Does a Connected Approach to Parenting Really Make a Difference?

Recently, someone yelled at me for not doing what this person wanted me to do. My fight or flight instinct kicked in and I felt a familiar rage rise up inside of my spirit. I was ready to fight back against the injustice spent on me. Before I opened my mouth, a flash back of a conversation I had with my 14 year old daughter raced through my mind:

Jules was in a musical…and her director, talented, but fiery in spirit, often said unfavorable things to the cast. The negative comments were not directed toward her, but her castmates. However, one day, my daughter and the cast mates she worked with most closely were the recipient of sarcastic, hurtful remarks. When I picked her up that evening, I asked if there had been any blow ups at rehearsal. Jules calmly explained the situation, with no inflammatory remarks toward anyone. I was livid that an adult spoke to my child this way. I asked my daughter’s response which was,

“Mom! It wasn’t about me. I’ve watched the director interact with the cast and it’s just how this particular director chooses to work. It isn’t the best way to address things, but it also isn’t personal. I don’t need to own this and feel upset. I’ll keep doing my best and look for what I need to work on in the midst of words that are unpleasant to hear.”

connected teens

The silence in our van was deep and wide. I had to catch my breath, reflecting on the maturity of my first born. In all honesty, had it been me, I would have probably debriefed it with about three friends and let it bother me for days. I’m guessing my 14 year old would never have mentioned the event had I not asked. Her ability to measure the situation with such maturity took my breath away.

As I reflected on my daughter’s capacity to face unwarranted hostility, I took up courage and strength and made a choice. The person who yelled at me wasn’t my issue to take on. It wasn’t about me! Because of the strength garnered from my daughter’s example, I faced my adversary calmly, respectfully, and even validated this person’s feelings about the situation.

And the words from Romans 12:18-21 immediately rang true:

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will replay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’” 
Those verses references are from Proverbs 25 where the Lord concludes, “In doing this, the Lord will reward you.” I was rewarded immediately, with a peace flooding my own soul.

My oldest son was sitting out by our fire pit, looking deep in thought. I went out and asked if I could join him. I told him I would be up for listening to anything that might be on his mind. He slowly opened up to me some troubles he was having with a sibling. I looked at this almost a man, but still my little boy in absolute awe. Five years ago, this boy suffered with an overactive sense of justice. He kept me on my toes and my knees as we dealt with his often big emotions which could disrupt the household. Today, he quietly shared his struggle with kindness toward a misbehaving sibling. He told me he was asking God for wisdom and help to love this family member with an enduring “love you no matter what” kind of tenderness.

connected teens

I felt tears spilling over my eyes. I confessed my own struggle to love unconditionally when this family member acts out. Putting my arm around my son in understanding, I shared how his godly response was exactly the example I needed to move forward in parenting this child. He looked at his own actions and went running to Jesus for help. I shared how proud I was of the character growth, humility and love, he exhibited. We prayed together…asking God for wisdom, growth, and His spirit of kindness and love. We prayed for our sweet family, lifting up the challenges we face together. Humbly we asked for God’s Spirit to reign in the midst of the joy and the heartache.

We walked back into the house and I silently thanked God for intervening in our family so many years ago now.

There were so many times in the beginning of our journey as we began to change our mind set from “adversarial” parenting, to a more connected approach, that I doubted and wondered if this was the right way to go. I have no question anymore. My children are more equipped to face the world and it’s challenges as young teens, than I was in my first few years of marriage. I’m learning from their depth of insight and maturity and challenged to be a better version of myself. What a gift to move from a place of trying to control these little hearts, to a place of freeing them to be who God intended.

Giving our kids a safe home where they know they are loved no matter what; where they understand they are God’s workmanship, created to be a blessing; creating an environment where our children are responsible for their actions and moving toward wisdom is something I will never regret. I’ve been struggling the past couple of months to implement these messages consistently with a couple of my kids. I’m re-energized as I see my older children living them out on their own. And I’m ready to re-commit myself to living out these values in our home.

I hope you choose to join me in my own journey. Together, let’s reach our kid’s hearts for the sake of Jesus and reconciling our children and others to God.

Beauty from Pain and God’s Perfect Plan

Beauty from Pain and God’s Perfect Plan

Through an unfortunate turn of events, I was brought back to a painful time from my young adulthood. Thrust into a room full of people with whom I shared a mixed past, I wasn’t ready for the onslaught of emotion it carried. We were gathered together to say goodbye to a young life, tragically taken too soon. I wept for the dear friend who was experiencing the loss of his son. As time went on, I found myself weeping for other reasons as well.

