Advice To My Youngest On Turning 13

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The below is part of what I wrote to my daughter upon turning thirteen. I felt the advice would benefit moms as they look ahead at the teen years, which should not be feared rather lovingly and intentionally embraced.

Dear Cayley,

It’s crazy you are now thirteen. What’s crazier is the second chance at mothering I’ve been given. One would think, having successfully launched your two older sisters, I’d be confident and have this parenting gig down. However, I often feel so unprepared.

You are very energetic. I am older and slower.

Join me over at I Take Joy to read the rest.

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Advice To My Youngest On Turning 13

Dearest Cayley,

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I can never say I Love You enough nor will I stop ;-) It’s crazy you are now thirteen. What would I be doing once your sisters left home if you had not come along? How blessed I am to be given a second chance at mothering. In some ways I have grown and often times I feel green.  You are very unique and so different from your sisters.  A decade later I have found that technology has changed the parenting dilemma.  Regardless, I know God choose to bless us with you for such a time as this.  Together we sharpen one another. So I complied 10 thoughts I desire for you to remember as you continue your life journey.

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1) Never forget you are fearfully and wonderfully made, yes made in the imagine of Christ who delights over you as He is a masterful creator.   (Psalm 139:13-16Ephesians 2:10 ) Comparison is the joy killer of being content with your many beautiful features. Never allow the media or others to dictate what true beauty should look like.

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2) Love the Lord with all your heart and get into the habit of beginning your days by putting Him first. You will often feel that there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. Time is something we all treasure, something we wish we had more of, but it just seems to slip so quickly through our fingers. We think if only I had more time I would spend it praying or reading the Bible, helping people, or making a difference.  (Proverbs 16:3; Luke 4:42, Matthew 14:13)  The poem The Difference is a good reminder of keeping God first.

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3) Remember to love and listen to your sisters as they are two of the wisest women I know.  Support one another. Talk to one another regularly by being the initiator as you have more free time. Be there when they need you and they’ll be there for you. They really do love you that is why they both flew in to surprise you for your 13th birthday. Sisters are forever friends.P1050675

4) Be bold, take chances as those who don’t take chances don’t make advances. Dream big because you serve a BIG God. Strive to reach the full potential of your calling in life. (Jeremiah 29:11).   Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to everyone through your speech,  by the way you live your life, in your authentic love, your faith, and your purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)

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5) Continue to travel while you are young. We hope that through our various family excursions we have given you a love for adventure, exposed you to various cultures, taken you out of your comfort zone, and shown you how big and yet small the world is. May you bring the good news to those wherever you go in the future. Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:15

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6) Enjoy life! Gather often with your friends, have fun, laugh a lot and enjoy the relationships God has given you. Also your best friends will be those who bring out the best in you. Never substitute face-to-face interaction with that of the internet or social media. According to a study, people are happier and laugh 50% more when talking face-to-face with friends or via webcam than when they use social networking sites.

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Cari, Cayley, & Laurena

7) Cherish your human connections with friends and mentors who invest deeply into your life and you will grow wiser and richer.  Appreciate and remember those who have poured richly into your life (your sisters, grandparents, teachers, Sarah T. Danielle A., Mrs. Moore, Mrs. Teresa, Ritz, Mrs. Cheryl D., Grandma Coleen). Allow them to speak truth into your life so you can learn something new. Proverbs 13:20

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8) We love you unconditionally, always, and forever. No one will ever love you like your dad and I love you.

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9) Be humble, teachable, and enjoy the learning process. Be a lover of learning as you gain the education needed to carry out the tasks for which God has designed you.  (Proverbs 9:9; 12:15; 11:14; 19:20-21; 15:22; Psalm 1:1-5).

Some of my greatest lessons have been learned through the pages of books. I have gained incredible insight, knowledge, and experience of various authors.  Reading exposes you to a world of imagination, showing you nothing is impossible.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” Charles William Eliot

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10) Smile a lot and keep singing God’s praises. A smile draws others to you. The joy and love of the Lord are yours – so smile! Aim for joy found when putting Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last which creates true JOY. Being happy and enthusiastic is always a good choice and the joy of the Lord is your strength.   (Psalm 28:7; Nehemiah 8:10)

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In conclusion, do all things with Love. Love is so important to God that is is mentioned hundreds of times in the Bible. Love is referred to as the greatest commandment of all. Christ is love. John 13: 34-35 As we learn to love God’s way we provide the world with a tangible picture of Christ to the world.

