~ Are you your own worst enemy? ~

April 1, 2009

cartoon-fire

It is pretty much spring here in Tennessee. By the time we say goodbye to March, the school year seems to be winding down; just two months until graduation for this year’s high school seniors. Amazing, isn’t it? Time marches on, and as day turns into day and year turns into year, we may get the feeling that things are out of control or are not as in our control as we would like them to be.

“In our control” is an interesting prepositional phrase. We as moms feel the need to control our environment, which is totally natural. Of course we must manage what we have been given to manage. You no doubt are an amazing mom, capable of taking large blocks of time and turning them into learning opportunities for your children. You do what many people are paid to do professionally – you have accepted the challenge of educating your children.

If you are a homeschooling mom, you are an amazing combination of mother and educator. While neatly organizing your children’s educational timelines, you also manage your physical household, which undoubtedly requires much thought and energy in order to keep things running smoothly. While most days you may not feel amazing, I want to look you right in the eye and tell you, remind you, that you are amazing.

I am willing to bet that you would not admit that. I am willing to bet that you don’t realize how truly valuable you are to those around you; moreover, I suspect that you may be just a little weary from carrying burdens day after day after day. Perhaps things have gotten more than a little out of control in your life right now.

Generally, in this space I present you with a strategy for de-pressurizing your homeschool world. This time, I would like to share with you a very personal tip that has the power to de-pressurize your life.

To begin, let me ask you a question: do you reverently fear the Lord, listen carefully to His voice and aim to obey day after day, yet the cares of life steal your sense of well-being on a regular basis? Do you sometimes find yourself overwhelmed with inertia, unable to move beyond the nagging burdens facing you at the moment? Funny, but Isaiah asked this same question of the folks in his day.

“Who is among you who reverently fears the Lord, who obeys the voice of His servant, yet who walks with darkness and deep trouble and has no shining splendor in his heart?” (Isaiah 50:10a)

Some time ago, I stumbled upon this verse, and I confess that it hit me hard. Isaiah is saying, “Do you love the Lord, spend time with Him, yet turn right around and get sucked into worry and fear the minute after you say ‘Amen’”? In other words, do your children see a somber-spirited mom who is distracted with concerns and cares? Is your normal demeanor lacking an internal flame of peace? Are you often occupied with frustration, anger, doubt, and other agitating emotions?

If you answered yes to any of the above, there is a seemingly simple solution given in the second part of verse 10: “Let him rely on, trust in, and be confident in the name of the Lord, and let him lean upon and be supported by his God.”

The solution is found in the verbs rely, trust, lean, and be confident. We can escape the vicious cycle of acknowledging God with our heads, but denying Him in our hearts and by our actions. Rely, trust, lean on and be confident. How does one demonstrate trust and confidence? The elusive answer is by resting. The evidence of faith is rest.

Quite frankly, Isaiah is telling godly folks that if they claim to be members of God’s household yet fail to rely on the Lord to care for them, then something is wrong. There is a disconnect somewhere in the wiring of our hearts if we say we love the Lord, yet we don’t display a “shining splendor” that comes from within.

In order to understand how great your God is, you have to grasp the fact that He is concerned with every detail of your life, and He wants you to be able to recline in His arms, rested, unworried, unburdened, and full of faith in His ability to meet your needs.

If we truly understood that He is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond what we can ask or think, then we wouldn’t be frustrated or anxious or worried or frightened or unduly concerned about what is facing us today. Think about it; what is keeping you from feeling peaceful right this moment? Hold that thought.

Let’s move on to verse 11 of Isaiah 50, as it may just illustrate further the state in which we so often find ourselves.

“Look, all you enemies of your own selves who attempt to kindle your own fires and work out your own plans of salvation, who surround and gird yourselves with momentary sparks that you set aflame! Walk by the light of your self-made fire and of the sparks that you have kindled for yourself if you will. But this shall you have from My hand: you shall lie down in grief and in torment.”

