Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Family Forte: The Dance for Appreciation

by: Topher & Ashley Wiles

We all struggle with wanting people to appreciate us, but the demographic that struggles with it the most is our children.  That’s why cute Clara at 3 years old regularly says, “Daddy, come watch the new dance I made up for you,” or “Daddy, look at this big stick I’m carrying.”  Of course, as a dutiful dad realizing that children need that appreciation and approval from their parents, I make sure to praise her for her beautiful impromptu ballet recitals and I tell her to show me how big her biceps have grown after she drags a stick to the burn pile. 

Yet, one of the best parental triumphs that we’ve stumbled onto is getting our other children in on the praise as well.  Gabriel, Micah, and Ethan jump right in with cheers and encouragement of Clara for her many wonderful contributions to the family, and vice versa.  Clara also regularly praises her older brothers for playing with her or for their manly feats of strength.  We are a flawed imperfect family, but we are actively working on creating an environment where no one needs to brag about their accomplishments for appreciation because we regularly point out and praise the others for their good efforts. 

Parent and Teen magazine says this about appreciation: “Children who are recognized and appreciated — for studying hard or preparing dinner, for example — will likely repeat more of these behaviors. And if they get appreciation, they’re more likely to be appreciative. This is because a heightened sense of connection to others contributes to having additional caring relationships.” (March 1, 2019). The magazine then goes on to list five ways parents can increase positive behaviors and appreciation in their teens and the whole family. Here are the five ways in their entirety.

  • 1) Recognize acts of kindness - Catch teens when they’re being kind, generous, and thoughtful. Tell them how pleased you are with their behavior. It’s not uncommon for parents to praise children for getting an A on a test or scoring a goal. But all too often children get recognition solely when they produce. Try to increase the amount of kudos you offer for the efforts they put into being a good person.
  • 2) Focus on positive ways people treat each other - Teens benefit when families discuss selfless behaviors, the kind that usually go unnoticed. For example, make it a habit to acknowledge the co-worker who visits her mother every day or the grandson who takes meals to his grandmother. Make a conscious decision to change what you talk about most – especially if topics tend toward the negative, gossipy or unproductive.
  • 3) Choose words and actions carefully - Children pay close attention to how adults treat each other. Young people always watch grown ups for social cues regarding how they should behave. When we disagree with our partners, we’re in the best position to demonstrate how to voice opinions respectfully. Our ability to listen, to offer kindness even in the heat of the moment, shows children how to appreciate others and their points of view.  
  • 4) Treat strangers well - Children learn to value qualities like compassion when they see parents acting compassionately. No words we say to children will ever be as influential as our own behavior. Our acts of caring and understanding are silent and powerful teachers. Teens and tweens observe us and remember.
  • 5) Value love and kindness over material goods - Never worry about spoiling children with love and kindness. Love doesn’t spoil children, it only makes them sweeter. But love and kindness don’t require buying children every last video game or piece of clothing or material item they request. Remind them to be grateful for what they do have, instead of worrying about what they don’t. It’s OK to have teens save enough money for special items they long to own. The upside of delaying adolescents from getting whatever they want is that they’ll be that much more appreciative when they do get them.  Quoted from (https://parentandteen.com/appreciation/)

A little appreciation and recognition goes a long way in families.  I wonder what would happen if an entire community decided to appreciate others on a regular basis in a positive and public way?  

What would happen if we publicly thanked, appreciated, and bragged on the national volunteer storm relief organization Team Rubicon, who has directly responded to 42 different White County residences with chainsaws, wheel barrows, and smiles after the March 29th storm damage?  Maybe we should point out community servants like Ken & Donna Geer that walk the entire Wheat’s Curve area daily picking up trash for all their neighbors.  Perhaps the Help Center on Main Street should be a focal point for their dedication in continuing to give out food supplies during the coronavirus pandemic.  Surely the Mennonite community is worthy of recognition as they’ve come out in droves to chainsaw trees and repair homes charging no labor in the community to those who receive it.  
Team Rubicon, Bearcove Baptist Chainsaw Gang,
and Central Church of Christ Disaster Response
combine volunteers forces to help clear storm damage. 

