• Jennifer Hastings

What if you Made Lasting Investments this Year?

I have a challenge for you. Well, two, actually. A marriage challenge and a parenting challenge.

Read this little poem by Dorothy Law Nolte, keeping your kiddos in mind. As you read, be open to what stirs in your heart. Is there a verse jumping off the page? Does one line make you proud as a peacock, whereas another makes you want to bury your head and beg for a parenting redo?

Pray for God to show you what character trait your child needs most this year.

We will come back to the poem, let it settle over your soul.

Just today, someone asked Carter what Santa brought him for Christmas. A blank look comes over his face, his eyes rolled back in his head as if he were reading the answer off the ceiling. Finally, he managed to remember and coughed up a loopty-loop racetrack. Not going to lie, I was chanting in my head a list of all the things he got for Christmas the whole time it took him to name just one.

We deliberate and fret over giving our kids the perfect Christmas gift, and sometimes by January, they have already forgotten, or the gift breaks in a matter of hours. Aka, the case of Claire's drone on Christmas. One flight and done.

I wonder if, we sometimes get caught in an invisible parent trap, one that brainwashes intelligent adults into grading themselves by delivering the best and most popular possessions to our children? I admit I feel this pressure the world places on parents. Everything in our lives speaks to this narrative, from social media to every advertisement we see, it is there. The subtle message you need this or that to be happy. Ever since I read this poem in November, though, I keep coming back to it, and it seems to ground me in what really matters.

The poem convicted me and made me stop to ask, what if I were more intentional about giving another kind of gift to my kids? What if I worked hard all year not to save money for Christmas presents, but to give gifts of encouragement, praise, and security! You know the parenting stuff that really makes a difference. What if we took the same care of selecting what character gifts we want to give our kids this year with the same intensity we select presents to put under the tree?

For my Claire, I see the need for more confidence. She worries about every little thing and second-guesses herself constantly. What if my encouragement, were the spark she needs to light her own self-confidence? What if I made her privy to all my wonderful thoughts about her. Could I help her see her worth and how wonderful she is through my eyes?

About three or four months ago, I casually praised Caroline for helping to clear the dinner table. Do you know that there is rarely a dinner when she isn't the first to get up and begin clearing the table? Being in the middle, she learns so much through watching her older sister, but wow, talk about the power of positive feedback. My goal is to offer her more praise for a job well done. I want to instill a work ethic in her, but more importantly, I want her to learn to be proud of herself for a job well done.

My Carter, bless his heart, being number three, he just needs more of my time. A couple of months ago, we happened to be home alone together, and I decided the dishes could wait and asked him what he wanted to do. We had a nice game of break the ice, but when we were cleaning up, he said, "This house is good for me." Which I suppose translates into I love your undivided attention, and I want more of it. In 2020, I am planning on being more intentional about joining his four-year-old world more with no agenda except to be with him.

Every year before Christmas, Stewart and I make our December date night a Christmas shopping marathon, where we buy the majority of their presents in one day. Exhausting, I know, but we find ourselves talking about our kids and laughing about how they have changed over the last year. Stuck in traffic, I take the opportunity to read him the poem and ran my new idea by him.

I love that this is the year of perfect vision, 2020, I'm praying for God to give Stewart and myself a vision for our kids. This year of dates, we will check in with our parenting goals. Besides that, it will make an excellent topic for conversation (have you ever meet a woman who didn't like to talk about her kids) and keep us accountable to investing in our kids' character. I don't know if leaving a legacy is on my mind more since losing my mom or if seeing your kids grow so fast just does it to you naturally, but I want to leave my kids more than money in the bank and material possessions. I want to leave them a foundation of character to stand on for the rest of their lives.

What about you? What do your kids need? As you read the poem, what came to your mind? Whatever came to your mind, that can be your focus. Just pick one thing to work on giving your child. You may have a grown-up child needing to hear you are proud of them. Maybe your adult baby needs encouragement about how they are raising their own babies.

I love how God continues to woo us and work on our character. He sees our potential and moves us toward it as fast as we let him. It makes perfect sense we should woo our own children and see them for the adults they have the potential to become, not as they are now. As a daughter of God, you are loved in this way. God is dedicated to helping you become all he has created you to be. He has gifted you with unique talents and gifts. God is presently wooing you and drawing you to a character that will last.

I'm adding our list of date nights to the end of the post because after I posted them last year, I had a few readers tell me they made a date with their husband. It doesn't have to be fancy, just some uninterrupted time together to connect. In fact, we even missed a couple of months last year. Plus, I realized this year I am going to work on my photography skills. I only have one really bad selfie of us together. I think I've been taking living in the moment to the extreme.

2019- Year of Dates

January-Date night at home. Cooked steak and sat at the kitchen table. Played cards until 1:00 in the morning, I may never see 1:00 am again, my usual bedtime is 10:00 even on a Friday night.

February- We ate at Urban Stack and saw Drew and Ellie Holcomb at the Walker Theater. Stew booked the Reed House for us, and we spent the in Chattanooga. Somewhat weird to spend the night so close to home, but so refreshing to have a night away. The Reed House is such a cool hotel.

March- We skipped it, or I forgot to write it down.

April- I surprised Stew and got us tickets to see his new favorite country group, Midland, at the Signal. We ate at Clyde's downtown. Cute restaurant and they were even having live music too!

May- Family date over Memorial Day at my Dad's cabin.

June- Beach trip (My dad came with us, so we got to take some walks on the beach without the kids)

July 4th- Camped out on our new property without the kids (they were with Stewart's parents) This might have been my favorite date of the year. We talked by the fire under the stars on our very own land. We woke up and went to Waffle House because the need for coffee is real. Oh, and of course, Stewart shot off fireworks. I felt a little guilty because his show could have put a small town to shame. He can't be trusted when it comes to fireworks.

August- Stewart took me on the world's largest yard sale on highway 127. This date was bittersweet because it was my mom's very favorite weekend of the year and sometimes the memories the yard sale brought up were just too much to handle in one day.

September- Forgot to write down

October- Tennessee Game in a BOX!!! Thank you to Eastman Chemical and Stew's work. (Lesson learned, check the picture before you leave the box, worst picture ever)

November- Family Date, TN Basketball Game, Aren't my nephews' cuties???

December- Christmas shopping.

Making memories, investing in your marriage, and kids, that is the good stuff, at least that is the way I see it. You don't have to leave the house to have a good date night. When we first started our date nights, most of them were at our home. I fed the kids early, let them watch a movie, and tricked them into going to bed earlier. Before Carter came along, I called it a sister date night. I let them eat hotdogs or pizza on my china with a fancy glass filled with Capri Suns. Sometimes I would pretend they had a reservation in the dining room and let them put on all their dress-up clothes.

Do not let excuses get in your way if you do not have the money, a walk is actually one of the best bonding dates you can have. Join me in a year of dates, and on your date spend a few minutes talking with your man about your new parenting goals.


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