Sixteen years ago, I left a job I enjoyed, to take a position at a new church. The beautiful time I spent working with people I loved in this new position, has been overshadowed by the devastating blow I experienced when that job came to a close. In one fell swoop, I lost my ministry, my title, my income, my community, my identity, and over the months and years that followed, some of my closest friends. The words used to expel me from my position stung to my very core…and as time spun out, I realized I had lost even more; my drive, ambition, passion, and self-image were challenged at a frightening level. It took me years to cultivate a new picture of who I was when my world fell apart.

Walking into the funeral, seeing faces from one of the most challenging times in my life, I felt nearly frozen inside. All the work I had done to forgive, seek repentance, find closure, release bitterness…it was like, it vanished. Insecurities rose up into my chest like a hormone charged hot flash. To top it off, I found myself sinking into a shame spiral for letting thoughts of self, mix into the grief I felt for my friend and his family.

However, as the day wore on…I began to see beauty once again, rising from ashes. Slowly, God began to work out a mantle of praise, to replace my spirit of fainting. Levity found a path to healing, when a friend who saw my suffering leaned over to tell an off color joke. The warmth of companionship and encouragement met me through a phone call from a sojourner who understood some of my suffering. That phone call brought the grace, and healing words I needed when my friend reminded me, “God’s grace is bigger than what you thought you needed from the past.” When I thanked this friend for not judging me in my selfishness on this day, he assured me that God was nudging me toward healing in deeper places than I had yet explored from these past events.

Isaiah 61

I felt myself rising up, like an “oak of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

The suffering that took place in my past was a deep wound. Tonight, I thanked God for those wounds inflicted on me. For some reason, He found it so good to take that pain and “rebuild the ancient ruins, raising up the former devastations.” In the midst of the turmoil, he spoke rivers of grace and has been “repairing the ruined cities” in my life. “Instead of shame, I have been given a double portion, instead of humiliation I am shouting joy over my portion. Everlasting joy is mine.”

I may have been removed out of ministry, and been robbed of relationships by the enemy of my soul. However, since that time, the Lord God has given me five children to minister over every day. He has given me the calling to homeschool. Jesus has given me a deep richness of friendships and community with some of the most amazing people He’s ever created. God has knit together my heart to my husband’s and given us a new ministry; encouraging parents to lead the way toward a gentle, biblical foundation of parenting children, in order to equip parents to disciple children in their homes.

“For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
And as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up,
So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
To spring up before all the nations.”

Thank you Jesus for restoring to me the years that the locust has eaten and given me more than I had before. You are good. Even in the pain, I praise you.

Becoming a New Year Bride…for Christ

brideEighteen years ago today it was Y2K New Year’s Eve. I remember my friend’s mom storing up water and food under her stairs. We all kind of wondered if the hype would live up to it’s name. However, I forgot about all of it that evening.

My boyfriend made me dinner and gave me 12 gifts. One of those gifts was a slip of paper with Ephesians 5:25 referenced on it: “Husbands, loves your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” He got down on one knee, and promised to give up his life for me, if I would agree to be his wife. We celebrated our engagement at midnight and the world around us kept spinning.

The next morning, we sat down and began to plan. The race was on against all the other new engaged couples to pick our venue for the reception, book the church, find our photographer, videographer, scripture readers, florist, caterer, baker, and secure our friends and family as bridesmaids, groomsmen, ushers, and musicians. We went to our church’s marriage counseling, and attended a Family Life weekend for engaged couples. We read books, and had parties and showers. I shopped for bridesmaid dresses, tuxedos, candles, bows, and a bridal dress. We hired a deejay for the party and bought a candy “toss” bouquet and garter and planned the wedding-worship service, making bulletins, photo montages, purchased gifts for our wedding party, and settled in our new possessions in what was soon to be our home. We planned our honeymoon and dreamed about life as a married couple.

Our lives were literally wrapped around preparations for our wedding day. One day, almost six months after our engagement and close to the wedding, I was talking to my boss who wanted me to develop and wrap up a new product for a series we had been working on developing for churches around the country. We were talking about graphics and marketing, and she looked at me and asked if I could get it done by the deadline. I remember looking quite hollowly back in her face and saying, “No. I can’t do it. At all. I can’t make the deadline, and I can’t even work on this project anymore.” I walked to my desk and packed up and took PTO until my wedding. I was totally taken up in my role as bride and the wedding and feast to come. There was no more band-width for a single other detail.

