at the huge group of adorable children and saw not only precious American-born babies, but also saw some of Sally’s best friends including Sophie, also from China and Lucy, from Ethiopia. And yet, this land is their land.

Of course they don’t know what that means. They don’t realize how different their birth land is from the land which is now theirs. And maybe I don’t even know what that means for me, or at least I don’t take the time to think about it.

This land is my land, this land is your land. America is ours. We can say that because we have the freedom to say that.

Do we have any idea what it means that we can freely think, live, decide, determine, be what we want to be?

Do we have any idea what it means that we can love, and worship, and share, and speak truth?

Do we have any idea what it means that there are those who have fought and even died for us to be able to say and sing: This land is your land, this land Is my land?

As we celebrate the Fourth of July, let’s really remember this time. Let’s don’t just cook burgers and hot dogs. Let’s don’t just shoot fireworks or enjoy our time with family. Let’s really remember. And let’s thank God for the gift of this land.

So today, America, know you are loved and appreciated. Know that you are prayed for daily by me and countless others. Remember your great heritage and pass it on to the next generation.

God bless you, America.

Sincerely,

Sara Berry

 

PS:

  1. Parents, what are you doing to pass down love for our country, love for freedom? Would your kids say you love America? I think we need to fall in love with our country all over again. And then we need to pass it on to our children, so they can pass it on to theirs ….

Here are some practical ways you can show you love America.

  1. Vote. This is your right and your responsibility. I have known many people who will not vote because none of the candidates fit their exact list of qualifications. But we must realize that someone will win elections. And we can do our part in voting for the candidate that best fits our values, even if it is not a perfect fit.
  2. Always put your hand over your heart during the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. ‘Nuff said.
  3. When you see someone in the military, stop and shake their hand and say thank you. My son, Troy, actually taught me this one. When he was thirteen, we were in a store, in a hurry as usual. He stopped suddenly and turned to go down an aisle. Quite honestly, I felt irritated—didn’t he know we were in a hurry? Then the irritation turned to pride when I saw why he had turned. He walked up to a man in fatigues, held out his hand, and said, “I just want to say thanks for all you do for us.” Sometimes our kids understand better than we do.
  4. Pray for our country. Everyday. Especially now. And pray for yourself and your children–and me and my children–that we all would understand what we have before it is too late.

There is an old adage which states, “Few are privileged to enjoy the shade of the tree that they have planted.” But plant the tree anyway. We must plant the seeds of patriotism in our children and then future generations will enjoy its shade.

 


Though You Are Enough

This week I have so enjoyed learning from Lane Yoder and the lessons revealed through the Single’s Survival Guide to Valentine’s Day. It caused me to remember a particular season of longing in my own life. I was young and single.  I was at times content and focused, and other times I was longing for more. My heart’s desire was to be a wife and mother, yet God had not brought about “the one” yet. I wanted to give the Lord every part of my life, even my longings and desires. Yet that is often so much easier said than done. I felt my heart moving toward one particular person–a young man that was, in fact, one of my best friends. The transformation of love in my heart from that of best friend to much more was a very difficult transition.

My brother, Ken, had shared with me about the freedom of relinquishing our desires to the Father. He told me that he pictured his desires, whatever that may be, as a small box, like a gift. And in his prayers, he would offer the box, symbolizing his wants and desires, to the Lord. He would imagine leaving the box at the altar, and praying, “Not my will, but Yours, O God”.

So, through prayer, I brought my desires to God’s altar time and time again. However, I kept picking it back up, analyzing and trying to control it over and over. It was a vicious cycle of lay it down, pick it back up, lay it down, and pick it back up.

And then one day, I read about burnt offerings. It was February 14th, Valentine’s Day, 1991. Once again I was tempted with discontentment and sadness. I had begun reading the One Year Bible, as a New Year’s Resolution. I was tempted to skip the Old Testament reading, because it seemed so irrelevant to me. However, I wanted to hold true to my resolution, so I trudged through the assigned reading. The reading that day was about the preparation of the altars. I began to pray, saying, “Lord, I’ve tried that. I have tried again and again to lay down my desires and my unfulfilled dreams and hopes and wishes. I have tried to lay down my sadness and heartache, but I keep picking it back up.”

And then I read further about the preparation of burnt offerings. You see there were different types of offerings that the people presented to the Lord in the Old Testament. There were offerings of grain, and first fruits, there were offerings of sweet smelling incense, and drink offerings … and there were burnt offerings. And I began to think about the burnt offerings. If I offered my desires as a burnt offering, one of two things could happen. Either it would be something made beautiful, as silver refined in the fire, or it would be a black charred mess that I would not want to pick back up anyway. So I prayed that my desires would be as a burnt offering. I finally found that place of surrender. And the things that God had been trying to teach me during this difficult season suddenly began to form as truth in my heart. He was enough! He was what my heart longed for more than anything else. And, as time would tell, the burnt offering turned out to be a thing of beauty, refined by the fire of pain and surrender.

Within a month, the Lord had turned my situation totally around. The Lord rather dramatically told this young man, Mont Berry, that yes indeed I was the one He had prepared to be his wife. And yet, the refining fire had sealed my heart for my first love to be Jesus. I have found throughout our years of marriage that keeping Jesus as my first love allows me to love Mont and my children more purely, more completely, and more abundantly than I ever could if I had placed them first in my heart.