I look forward to finishing the book Love As A Way of Life by Dr. Gary Chapman who writes, “Love is an attitude, that says, “I choose to focus my life on helping others.”  I appreciate those who use the following seven characteristics to define a loving person providing so much room to grow:

  • Kindness: Discovering the Joy of Helping Others
  • Patience: Accepting the Imperfections of Others
  • Forgiveness: Finding Freedom from the Grip of Anger. Life’s way too short to constantly be mad at someone.
  • Courtesy: Treating Others as Friends
  • Humility: Stepping Down So Someone Else Can Step Up
  • Generosity: Giving Yourself to Others
  • Honesty: Revealing Who You Really Are

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Meaningful Traditions

Meals Together = A Werner Tradition

Meals Together = A Werner Tradition

Sharing about warm fuzzy family traditions used to bother me. You see, I grew up in an environment with few traditions to pass on. My husband, on the other hand, had a different experience. His family had too many holiday traditions. As such, we had to sort through where and how to celebrate the holidays. Together we decided what traditions we desired to keep and we also set out to establish new ones.

Traditions are invaluable as they are the super glue that holds families together. They give children a sense of security and comfort, because they provide continuity in an ever-changing world. Traditions also give the family something to look forward to throughout the year lending to a sense of closeness within the family. As families establish and follow traditions, the family is strengthened and grows in unity and love.  So make an effort to establish some significant practices that you repeat yearly.

What are Family Traditions?

Traditions are practices or beliefs that help create positive feelings, a sense of belonging, and are often repeated regularly. Many traditions are handed down from generation to generation, but every family can create its own traditions as well.

Traditions are the “we always” of families, like “We always say God be with You when we depart from each other or usually we sign “I love You” or “We always” have dinner together as a family.  Because such traditions have meaning that is special to an individual family, they create feelings of warmth and closeness. By spending time together in a fun and special setting, family members grow closer. Effective traditions promote a sense of identity plus a feeling of belonging.

Make sure you have spiritual traditions and incorporate spiritual truths into your traditions. Traditions that bring family members closer to God should be a family’s first priority. Some of the simplest spiritual traditions include praying together, going to church together, serving together, etc..

Establish new traditions especially as your family dynamics change.  Choose traditions that include every family member and are sensitive to the needs of all family members. Remember that every family is unique; do what works for you. Also don’t overwhelm the family with new traditions. Pick one or two and see how things go.  If it does not work no problem let it go.  I have tried many new traditions that never amounted to anything other than a good laugh.

From time to time, evaluate your traditionsTo make sure your traditions are working for your family, it’s helpful for families occasionally to identify and evaluate traditions they already have and make plans to add new ones. Also as your children grow you will find yourself letting go of some traditions that worked well while they were younger i.e. family game/pizza night, evening devotions, etc..  My older girls are now independent and living on their own so I need to evaluate what traditions we will use with Cayley and when all together.

I will share some things my family has done and continues to do.  Remember we are the Werner family and these are things that work for our family.  Feel free to write down those that are of interest to you but I encourage you to talk to your husband, family and God before implementing them.

General Traditions

  • For birthdays, each family member chooses his or her favorite menu for the day or they may choose a favorite place to eat out.
  • For birthdays we play The Beatles “Birthday Song” and the birthday person dances with other family members as we videotape them.
  • For religious milestones such as accepting Christ as personal Savior (Spiritual Birthday) or baptism, our girls were given a Bible or other things to remind them of that special day.
  • We make eating together at the dinner table a priority. This greatly impacted our daughters and promoted openness within the family during meals. To encourage conversation, we would play “high point, low point of the day,” by each sharing what a high point of their day was, as well as any low points.
  • Our family has a special RED dinner plate that says “You Are Special.” We use this plate to honor a family member who has a reason to celebrate – a good report card, promotion, birthday, etc.
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  • We would read our girls bedtime stories & pray with them before bed.
  • We enjoyed going to church together as a family as well as sitting together.
  • Another cool idea is to keep a family journal. I have an individual journal for Jon, Caryn and Courtney. I used to write in them when the girls were home and they would write back.