How about you? Do you remember your wedding prep? Do you remember going to the salon to practice your hair? Registering for gifts? Working on your relationship with the one you loved and with whom you were preparing to spend your life? I’m sure yours was similar to ours.

I love the picture of the church as the Bride of Christ. He is our bridegroom, preparing a place for us. The verses my now husband, chose to use to promise his life to me, are a symbol for the marriage we have to our Lord and Savior Jesus. He lovingly and sacrificially has chosen the church…as broken as she is…to be His bride. His faithfulness to us is clear. Our job is to wait faithfully and prepare ourselves for the wedding feast that will take place when we see Him face-to-face. Ephesians 5:24 talks to us, the church, about our submission to Christ as we wait for His return.

Revelation 19:1-9 states, “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure, for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, ‘write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’”

I love the idea of a fresh start to a New Year. 2018 is ahead of us and it’s a time to think through goals, start healthy habits, organize our lives. I want to issue a challenge to you as you walk into this new year.

  1. Have you become Christ’s bride? Is your name written in His book of life? Will you be invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb? If you aren’t sure, receive your invitation today.
A. Accept that you have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. Accept that you need cleaning and salvation and understand that your lack of perfection has a wage or payment to be paid and the payment is death. (Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8)
B. Believe your sin has stained you so deeply that your own death, and your own works will not be sufficient payment for your brokenness. Believe that Jesus lived a sinless, perfect live and became your substitute for sin when He died on the cross. (II Corinthians 5:21, Matthew 8:17, I Peter 2:23-25, Mark 10:45, Romans 5:6, I Timothy 2:6, I Peter 2:24, I Peter 3:18)
C. Call on the name of the Lord and be saved. Confess Him as Lord and Savior. (Romans 10:13, Romans 10:9)

If you have done this, let someone know right away, and begin your journey of faith. If you have already made this commitment in your life…rejoice! And accept my challenge to you:

2. Live as a newly engaged bride to Jesus. Become so consumed in loving Him, serving Him and preparing for the day you will be united to Him as His bride that everything else in your life fades in importance. Give Him your energy in time and worship. Give Him your first fruits in your finances. Seek Him in everything. Read and study His precious word and talk to Him in prayer. Talk to everyone in your path about your Bridegroom who is preparing your wedding feast. Be found in Him, not having a righteousness of your own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ…the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith (Phil. 3:9).

I beg you not to wait, to be found in Christ, or to run your race for His name’s sake. Following Christ means sacrifice for many of us. But the reward when we face Him, and make no mistake, we WILL face Him…sooner than later…will be great when we enter into His rest. Join me in the challenge to live for Him, make Him known, and prepare the Bride for His return. Happy New Year! Have a blessed 2018. Come, Lord Jesus, come!

When Our Pre-schoolers Won’t Stay In Bed at Christmas Time

When Our Pre-schoolers Won’t Stay In Bed at Christmas Time

bed

The usual bedtime routine with my four year old looks something like this: Daddy helps her work through her evening list of tooth-brushing and pajama wearing. She then hides under the covers and giggles waiting for me to find her. I pretend I don’t know where she is and call through the house. When we throw back the covers for the big reveal, we laugh and snuggle. I sing to her, read her a book, say prayers with her, and we chat a bit. She asks me to stay with her awhile, and I do…until she is asleep.

Tonight, I left before she fell asleep. Earlier in the evening, I heard one of the big kids say they hoped to play Apples to Apples as a family. When I got downstairs the game had begun, and I joined in. Minutes later, little Cupcake walked down, saw us playing and with a pathetically sad voice said, “You KNOW how I feel about you being with me at bed time…PLEASE, come back.”

I DO know how she feels. I also know she is the little caboose in our five car train. The four “train-cars” sitting in front of me were proof that this little girl bed-time sabotage doesn’t last forever. I could have chosen tonight as a night to help her grow a little in this area. That wouldn’t have been a horrible idea. However, my heart flooded with a love and understanding for a little mommy-loving girl, who really loves to be by my side. 

I called her to me, asked her to climb up on my lap. I wrapped my shawl around her like a blanket and sweetly suggested she close her eyes. As she snuggled in, she looked up and said, “I know this isn’t really the time for talking, but could you just pretend that I’m a baby and you’re the mommy and you’re rocking me to sleep?”