Wow! Scripture says that we are our own enemy if we try to make things work on our own, expending our precious time and energy doing things our own way instead of honoring God by simply laying down our burdens. We can work our own deliverance, but the end result will be less than desirable. Who in their right mind would choose grief and torment over rest? We do ourselves a favor when we rest in the Lord.

After I read the verses in Isaiah and truly comprehended the magnitude of what he was saying, I realized that I was missing out on the unstressed life that was mine in Jesus, and my mindset needed to change. It needed to change because I was trying to control my life instead of trusting the Lord to do what He wanted to do. I thought that I could handle whatever came my way by praying about it and then doing what I thought best.

The problem was that I would indeed pray about a situation, but then I would worry about it, constantly look at it from a bazillion angles and worry some more – usually worrying about the “what-ifs.” In case you don’t already know, “what-ifs” will cause you to lie down in grief and torment.

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Experience is often the very best teacher. Have you ever been in a situation where you have had no one but God to rely upon? The problem is that too many of us work out our own deliverance in order to avoid the position of needing God absolutely. Quite frankly, we are afraid to rest ourselves fully on God. It is our human nature that loudly calls to us to start our own fires, to knock rocks together in order to get a tiny spark that we can then fan into flame, expending great time and energy on something that we don’t need to be doing in the first place.

Worry, fear, depression, anxiety: there is nothing new under the sun. Isaiah was addressing the faithful ones of his day who obviously feared the Lord, but who obviously were still living in darkness and fear. People haven’t changed; we still choose fear and darkness when we could embrace rest and peace. Stop the craziness!

Here is a practical suggestion for how to break the cycle of fear and doubt and worry: Get a journal. Decide for one month that you are going to take God at His word. Commit your worries and concerns to the pages of your journal each day for 30 days. Also, read Isaiah 50:10 and 11 each day.

After you have laid out your cares in the journal, in your mind’s eye picture yourself leaning against the Lord, resting on Him and refusing to pick those burdens back up just for that day. Before you leave the solitude of your room or wherever you are writing, determine that you are not going to worry just for that day.

What you will find is when you refuse to fall into the old patterns of working things out yourself, the Lord is going to meet your needs in ways you couldn’t imagine. God will make a way where there seems to be no way. When He meets those needs, and as you see how He walks with you through the day, record that in your journal the next day.

Leave a trail of answered prayers that you can look back on and reread when your faith falters. Give the Lord an opportunity to be the one in control just for today.

Eventually, even after just one month, you will be living within the parameters of a new mindset! You will be more joyful and relaxed which will carry over to the homeschool realm most certainly. Moreover, the Lord will do things His way, which is what we truly want, isn’t it?

As we learn how to walk each day in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, our minds will be renewed, and we will be empowered to be the parents we are called to be, the home educators we are called to be, and so on.

When we cease trying to light our own fires and struggling to make things happen in our own strength, we illustrate to our children that the Lord is God and can be trusted in all matters; we have experienced Him and found Him to be faithful.

Truly this is one of the most valuable lessons we could possibly hope to pass on to the next generation.

All scripture quoted from The Amplified Bible.

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~ How to Raise an Entrepreneur ~

January 17, 2009

entrepreneur-picHow to Raise an Entrepreneur

If you have a child who has wanted to have his or her own business to run from home, I have some good news for you. It is not only possible, but it is also exciting! I would like to talk about how you can help your child begin his or her own business. When I talk about a child, I will be referring to children ages ten and up. Through prayer and careful consideration of your child’s interests, passions, strengths, and weaknesses, your child can begin today to explore the possibilities of and potential for beginning a home business.

Background Check

Our family has become very entrepreneurial-minded. About nine years ago we bought our first computer, including a printer, and we quickly learned that printing in color was very expensive! “Thou shalt not print in color” became our rule for the children. Shortly thereafter I stumbled across a site on the Internet that offered bulk refill ink to refill one’s own inkjet cartridges. Immediately I perceived that our family most likely was not the only family that couldn’t afford to print in color. Perhaps we could offer refill kits for sale on a Web site. I immediately sensed that this was what my husband and I had been praying for. Once my husband, Tim, had time to think the concept through and to pray with me about this possibility, he agreed.