Thanksgiving Traditions

  • Serve others as a family.
  • Focus on being thankful and having a grateful heart during the month. Write thank you notes.
  • Go around the table and share 3 things you are thankful for.
  • Reflect back on the blessings of the year.
  • Invite those without families of their own over for dinner.

Christmas/Hanukkah Traditions

  • Celebrate the true meaning of Christmas by keeping it Christ centered. We’ve enjoyed Adorenaments by Family Life.
  • These picture ornaments tell the names of Christ.  The ones hanging are Lamb of God and Good Shepherd.  There is a scripture reference and devotion for each ornament. Best of all they are durable and non breakable for small hands.

    These picture ornaments tell the names of Christ. The ones hanging are Lamb of God and Good Shepherd. There is a scripture reference and devotion for each ornament. Best of all they are durable and non breakable for small hands.

  • Celebrate Advent.  There are many wonderful books to guide families through the Advent season.  We found Jotham’s Journey and Bartholomew’s Passage to be wonderful for school aged children.
  • These Advent books hold the attention of children 8+ and each evening ends in a cliff hanger having the children asking for more.  We truly have enjoyed these books for the past eight years.

    These Advent books hold the attention of children 8+ and each evening ends in a cliff hanger having the children asking for more. We truly have enjoyed these books for the past eight years.

  • I have a Family Christmas Journal that I began in 1992. I write where we celebrated Christmas, with whom, and special details of the season.  I also have a place where I store previous Christmas greetings (cards/letter and family photo we have sent to family & friends).  It’s fun to go back and look at the photos and read the letters we wrote.
  • Take a family photo to include with your Christmas letter.  What fun it is to look back over these.  Be sure to keep a photo for each child for when they leave home.
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    Our Christmas Journal with 2009 Christmas letter and Family Photo

  • When the girls were younger, we made homemade gifts and ornaments, snowman wraths, scented candles, etc…
  • Collect or make one ornament each year that has special meaning to the family and each child.  Our family picks out an ornament together when we are on a family vacation, or if a child played a particular sport or started a new hobby, we will find something to signify that event. As the children get older they will have their own collection of ornaments that are significant to them in some sweet way.
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    WINE GLASS for daughter who turned 21, CAMERA for daughter who is a professional photographer, and Taylor Swift GUITAR for daughter who went to her first concert “RED”

  • Visit a nursing home to bring good cheer.
  • As a family, put up and decorate the tree making it a fun event with music and good food.
  • We have various movies we watch during the Christmas season – It’s Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, Polar Express, Christmas Carol, The Grinch, etc…
  • Collect Christmas stories and read them.  I now have a box of books that I pull out in November. A favorite read is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson.
  • Act out the Christmas story or use a flannel board to let children tell the story.  We bought each of my girls a small nativity and when they were young they would play with them and I’d ask them to tell me the story of Jesus’ birthday.
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    Nativity made of felt we made back in the 90′s

  • Drive around the neighborhood looking at lights and listening to Christmas music. In Austin we visit the Trail of Lights.
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  • Have children put one piece of straw in the manger for every act of service they do in December. By Christmas it should be soft and comfortable for baby Jesus.
  • Find a live nativity to visit.

New Year’s Traditions

  • Write thank you notes for those who blessed you during Christmas. I include thank you notes in everyone’s Christmas stocking to make this task easier.
  • Set resolutions for the family as a whole.
  • Ring in the New Year with a traditional southern meal.  Each of the different foods represents a good wish for the year to come. With black-eyed peas symbolizing luck, mustard, turnip, cabbage or collard greens representing money and ham for never going hungry, this tasty meal is delicious as well as lucky.

Valentine’s Day Traditions

  • This is Jon’s birthday so we allow him to decide what we do on this very special day.
  • Call relatives or send cards and tell them you love them.

Easter/Passover Traditions

  •  Resurrection Eggs – The Easter Story for Children by Family Life.
  • Have neighbor kids over to make their own resurrection eggs as you tell the story.
  • Host an Easter egg hunt.
  • Enjoy the Passover service together, including include prayers, scripture readings, songs, hand washing, a meal (including the eating of hard-boiled eggs as a symbol of the renewal of springtime), eating of green and bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and wine (fruit of the vine).

In closing if you struggle to know what traditions to implement, I encourage you to be just relax and be creative.  What is your favorite family tradition? How will you create a new family tradition?