Right now I can picture sighs from wise Grandmas who know I got a gift tonight. I am aware there may be some people reading this who think I’m a fool, letting my baby have power over me.

I’m all too aware that these sweet babies in my home are meant to grow up…and my job is to help shape them into adults. I also have the gift of perspective…being an older mom, who realizes four year olds don’t stay four.

My first four babies came approximately every two years. I didn’t have the option of making the choices I make with our little Cupcake. It wasn’t realistic to sit with each one until they drifted off to sleep. Honestly, if I remember correctly, I probably would have sat with my girlfriends, discussing how hard it was to get the older ones to bed, thinking this stage would never end.

The stage did, however, end. Not because I struggled with them to stay in their beds or did anything to teach them to self regulate. It ended because developmentally, kids don’t stay four. They grow up. I wish I would have known this back then. Isn’t that life? Experience is our best teacher…and rose-colored glasses are a good friend.

I’m thankful tonight for the sweet gift of being an older mommy. What a sweetness God has granted in the five souls He designed to grow up in our home. If  you’ve been given sweet babies to raise up into men and women, please remember them as a gift. Hold them tight. Sing them “Silent Night,” by the tree while you rub their backs and re-tell the greatest story ever told—of the God-man who became flesh.

Holding my little one while playing Apples to Apples with my big kids and David isn’t something that will go in our photo album. It was such a forgetful, ordinary night. An ordinary night transformed into a tender, Christmas gift, I intend to cherish awhile.

Merry Christmas from Swannie House friends!

~Let every heart, prepare Him room~

How to Become a Wise and Peaceful Parent

How to Become a Wise and Peaceful Parent

When I speak with moms about making connections to our kid’s hearts, I often hear things such as: “How can you stay so calm? I’m way too fiery.” Or, “How do you know what to say? I could never think to say those kinds of things to my kids in the moment.”

I want to share with you a little secret. When my parenting paradigm began to shift to a more connected approach, I was fiery and didn’t know what to say either. To be totally truthful, I’m STILL fiery. My personality and temperament are a gift from God and they haven’t changed.

A change has taken place, not in my personality, but in my submission to God’s beautiful ways…which are not my own. As I understand more of who God truly is and what it really means to walk in unity with Him, I am able to trust and submit more of who I am, to let Him mold me.

I mess up. A lot. When I was beginning to learn the messages of connection from Connected Families…the mess ups were sometimes, literally, All. Day. Long. I wanted to communicate safety, love no matter what, that my kids were capable and responsible for their actions. However, that didn’t always happen.

My kids were just laughing about a day that I THOUGHT I was living out the messages. At the sweet age of 8, I told my son that because he argued with all of my instruction that he could live a day WITHOUT instruction and parent himself. I thought this was so creative. I was going to teach him to listen to me! What I ACTUALLY communicated was rejection, throughout the day. I remember talking to my friend Jim on the phone later in the afternoon telling him what I had done. I felt depressed, realizing I had pushed my boy away and did nothing to grow anything lasting in him. Jim helped me come up with ways to communicate better with my boy, and thankfully we ended the day with a strong message of acceptance and love.

Often times, though I WANTED to communicate grace-filled responses, my old responses of anger, control, conditional love, and “you aren’t capable,” would creep into my interactions with my kids. It isn’t in the natural part of my spirit to give life-giving, always loving messages.If I make a mistake and then tell myself, “I’ll never change, I just can’t do this. I’m too fiery. I don’t know what to say,” then I’m also saying, “My kids aren’t worth me sacrificing myself for better parenting.” I love my kids passionately…but I’m not able to walk in perfection. Letting go of perfection has helped. 

wisdom

So, let’s get practical. When I find myself responding with anger or sarcasm, saying or doing something that isn’t my new heart for parenting, I do the following: I stop. I remove myself from the situation and take time to calm myself before I say any more. I ask God for wisdom. Then I go back and practice what we call a “do-over.” I look at my child and simply say, “I’m sorry. When I was sarcastic just now, that isn’t that kind of parent I want to be, nor the message I want to give to you. Will you forgive me? May I have a do over?” Then, I try the interaction again, sharing the messages I want to share, in a manner that shows love and safety to my child. 