Would the entire community react to praise and appreciation similar to the way a child would in the family?  If we appreciated positive acts more, would we see more positive acts grow in White County?  I daresay they would.  Let’s test that appreciation theory in our families and our community by recognizing acts of kindness, treating people well, and valuing people over material goods.  You’ll be glad you did.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.spartacoc.com.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Family Forte: The Quarantine Quest for Meaningful Marriage

By: Topher & Ashley Wiles
Here we are, after sixteen years of God given marriage, asking ourselves, “What does love look like during coronacation?”  Many of you are also asking how to make the most of your relationship during this unprecedented self-isolating time.  Whether you are both working normal hours, both out of a job at home together, or even being isolated in different parts of the house due to a positive Covid-19 test, these stressful times can test your marriage.  As Family Forte writers, Ashley and I believe working toward a solid Godly marriage will benefit you emotionally, physically, and spiritually during the coronavirus pandemic.  We aren’t alone.
Harvard Medical School found that happily married people live longer, have fewer strokes & heart attacks, have a lower chance of becoming depressed, are more likely to survive cancer, and survive major operations more often.  The key though, is being in a safe, secure, and joy-filled marriage, which takes work. https://bit.ly/HarvardMarriage
As stress levels rise during the coronavirus pandemic due to economic struggles, health challenges, and changes to your family routine, here are a few ideas we suggest that could keep you distancing yourself from disaster and stepping toward that safety and security in marriage that we all desire. 
Quarantine Approved Dates – Fun For You Both!
A Fancy Dinner In – Even though shopping for food has become a stressor for some people, once you’re at home, you can prepare a meal for your mate that gives them a sweet reprieve from daily stressors.  Banish the kids from the dining room with a family friendly approved movie and Domino’s pizza (they deliver in Sparta).  Then go all out with the candles, the mood music, and the smiles to follow.  Dressing up will even help the night feel different from the normal monotony and give the meal that “special feel.” 
Virtual Tour a Museum Together – Cuddle up on the couch next to one another with just one video device and take a virtual tour of a worldwide attraction.  Look up “Wanderlust Travel Videos” and catch amazing virtual tours of the Lourvre Museum, the Eifeel Tower, Amsterdam City Center, and Valencia Beach in Spain.  With no commentary or promotions (other than Youtube Ads) you both almost feel like you’re experiencing the attraction yourself!  https://bit.ly/WanderLustTravel
Dance Studio – It really doesn’t take a lot of effort to turn your living room into a place for a dance date night!  There are plenty of videos out there that will give you quality instructions on how swing dance, waltz, foxtrot, and tango.  Scoot the couches out of the way, gaze longingly into each other’s eyes, and enjoy a night filled with physical activity, laughs, and bonding time.  Our family has taken it to another level where we regularly host 15 minute dance sessions to our favorite songs all together in the living room  Yes, you may get a few toes stepped on, but you can also request a foot massage from your mate when it’s all over!  Howcast has a great series of ballroom dance tutorials such as this one on the Foxtrot. https://bit.ly/HowcastFoxtrot
Bonding When Isolated – A Tough Challenge
photocred: Newsweek Magazine
We know some of you are living in isolation right this moment, which is tough not only on you, but on your spouse too.  Isolation puts a serious strain on marriages whether you’ve tested positive for the coronavirus or you’re working in a hospital covid-19 floor and self-isolating from your family.  Here are a couple ideas for you to enjoy during this quarantine time.
Online Social Gaming – Forbes magazine documented a social game called “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” that can help a couple pass the time from separate rooms to give you a little break from all the media tracking the pandemic.  This game sells for $60 for the Nintendo Switch and gets high ratings for its interactability between partners.  For those who are looking for free interaction on the computer, “Second Life” is a virtual option.  A few years ago this interactive social atmosphere was really promoted among educators for a way to teach and share virtually, and I enjoyed it immensely.  The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) really promoted this platform and hosted virtual conferences in it before the days of Zoom.  Of course, it is still hard to beat that 2009 hit mobile game “Words With Friends” that is still popular today, especially when people are socially distant.
Shared Projects - USA Today made a great suggestion of working together on a project, like helping each other update your resumes.  Get your laptops out and share those important documents back and forth until you perfect them.  Upload a document to a Google Drive and you can both edit the document in real time while typing sweet little comments on the screen to each other.  Are you planning on building a deck on the back of the house together when the isolation lifts?  Jump on a free account of Trimble Sketchup and design your deck in 3D making a complete purchase list of all lumber and supplies.  I designed a handicap ramp a few years ago for my mom when she had a stroke.  See that project here: https://bit.ly/TopherDeck
Resurrect the Handwritten Letter – It is still hard to beat an encouraging note from a loved one while you are distant.  Take the time to write those loving words down in a way that they can cherish them for ages to come.  Get creative with some modern poetry or prose and enjoy the timeless tradition of sharing your hearts together.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been married six years, sixteen years, or sixty years, a successful marriage takes effort, especially during stressful times.  Yet we know that you’ll both be blessed physically, mentally, and emotionally if you put the time, energy, and passion into your relationship with the spouse God has gifted you.  Keep loving.