The result was the birth of Encore Ink. Keep in mind that nine years ago hardly anybody was offering this type of service however commonplace inkjet refills and compatible cartridges are today. We started from scratch, and I remember pouring over the phone book, searching for suppliers for plastic bottles, plastic bags, syringes, labels, etc. I had no formal business training, but my nickname is “Joe Average,” due to my uncanny ability to think like everyone else in the marketing realm. (So much for individualism.)

January of 2007 saw the happy sale of our “baby,” as Encore Ink changed hands. We made a tidy profit on the sale of the company that had grown to be more than we wanted to continue to handle. In the meantime, I had started a publishing company, my oldest son had had an online business called Sticker Avalanche, and my oldest daughter was making more money than she had been making at her part time job in the restaurant business simply by selling little beads on E-bay.

Just for means of background information, Nick, our oldest son, decided at age 12 that he would like to have a mail order business online. With minimal help from his parents, he got one up and running. He taught himself basic Web design skills, decided what he wanted to sell, found a supplier, and went from there.

Lauren, at age 15, found that making jewelry was a passion. She taught classes on jewelry design, and soon she found her niche. She bought supplies from a wholesale company, and then she decided to put some auctions up on E-bay for the items she didn’t need for her classes. Soon she realized that she could take her earnings and buy more bulk items and open up an E-bay store. The rest is profitable history. (Oh, and her parents helped her not at all!)

Getting Started

I am going to assume that you have a child who is very interested in having some sort of business, some way to make money. (I firmly believe that the first person to come up with an alternative to the word “entrepreneur” is going to make money hand over fist.) Let’s talk about what this means for you, the parent. You want to start with a child who is self-motivated, a child who is going to see the idea through until it is time to close the business or to hand it to someone else. You do not want to be the one who is doing all the work if your child loses interest. I advise against pushing a child into something because you think it would be “good for him.” (Please don’t ask me how I know….)

The very first step to helping your child develop a home business is to pray, pray, pray. Bathe everything, every step in prayer. Pray for inspiration for your young adult. Pray for confirmation when you feel as though he has hit upon the “right” idea. Then keep praying. What seems incidental is often the Lord’s pathway for your child. (Example: our need for color ink.)

Secondly, for inspirational purposes, observe with your child his strengths and weaknesses. Does this child enjoy working outside? Does she enjoy animals? Is she good with plants? What are this child’s passions? Chances are good that a business idea will center around one of these passions. Is the child a good organizer? Is your student good with children, and would you be comfortable with this child being responsible for other people’s children?

Does he or she have a driver’s license and could be free to provide his or her own transportation? If not, bear in mind that you may be required to shuttle the new entrepreneur from here to there and from there to here. Encourage your child to take his or her passion and turn it into something that glorifies the Lord. Doing one’s job with excellence is a surefire way to please the Lord.

Once you have hit upon just the right idea for a home business, the next step is to develop a business plan, no matter how simple. For example, if your daughter wants to start a neighborhood babysitting service, she will need to plan out what she will charge per hour, per child, or both. She may want to take a CPR course. Make up business cards to hand out in the neighborhood. Brainstorm for other marketing ideas if needed.

Let’s say your son wants to start a neighborhood lawn care business. He’ll need a business plan as well. Inventory the costs and come up with a price for his services. There will be gas to purchase for the machinery, as well as sizes of yards to consider as variables in setting prices. As news spreads of his excellent work, the customers will come knocking on his door.

A nice thing to do is to offer some sort of a bonus service. I know of a young lady who cleans one room of the house where she is babysitting. She gets the children she is watching to help her with this, and it is done with the parents’ consent. She is in great demand, as the children love her friendliness and the moms love coming home to a surprise…a clean room! This young lady will also clean out a refrigerator! I bet you would like her phone number, right?