In the beginning, my do-overs were numerous times a day. As I continued to practice this act of evaluating, repenting, apologizing, trying again, I started to notice something. Sometimes, I would stop myself right in the middle of an immature interaction and try again. Then, one day, I realized my do-overs were getting less and my wisdom-filled responses started becoming more of who I was.

An added bonus, I was communicating several strong messages to my kids:
  1. It’s OK to be authentic and bring mistakes to the light.
  2. Modeling repentance and asking for forgiveness has given them the tools to do this in their own relationships.
  3. Grace and truth are high values in our home.
  4. God changes our hearts, and sanctification takes time. We can be patient with each other as we grow.

After years of practicing do-overs, calming myself, and communicating unconditional love, safety, humility, and wisdom to my children, it has become more of who I am. It is more natural now. God has been using my continual trusting Him in the midst of my own misbehavior to change my heart, over time. So much so, that I don’t even recognize myself in the comments from the moms with whom I’m blessed to interact. 

You can do this too. You don’t need to stay enslaved to a temperament that needs refining. Growing in wisdom takes time. I don’t have all the answers and say everything perfectly to my kids. However, I’m doing better. You can do better too. Let go of the perfectionistic thoughts that tell you, you have to do it right all the time to do it at all. Those are lies from an enemy who wants to steal our kid’s hearts. Fight it. The victory is already yours, waiting for you to pick it up and take it. You CAN connect with your kid’s hearts.

How We Need to Respond to All the Tragedies

How We Need to Respond to All the Tragedies

There is so much bad news. Hurricanes, earthquakes, mass murders, terror attacks, droughts, disease. Our newsfeeds are full of inexplicable horror stories and tragedies on a daily basis.

In the aftermath of the Vegas attack, I began to hear personal stories. People I knew that were at the concert. Friends who knew people who had senselessly lost their lives in this unexplainable horror. I fought inside with how to properly share of yet another shooting with my children. How do we raise our kids in such a scary world?

Politicians and keyboard warriors began their verbal sparring which is the typical response to tragedy today. We are angry with each other because of our beliefs about climate change, gun control, and who really is or isn’t pro life. Instead of coming together in our heart ache, we rip one another apart and cause even more sorrow around us.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a dream: My family was sitting together around the kitchen table, when I suddenly felt my body floating up into the air. David was next to me, and I turned around, reaching my hand to one of my children, joyfully saying, “Come! The Lord Jesus is calling us home!” I realized there were two shadowy faces, still sitting at my table, while David, three of the children and myself were all rising up into the clouds. My face turned toward Jesus, and I wasn’t able to think anymore about who had been left behind, I was only filled with joy and marvel at being taken up to the one who has loved me and called me His own.

I woke up from the dream. When awake, I was able to remember there were people I loved who weren’t taken up to the Lord. It was a miserable beginning to my day. But, it brought me straight to my knees in prayer.

I really don’t believe my dream had a direct correlation to the rapture of the church or the eternal destination of my children. I do believe that God spoke to me in that dream.

tragedy

Picture source

My friend Tammie and I were texting about the Vegas tragedy, the worries of nuclear war, and the plight of some specific orphans with whom we had become aware. (You know, just your normal, run-of-the-mill texting conversation.) One thing I shared with Tammie that day, I’d like to share with you: “there is not much time left, no matter how we slice it. It’s time to live for better things.” I often hear people say, “Oh, there have always been signs of the end times.” Why do we do that? Do we want to convince ourselves this isn’t the end?

The truth is this: whether Jesus returns in our lifetime or not, our days are limited in number. Time is running short for all of us. Our life is but a vapor. When we see earthquakes, and famines, wars and rumors of wars, mass murders and horrible disease…let’s stop deflecting these signs in fear. Let’s face them as signs of His return as He said and realize that we have MORE to live for.

What gets us out of bed in the morning? For what do we strive after each day? Are our hearts set on our jobs, school, our possessions, finding ways to fulfill ourselves? When tragedy happens, do we hit our keyboards to rail into the opposition’s belief system? Let’s begin to respond differently! With an eternal perspective that remembers that there are only two things that last: people and God’s word.

I want to set my heart on things above and store up treasures in heaven. It’s the only way I can respond to all the heartache and loss set before me. Living for Jesus is the only thing that can make sense out of this messy world. Living my life in submission, obedience, prayer, and service to the God who is and will make all things new, is the only answer.

How is He calling you to live for Him?