“Let marriage be held in honor among all.” – Hebrews 13:4a
The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.spartacoc.com.

Family Forte: Strengthening With Grandmuffins

Family Forte: Strengthening With Grandmuffins
by: Topher Wiles
I heard a new endearing term today, “Grandmuffin.”  This morning I was privileged to receive a little face-to-face time with a sweet couple of the aging Baby Boomer generation and heard a story that broadened my smile.  When their kids shared with them the exciting news of pregnancy they offered a variation of the old “bun in the oven” metaphor and said, “We’ve got a muffin in the oven,” referring to the expectant grandbaby.  The expectant grandfather turned to the grandmother and opined, I guess that makes you the “Grandmuffin.”  
Whether you call them Grandmother, Peepaw, Baba, Nana, Geepa, Meme, or Grandmuffin, they matter in strength of the family.  In a 2013 article titled “The Vital Importance of the Grandparent-Grandchild Bond” medical doctor Mary Gavin states, “Grandparents provide children with a sense of safety and protection, a link to their cultural heritage and family history, and a companion in play and exploration.”  Roma Hanks PhD in a 1997 article shared, “It is my belief that grandparenting is the most important family role of the new century.  Today, there is a growing alliance of grandparents who will positively influence the lives of their grandchildren and younger generations in their society, some by providing urgently needed daily care, others by building deep emotional connections with their grandchildren.”  Writer Ami Albernaz of The Boston Globe wrote in a 2015 piece, “Researches found that emotionally close ties between grandparents and adult grandchildren reduced depressive symptoms in both groups.”  An Oxford University study of children ages 11-16 found that close grandparent-grandchild relationships were associated with benefits including fewer emotional/behavioral problems and fewer difficulties with peers.  All those studies point to the same idea, relationships with Grandmuffins are important for family forte!
How can you strengthen those relationships?  It does take a purposeful effort, but you can do it.  Here are a few ideas for you to consider, especially during the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.   The National Association for the Education of Young Children lists these five ideas.
·         Suggest grandparents share family stories with your children. Children at all ages are fascinated by family history and cherish vivid anecdotes that educate and entertain. Sharing “when I was your age…” stories are always a great place to start as these stories tend to be the most remembered and passed on.
·         Remind your children to always tell their grandparents “Thanks” and encourage them to make thank you drawings and notes when they receive gifts. All people benefit from feeling recognized, worthwhile and loved.
·         Encourage your children write to their grandparents (old-school) and send notes, cards, and drawings. Putting effort into a hand-written card or drawing reflects time, effort, and thoughtfulness. And it’s still a special surprise for grandparents to receive notes in the mailbox.
·         Children and grandparents can also connect through technology, and if grandparents aren’t comfortable online, grandkids can help them learn the new school. Kids and grandparents will enjoy the bond created as they share and look at family photos online or connect on Skype - a great way to keep in touch when you don’t live in the same town.
·         Encourage your children and parents to share their hobbies and interests with each other. While times have certainly changed, we share plenty of common pastimes. Watching ball games, cooking together, or going for a nature walk never goes out of style. When kids and grandparents find common interests, their bond will grow.
Here are a few other ideas that our own family has experienced that blesses us all.
·         When kids are doing school history projects, encourage them to use grandparents for research.  I salivated for stories from “Pa” about his time serving the Army in World War II.
·         Let your young kids indulge in fascinations about tractors, farming, or button factories; whatever grandparents invested their time and energy into when they were younger.  Great-Grandpa invested a lot of laptime with Gabriel looking through old tractor calendars before he passed away.  Gabriel today can still spot the differences between an Allis Chalmers and Massey Ferguson!
·         Honor grandparents by making their recipes for Easter, birthdays, or Christmas.  Granny made an apple salad every Easter, a family tradition we have preserved that helps us talk about and remember her at holidays.
·         Invest time as a parent to call the grandparents yourself to share things such as, “Gabriel and I made biscuits today, which reminded me of times when you and I made them when I was little.”  Put effort into connecting the generations and watch relationships grow. 
·         Make sure to display photos in your home not just of your kids, but also of previous generations to promote conversations and rememberings. 
While fostering relationships and connections between family generations does take purposeful effort, we believe that the energy and time invested will see your family reaping great dividends in overall strength and help, now and for time to come.  In Moses’ great address near the end of his life to the people he guided as the children of God, he gives this beautiful parting advice to strengthen them on their way to the promised land, “Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you.” – Deuteronomy 32:7
May your family be strengthened and blessed as you remember the Grandmuffins today!