The young man who cuts grass could offer to provide a free first-time mowing of a customer’s yard. He could also offer a free last cutting as well. Everybody loves a free service!

My son, Nick, who set up his own Web site called Sticker Avalanche at age 12, would always include “extras” in the order he was shipping. Aside from his mom insisting that Sticker Avalanche was the best name on the planet, Nick put the business together on his own. He found a supplier for stickers, airplanes, super balls, temporary tattoos, craft kits and other such things that children hound their parents to buy for them. He loaded all the pictures of his items onto his site, added a shopping cart, and priced out his inventory. Interestingly, some of his best customers were corporations who wanted to buy items by the thousands. One of his hottest items, oddly enough, was ladybug erasers.

Nick had his own business phone line and took his own business calls. He packaged orders and shipped them out. He made up business cards to tuck into each order. (He even lent his parents money from time to time.) Nick decided to close the business down when he became a soccer referee. He made much more money at this pursuit than he did hawking ladybug erasers.

Lauren provides “extras” in the orders she ships out to her customers. She is a stickler for shipping out orders the very next day after they have been received. People love both of these services. Lauren’s Ebay store is doing very well. Today she received a shipment of new beads that she ordered from a wholesaler, and right now she is taking pictures of them since she has tagged them with a price, and she will upload the images to her store site.

Writing out descriptions for both her store items and for mixed lot items for an auction takes quite a bit of time. Lauren works diligently at the tedious task of listing every single type of bead in every package up for sale. She puts a little humor in her listings as well, and her feedback is excellent. She shut down her eBay store when she went off to college this fall; however, if she needs some quick cash, she just lists some of her leftover inventory online, and in a very short time, the money appears in her Paypal account. She plans to open her store again come summer break, as she enjoys the process so much.

Some ideas for businesses suitable for children to young adults might include small vending machines placed in business locations, pet sitting, car detail service, clowning, videotaping events (such as birthday parties), house cleaning, raising nursery plants, Web site building, selling items of interest online, tutoring service, hosting yard sales for people who don’t want to have their own, organizing consignment sales, consignment book sales, mother’s helper, candle-making, closet organizing, house painting, and the list goes on and on. The library is always a good place to start when looking for ideas.

Finally, it is important to provide encouragement and support to your child, as he or she is likely to encounter obstacles along the way to developing a stable home business. Realizing that things seldom go as planned is an important lesson to learn on the road to maturity, but discouragement is likely to set in. Praying for guidance with your budding entrepreneur will hopefully be an immediate reaction to discouragement.

Finding the Lord’s will in a business situation is the same as seeking Him in any situation; we must lay everything down and ask the Lord where He wants us to go from the point in which we find ourselves. The same is true for our young adults, and we can provide excellent guidance as needed. Sometimes our job as parents is to be the encouragers, and sometimes we must help our children to see when something isn’t working and perhaps a new direction needs to be taken.

What are the benefits?

There are many important benefits to raising children who are entrepreneurial minded. Children who grow their own businesses learn valuable business and life skills such as money management, risk assessment, planning and organizational skills, and people skills. Customer service often is the only thing that differentiates one business from another, which is why I recommend that anyone with a home business offers a value-added product. (Those “extras” I was talking about earlier.)

Children who own and operate a small business learn how to use resources such as time and money wisely. They also gain a sense of accomplishment from doing something themselves. They may start off with adult assistance, but once the business is in their hands, the feelings of confidence and even surprise at how well they can do on their own are unparalleled. This sense of confidence will spill over into other areas of students’ lives as well. Watching a young person grow his or her own business is akin to watching a butterfly as it emerges from a cocoon. Struggles are likely, but once they are overcome, the young adult is ready to fly!

In closing, I hope you can see that it is not only possible, but also beneficial for children ages ten and up to plan, organize, and run their own businesses with minimal help from mom and dad. All your child needs is a fitting idea, a strategy for implementation, and the determination to overcome obstacles that may arise. All you need is to set the stage with prayer, and give input as needed. Oh yes, and have fun!


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