For me, it is a simple, but clear calling. I need to pray. I’m praying for salvation for the lost. Praying for my kids, my church, my friends, missionaries, and for God’s will and voice to be clear in my life. Worship and thanksgiving needs to be central in my day. I need to shout out that Jesus is the only answer to the problem of sin in the world. Homeschool curriculum needs to take a back seat to God’s agenda for our days and being intentional to live out God’s word needs to get me out of bed:

“You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.  You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens remain above the earth. For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him, then the LORD will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than you.”

Friends, God is giving us a wake up call. Are you listening? Have you heard His voice? If you are able to read this, then you still have the ability to respond to Him calling you today. Turn your heart to Him. If you have not experienced salvation in Christ, stop waiting and let today be the day! If you know Him but are living for yourself, repent! Live for Him! There is still time to turn away from our sin, our self-centered lives, and turn to Jesus to give us the abundant life He promises.

We were recently talking with some friends, and I confessed that I am tired. I have a lot of kids and we are together nearly all of the time. I’m not getting any younger, and their needs are increasing. But, this really isn’t my time to sit back and say, “I’m just too exhausted.” Yes, I need to take care of myself. However, I need to keep asking God for strength to fulfill the purposes He has for me. It’s not my time to enter into His rest yet. That day will come, when He has ordained it. For now, He still has important, eternal work for me to do.

The heart ache around the globe isn’t going to end. But the response of God’s people can change. Join me? Let’s live for Jesus together, while today is still called today.

The Sand Dollar that Taught Us to Love, Even When it Hurts

The Sand Dollar that Taught Us to Love, Even When it Hurts

One morning the kids and I discussed Festo Kivengere’s book, “I Love Idi Amin.” Festo had been persecuted and treated horribly, yet chose in the power of God’s love to forgive his evil enemy. I gave a writing assignment for each of the kids to share a time when they had been hurt by someone else’s actions. They could choose to share a time when they responded in love, or a time they didn’t respond in love and how they could learn from their response.

Jules gave me permission to share her paper with you (slightly altered to protect a sibling’s identity).

My sibling broke a gift I got from Hailey. It was a magnet sand dollar with a painting of dolphins jumping out of the water. The background of orange, yellow and red made it look like a sunset over the ocean.
I was so excited about the sand dollar. It was the first gift I had ever received from a penpal. I put the magnet on the fridge next to a friendship magnet I had gotten from another friend awhile ago.
One day, my sibling was reaching for something above the refrigerator and knocked the dolphin magnet. A large piece of the sand dollar broke off. As I watched it happen, I had a pang in me that wanted to yell out at my sibling, exclaiming how much that magnet meant to me.
Instead, I was able by the power of the Holy Spirit, to calm down inside and pleasantly say, “It’s OK. It’s just stuff. Stuff that will eventually burn. It won’t last.”
I kept that broken magnet as a reminder to me to be patient and loving, even when I feel like exploding. I kept it to remember it is just stuff that will burn.

sand dollar

How about you? Has someone broken your sand dollar? Your trust? Your heart? Are you living in the bondage and bitterness of an unforgiving spirit? I have stand out times in my life history when I’ve suffered the wounds of beloved friends. I carried onto my wounds and tended to them with great care. Over time, my bitterness hurt more than the memory of the offense. When God re-awoke my heart to His grace, I was able to pray for my enemies. I lifted them up to Jesus and He gave me the power to forgive. I became free.

So here is my encouragement to you today: be free! Don’t wait any longer. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the kind of power to love with His love so that you can look at your “sand dollar” as a reminder that the only thing that lasts are the eternal souls that God has set in His people. Let’s help each other value those souls and love…even when it hurts.

Transforming Angry Parenting Into Interactions of Peace

Transforming Angry Parenting Into Interactions of Peace

When our big kids were little, I remember thinking that they were trying to control me. Their job was to obey, my job was to enforce obedience. When they didn’t do what I said right away, I felt worried that they were going to become difficult. Ceasing to obey me on demand would give them a pattern of disobedience if I didn’t strongly intercede.

I remember asking them to get out of the car, or to come with me upstairs to get on pajamas or brush teeth for bedtime. When they stubbornly resisted, I felt a tightening in my chest. I needed to remain in control and they needed to do what I said!

Sometimes, I spoke with a stern, angry voice, “You need to get out of the car, NOW!”

Other times, I would grab an arm and physically pull the child out of the car, with a scowl on my face and a desire to show I was boss.