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Family Forte: Are There Angels Among Us?

by: Topher Wiles

(Volunteers on March 30th)
She had tears glistening in her eyes no doubt beginning from the deep pits of worry and concern that have wracked much of our community in the last few weeks.  In that one moment, she made a statement made my hair stand up and made my brain think hard about a Bible topic.  She said, “You guys are angels.”

What began with a shortage of toilet paper (I’m still trying to figure that one out) and progressed  to electrical outages caused by 95mph wind damage (and a tornado) probably had an effect on her while we stood on her doorstep (6 feet apart mind you) and caused the floodgates to open (no, I’m not talking about the dam break in Monterey).

You have to wonder, what's next?
Many of you are like our new friend we met in the community.  You’ve been stressed by work hours being cut short causing you concern over finances.  You’ve been bombarded with the everchanging news of the Covid-19 media feeding frenzy.  Your kids are going stir crazy being at home making you want to lock yourself in the bathroom since you can’t go sit at Scoop’s newly reopened ice cream shop.  The text message alert systems of severe weather or dam bursting floods are setting you on a razor thin edge in which you find yourself teetering between the emotions of fear and apathy toward all that is going on.  On a more serious note, you may be stressing because you are one of the ones who have been on complete quarantine in our community because you tested positive for Da ‘Rona. You may have that aging loved one who was admitted to the hospital that you aren’t allowed to go in to help, keeping you sitting on pins and needles while you wait for news.  You may have that dear sweet grandma or grandpa who is at a nursing care facility that is on full lockdown, meaning you can only speak to them through the windows outside, if at all.  The straw breaking the camel may be that you can’t go sit in a booth at El Tap to drown your sorrows in that delicious chips and salsa that makes your stomach full and your heart glad.  Yes, there is enough stress to go around right now; enough to produce tears.

What may have begun as tears over concerns changed to tears of joy as this woman considered the people helping her to be personal angels.  Now, most of the time our culture has so twisted the Bible’s words about angels that we have completely gotten it wrong.  Sometimes you visit a home full of collectible angels fashioned after babies donning soft and fluffy white feathery wings or effeminate winged beings robed in billowing sheer white gowns.   
Yes, flaming swords!

Yet, the Bible describes them in a very different way than the Angel Soft bathroom tissue commercials.  It often describes angels as having flaming swords, multiple heads, six wings, faces like lightning, eyes like flaming torches, arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, or a voice like the sound of a multitude.  Then the book of Hebrews drops a different bombshell on us when it says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)

That’s right, you might just be getting help from angels and not know it.  In the New Testament, the Greek word, “angelos” is translated 179 times as “angel” and 7 times as “messenger”.  In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word “mal’ak” is translated 111 times as “angel” and 98 times as “messenger”.  That’s right, 26% of the time, our Bible translations choose the word “messenger” over that word that conjures up visions of flaming swords and faces like lightning.  Often the words “angelos” and “mal’ak” are used to talk about human messengers acting in God’s interest as well, such as that time in Luke 9:52 when Jesus sent his disciples ahead of him into a Samaritan village calling them his “angelos”.
Messengers of hope may look a little different. 

Maybe you have been doing just what the Bible says in Hebrews 13:2. Maybe you have entertained messengers of God unaware.  Perhaps they didn’t have flaming swords or lightning faces, but maybe they did wave chainsaws at trees leaning up against your house, or they paid for your rent for a month when your job hours were cut short. Maybe they bought you a new refrigerator when you were quarantined and couldn’t go out, or they put on a facemask and scrubs to take care of your aging loved one in the nursing facility.  Perhaps they gave you a box of food and prayed for you, sharing with you the grace and the hope of God’s word through action and love.   This woman had tears in her eyes, not because of all the fear inducing stress that has been thrown into our community lately, but because she was convinced in her mind that she witnessed angels ministering to her that day. 

Credit: USA Today
If your family is feeling stressed in this time, I highly encourage you sit down and talk about all the angels of God’s grace that you’ve seen lately.  Looking for those helping messengers will strengthen your family faith in the tough times.  That’s the same sentiment shared by Nancy Rogers to her son, Mister Fred Rogers, who passed it along to America in his syndicated newspaper column in 1986 writing, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ’Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”  Mister Rogers continued by writing, “I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong.”  (source)

Friends, in tough times look for the helpers, the messengers, and the angels God sends your way.  You’ll be glad you did.

The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.spartacoc.com.