By July, I knew that we were going to be married, I just didn’t know when. I was to meet Mont in Nashville, where he was doing a rotation at Vanderbilt. The night before I left, I could not sleep because words kept rolling over and over in my mind. I got up and simply wrote down, in about five minutes, what the Holy Spirit was stirring within me. It was basically a summary, in the form of a poem, of the great lessons I had learned through that season of my life. I wrote it down in calligraphy on nice parchment paper, rolled it up, and put it in my backpack. I thought I would share it with Mont, if God so led. That Saturday, we went for a long drive, as Mont expressed his need to “get out of town”. Of course, I did not care where we were, as long as we were together. We drove to Black Mountain, North Carolina, and climbed the mountain trails to the top. There was a beautiful view, and Mont told me that it was the place that he had prayed to receive Christ as his Lord and Savior. I reached into the bag, and unrolled the poem and handed it to him to read. He read:

Though You Are Enough

Jesus, my love, my truest friend,

Joys you give me, and pain you mend.

How can I thank you? How can I express

What’s in my heart of gratefulness?

 

Though You are enough to satisfy,

You’ve given me another, in whom my trust can lie.

You’ve given me another love and friend

Who will stay beside me to the very end.

 

Though You are enough, my wholeness, I know,

You’ve given me someone faithful, someone I can hold.

Someone who my joys will share,

Someone who will see my pain and care.

Someone who loves You as much as I.

Someone who for Your Cause would die.

 

Though You are enough, I know it’s true,

I thank You for this other love, so fresh and new.

And when the newness fades away

By struggles and pain that will come our way,

We will still have You, our truest friend,

To rekindle our love and make us one again.

 

Though You are enough, this truth will ring;

Though I love You more, my Lord, my King;

Though You are enough, that’s plain to see,

Thank You, precious Jesus, for this other love for me.

 

After reading the poem, Mont reached into his backpack and pulled out a beautiful engagement ring, and asked me to marry him! Through the years, I have made a conscious effort to remember those lessons learned through that hard time. And I can truthfully say that Jesus is enough. I love Him more, yet He fills my heart with such an abundance of love for my husband and children, the depth of which I cannot even attempt to describe. Even through the difficult seasons of our lives, our Lord is at work. He takes care to prepare us for our future. The waiting is often long and hard. But during those waiting periods we can experience the warmth of faith, and the intimacy of friendship with the King of Kings. His plans are always worth the wait.

For our wedding we put the lyrics with the tune of an old hymn and my sister sang it during the ceremony as a wedding prayer. Ten years later, our dear friend, Rivers Rutherford, arranged to have it recorded in Nashville. Click on the link below to hear the beautiful result.

Dear Friend, as we wrap up this Valentine’s Day Series, please know that everyone has a story of longing and learning and letting go. And the answer to everyone’s difficult story is the fact that HE IS ENOUGH.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Day 30: The Fullness of God

30 Days of Prayer logo, 2015

 

 

               Day 30:  The Fullness of God

 

 

For this reason I kneel before You, Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. Lord, I pray that out of Your glorious riches my children may be strengthen with power through Your Spirit in their inner beings, so that You, Lord, may dwell in their hearts through faith. And I pray that they, being rooted and established in love may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that my children may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

                                    Ephesians 3: 14-19

 

This prayer found in Ephesians really says it all.  It combines the hopes and dreams I have for my children.  I want them to experience the fullness of God—not just a little bit, all of it.  I want them to know, really know, the love of Christ.  I want them to understand that the love of God is wide enough, long enough, high enough, deep enough to cover any mistake, any insecurity, any fear, any foe that they may encounter.  I want them to know the power of God in their hearts, and spirits, and souls, and minds.  I want them to be rooted in love, which will keep them steady when the tough winds of life blow.  It is for these reasons that I kneel before God, every day.  Many times I literally kneel, but always my heart is on its knees, bowing to the only One who has all the answers I need.

As these 30 Days of Prayer now come to a close, I hope that you will keep going.  I hope and pray that we are now in a habit of praying for the children in our lives.

It matters.

It makes a difference.

God does hear and will answer.

Just wait and see.


Day 29: Transforming Truth

30 Days of Prayer logo, 2015

 

 

            Day 29: Transforming Truth

 

 

Lord, please search the hearts of my children.  Point out anything in their hearts or minds that offends You.  Convict them of their sins, Lord.  It is only by the power of Your Holy Spirit that we truly see our actions and attitudes the way You do.  Change my children in the areas that they need change, and lead them along the path of everlasting life.   Psalm 139: 23-24  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

There is a fine line between teaching and nagging, between guiding to maturity and trying to control.  I have crossed this line many times, and it never turns out well.  Honestly, it took me a while to realize that I am not the Holy Spirit in their lives and I should not try to be.  It is, in fact, sinful to try to be.  Only the Holy Spirit can breathe transforming truth to my children to change what needs to be changed.  I am simply required to hold out truth to them, to teach truth to them—but it is the Holy Spirit who makes that truth transform them.

Our calling to a big family and lots of children is a great blessing, indeed.  It is also hard work.  A scripture that has been a great source of comfort to me is found in Isaiah 54:13

All your children will be taught by the Lord,
and great will be their peace.”

Did you catch that first word?  All.  I love that.  In this day and age it seems a difficult feat for all seven of my children to be followers of truth.  But God says differently, and I lay claim to that promise on a daily basis.  That is not to say that my children and yours want have seasons of wandering.  I have had those seasons, too.  But I believe God’s Word and I believe the power of His Holy Spirit.  I encourage you to believe for your children until they believe wholeheartedly for themselves.