Have you been there? Can you think of times when you didn’t know what else to do?

Believe me when I tell you, there is SOMETHING else you can do!

God DOES call my children to obey. It is my job to HELP them do so. In the past, when they didn’t listen and I felt the pressure rise in me, I gave into it, lacking self-control. When I matched their level of stubbornness, I created a power struggle where everyone felt as if they lost. This was the opposite of helping them obey, it created hardened hearts toward me.

When I repented of my need to be in control, it transformed my relationships with my children.

Today, Cupcake wouldn’t get out of the van. I asked her to come inside. She flatly refused. I didn’t even realize I was doing it, but I calmed my entire body and took a deep breath. Then, sweetly, gently, I walked over to the car. I extended my hand toward her in gentleness. I sweetly touched her arm and smiled as I said, “Come on in with Mommy, honey.” She simply reached for my hand and walked inside.

transforming anger to peace

This kind of interaction between us didn’t happen over night. In the beginning when I began walking in freedom with my children, I would have to stop, count, pray, breathe, ask God for wisdom. My children didn’t always respond right away to my smiles or gentle gestures. Sometimes they dug in even further. I needed to find wise, kind responses. Over time, they began to understand that my heart was changing and they could trust me.

In the beginning, I messed up a lot. During those times of messing up, there were days when it felt hopeless. Sometimes I feared I would never change. I lost hope that this grace-filled way of relating would have a positive impact. Humbling myself and committing to a do-over was an hourly part of my existence.

As days have turned into years, muscle memory has kicked in. My body doesn’t immediately get tense when kids resist what I have to say. I’m able to stay calm, listen to their view point, give them options, and I have power to turn from the temptation of forcing obedience. As I have changed, my kid’s hearts have opened to me. They resist me less and trust me more. This has taken years! And we are still working on it! Am I perfect at it now? No! But we are all TRANSFORMED.

Moms, Dads, if you find your parenting paradigm is causing you distress, pain, anguish…try another way. If you feel defeated, lay awake at night regretting your parenting interactions…you can change! Start small. Smile when you want to give a disapproving look. Speak softly when you want to yell. Ask God for a calm heart and wisdom.

When we as parents obey our commands in our relationship to our children, our children are better able to obey their command to obey us.

Reach out if we can pray for you or help you take the first steps toward a grace-filled home. We are here to help.

Are Our Daughters Considering Homemaking As a Career?

Are Our Daughters Considering Homemaking As a Career?

It’s hard to write a post like the one I’m about to share without including a few stipulations. Yes, there are crazy people in the world who treat women and girls like property. It’s true that many women are called into important, wage earning, professions. Certainly, some women are called to single life. Let’s operate under the assumption that I’m NOT functioning as a voice for the dogmatic stay at home daughter movement. And many, if not most of our daughters will one day marry and have children. Fair enough?

I grew up watching Laura Ingalls, of Little House on the Prairie, dissatisfaction with “just” being at home as a wife and mother. Maggie Seaver of Growing Pains, grabbed her brief case and coffee while kissing her children goodbye as they got themselves ready for school. Claire Huxtable practiced law and brought her skills home to navigate the waters of a large family. I was told repeatedly I could be anything I wanted to be. My list of possibilities was long; teacher, broadcast journalist, advertisement, musician, pastor, missionary, writer, etc.

My dreams growing up didn’t include becoming a wife or a mother.

My dreams growing up didn’t include becoming a wife or a mother. I have no memory discussing this as an option. I remember dreaming of success and goals achieved. Of course marriage and having children was part of the plan, but almost like a side bonus, not, THE DREAM.

What kind of messages have you received about motherhood? Recently, talking to older teens and young adults about their dreams I often hear, “I want to be a teacher, a nurse, a missionary, etc.”

I’ve been gently asking, “Have you ever considered becoming a homemaker?” These young ladies don’t know how to answer a question which has never been posed to them before.

Have the young ladies in your life considered homemaking as a career?

I love the idea of my daughters receiving a solid education, a foundation on which to support themselves, and general development and growth as human beings. There is something I know however, which they do not. I know what it feels like to hold your very own baby in your arms for the first time. I’ve experienced what it is to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you would give your life’s breath for that baby the instant you lock eyes. I’ve wept the tears of a woman who nursed her baby, not wanting to hand her over to a childcare provider at 12 weeks of age. And I’ve walked the path with numerous women, shedding tears over wanting to stay home with their babies, but set up their lives in such a way that it was financially impossible.

What messages are we giving our sons and daughters about homemaking?

homemaker

Why don’t our girls dream about the passionate pursuit of raising children as a profession? Do we not present it as a glorious option? Is the pull on the world, requiring two incomes to live like those around us, so strong? Do we send our children (boys and girls) into higher education, accumulating unthinkable debt so that staying at home with children is an impossibility? Do those of us who live out the roles of homemaker do so joylessly, making the job unattractive? Is the church building up and valuing the glorious job of mothers raising their babies and children at home?

Sisters in Christ, if you have been called to marriage, motherhood, and homemaking, you have received a high and holy call.

We receive no paycheck or glory and few accolades from the world. Managing our homes however, brings us to a glorious place of storing up treasures in heaven. As we change diapers, scrub toilets, instruct toddlers in the kindness and gentleness of the Lord, organize our cupboards and prepare meals; we have the ability to perform every task as worship unto the Lord. When we creatively prepare a menu on a budget and joyfully serve our family, we are serving Jesus himself.

Teaching our little ones the gospel in our day-to-day interactions, growing them in godliness and discipline is a certain way of doing our part in fulfilling the Great Commission we’ve received from the Lord Jesus. Impossible questions need to be answered, world-views need to be shaped. Boo-boo’s need to be tended to with great wisdom. And our husbands need our love and attention as well. All of this takes great skill, devotion, and selflessness.

I don’t know that we will turn the tide, making the High Call of Motherhood and Homemaking, into a longed for profession in our culture. But we can do an amazing job of showing the beauty of it in our homes. We can do our job with excellence. Join me in challenging our daughters with our devotion to the home and the Lord.

Let’s challenge them with our words as well.

We can speak highly of our job as homemaker. When we talk about our daughter’s futures, when we talk about Jesus command to “store up treasure in heaven,” include the career of motherhood as a path for them to consider as a worthy call. I don’t have my daughter’s lives mapped out for them. That is between my daughters and the Lord. I do desire, when they think of the future, to realize that jobs with titles, advancement, and paychecks aren’t the only career paths to consider. Homemaking doesn’t need to be an after thought. It’s a worthy, lovely, worthwhile career they can be proud in wanting to pursue. Let’s give our girls the dream of raising a family for Jesus.

Family Sports Night…One Family’s Solution to a Busy Culture

One of the things we value in our family life is avoiding the “busy trap.” How do you accomplish the daunting task of discipleship when outside activities demand your attention most nights of the week? Our family is striving to regularly eat dinner together, do daily devotions, serve, and open our home in hospitality often. In order to accomplish our goals, we’ve had to make some difficult decisions about our time and finances. One of them is around sports.

A friend shared this article on Facebook: The Race to Nowhere in Youth Sports. Our family hasn’t experienced this kind of sport culture first hand, however we know it is common. We’d like to share with you one alternative which has made a big difference in our life.

Family Sports Night

Three years ago, we were invited by friends to participate in a Family Sports Night (FSN). Several families gather on a weekly basis and tried out different sports together. This has been a perfect way to expose our kids to different sports and exercise, while maintaining our family values.

What is FSN?

Entire families meet once a week for a determined amount of time and play sports. A leader chooses the sports by the group’s interest level. The sport has to be something good for all ages, without requiring special equipment. FSN introduces common sports and rotates selections from month to month. Dads and moms teach basic skills related to that evening’s sport for the first hour. A parent shares a short devotional during a break. During the second half of the evening, kids are able to use their skills, by playing an actual game. Teams are divided by age categories so play is fair for developmental stages. Depending on the number attending, there may be several games going at once.

Our FSN meets at a public park. It’s an open event and a great way to invite families to play together, hear a gospel message, and experience sports in a loving and safe setting. The goal of our FSN, according to Dave Miller (the current lead organizer) is “to simplify the suburban American sports frenzy, by bringing all family members together on one night each week instead of running ragged 3, 4, or 5 nights a week.” This goal fits so well with our family values! Our kids are exposed to different sports and healthy competition. Our family is able to play together and invest our time in other life worthy goals during the week. We love Family Sports Night!

family sports night

How do sports work in your family life?

Are the choices you are making fitting into your long term family values and goals? We encourage you to start a Family Sports Night chapter of your own if it would help you meet some of your family goals.