Blessings in the Mess

There are days when things don't go like you've planned. And then there are days when you feel like the star of a reality show where the producers just keep throwing things in your path to see how you'll react.

We had one of those days last weekend. I had taken my older daughter on a college visit that included a "tryout camp" for the soccer team. An hour and a half in, she fell, hit her head and ended up with a concussion. Despite the coaches telling her they would be sure to come look at her in the fall, she was crushed.

Just that disappointment would have been enough for my parenting skills, but the day just went downhill from there. We had car trouble and got stuck in Perry, Oklahoma, which is pretty much a wide spot in the road. On the way to come help us, my husband got stuck in stopped traffic, which added an hour and a half to an already three hour drive to reach us.

As we tried to nurse the ailing car home, Kansas thunderstorms decided to rear their ugly heads, and the sunroof on the already broken car was stuck open. It was a constant barrage of unfortunate occurrences. We finally decided to spend the night just north of Wichita and try again in the morning.

In the midst of all the clouds, though, there were patches of sunlight. Perry, Oklahoma, was large enough to have a motel (not five-star accommodations, but they gave us a room with a decently clean bed for my daughter to lie down on while we waited for my husband).

When my husband got stuck in traffic, another friend whose daughter had been at the same camp picked my daughter up on her way home, which got her home and in her own bed to heal.

When we needed an allen wrench to get the sunroof closed, the convenience store clerk let us borrow his.

While the weekend was one major disappointment and frustration after another, it was a great opportunity to find the blessings in the mess. It was an everyday moment that became a teaching tool for my girls. No matter how big the mess, God is there. And there are blessings to be found.

Don't get me wrong. My car is still broken. My daughter still had a concussion. I shed more than a few tears of frustration. But there were signs all day long that God had not forgotten us, that He was right there in the mess with us.

And that's a valuable lesson, no matter how old you are or what kind of mess you're struggling with today. God is there in the middle of it. And He's offering you blessings if you choose to see them.

Messes are a part of life. Broken cars, injuries, illnesses, money problems, broken families. In this broken world, all of those and more exist, and we can get so caught up in the mess that we miss the blessing.

No matter what the mess is that you're dealing with today, remember these two things: God is there, and He wants to bless you in the midst of the mess.

The Days Are Long but the Years Are Short

photo credit: design blossoms

photo credit: design blossoms

It was graduation weekend here this weekend. My older daughter had a few graduation parties to go to, and my Facebook feed was filled with graduation pictures.

This year, though, we were only involved in graduation on the edges.

In two years, though, that will be me -- the mom with tears in her eyes watching her daughter walk across the stage and journeying from childhood into adulthood.

Someone once told me when my kids were toddlers that the days are long but the years are short. And that is so true. I find myself sitting here thinking about all the things I still want to do with my daughters and all the things I still want to teach them.

It seems as if this year has been one of simply getting through. We've had a lot of changes, a few health issues and all the drama that goes along with having two teenage girls in the house.

But, today, as I sit here thinking about the two years I have left with my older daughter at home, I'm reminded that this life as a mom is about so much more than just "getting through." It's about teaching my girls all they need to know to thrive in this world and about pointing them toward the path God has for them.

When I started this blog so many years ago, my daughters were small. I thought I had all the time in the world to be intentional in my parenting. Today, I am reminded that being intentional is what it's all about. Choosing to make the most of the teachable moments and remind my girls that God's path is the best one is what my parenting should be all about.

So, today, fellow mommas, I want to encourage you to be intentional. Make the most of the moments. Use your time this summer wisely. Be intentional. Take every opportunity to point your kids in God's direction.

Because the days are long but the years are short.

Why Mom's Attitude Matters

photo credit: design blossoms

photo credit: design blossoms

There are 13 days left of school.

13.

13 more mornings where we have to get everyone up and out the door.

13 more mornings of scrambling for homework, gym clothes, lunches and clean clothes.

13 more "You can do this" pep talks.

I'm not sure there's been a year when everyone in my house has been more ready for the school year to end. The home stretch of this school year has been a tough one for everyone. My younger daughter is simply done with middle school and is ready to move on. My older daughter has struggled through a tough high school soccer season while battling multiple illnesses. This is also the season of the year when I have big deadlines for some freelance work. This momma is tired.

I really want to go to bed for about three days. I don't want to help with another school project. I don't want to cajole another kid to get their homework done or to get themselves out the door in the morning. I don't want to go to another doctor's appointment. I want to buy a plane ticket and head to the beach, sit in a chair, watch the waves, read a book and drink a cold drink.

But neither the calendar nor my budget allows for that trip to the beach. We have 13 more days to get through. And in thepast couple of months, I've rediscovered that more than anything else, my attitude determines how our days will go. If I have a poor attitude about life, about school, about work, about my husband's long hours at work, then my kids will have a bad attitude about those things, too.

You know that old saying, "If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy"? It sticks around because there is truth in it. As moms, our attitudes matter. If we're tired and crabby, then our kids will be tired and crabby. If we're always critical, then our kids will be critical. If we meet the day with a smile and a quiet spirit, our kids will learn to meet the day with the same.

The underpinnings of our attitudes as moms should be joy. We are daughters of the King. We are beloved children of God. When we focus our feelings of worth and well-being on those things, we find joy. And we can spread that joy to our children regardless of what is going on around us.

Romans 15:13 says, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." When we let the God of hope fill us with joy, we can then overflow with grace and joy on those around us.

My prayer for you this morning is that no matter how many days of school you have left, no matter how dark the day you're walking through is, that you will find joy. When kids disobey, when toddlers throw tantrums, when teenagers roll their eyes, we can find joy. Because our worth is not found in how our kids behave or what they achieve. Our value comes from our relationship with the God of the universe.

When we find that joy, when we allow it to fill us up, we can pour it our on those around us -- even if we can't get that trip to the beach.

Teaching Our Kids to Make Good Decisions

photo credit: design blossoms

photo credit: design blossoms

Decisions. Our kids make them every day. And from the time they can walk and talk, we parents spend a lot of time teaching our kids to make good ones.

It seems that the older our kids get, the more important their decisions become. With two teenagers in our house, the mantra in our house is "Don't make a decision so stupid, you can't fix it." I tell my girls all the time that they're going to make a wrong choice every now and then. We all do, and teenagers are definitely entitled to a stupid decision or two. But, I tell them, don't compound a stupid decision by making a life-changing one trying to keep us from finding out about the stupid one.

Here's the thing, though, my girls didn't start learning about good decisions when they became teenagers. They started learning about good decisions almost from birth.

When they were toddlers, we taught them to choose not to put their finger in a light socket or touch a hot stove. When they headed off to school, we taught them to make good decisions about how they behave in the classroom and in the friends they choose. Now that they're teenagers, we're teaching them to make good decisions about how they spend their time, what they do in a car and whom they choose to hang out with.

By the time our kids are teenagers, most of the decisions they make are going to be made outside of our direct line of sight. We may get the opportunity to advise them beforehand or to dissect the decision afterward, but a lot of the time, we have to trust that they will use what they have learned about making good decisions up until that point to make a good one now.

So, how do we teach our kids to make good decisions, no matter their age?

1. Cover them in prayer. All of our parenting begins with prayer. To be effective parents, we have to cover our children and our parenting in prayer. My most common prayer for my kids is "Lord, let them be wise, and if they don't have wisdom themselves, let them ask you for it."

2. Teach them to seek God first. When our kids are faced with decisions, whether they are 4 or 18, we want to teach them to look to God for the answers. When they are little, this can simply be talking to them about what the Bible has to say about the situation in simple terms. As they get older, we can teach them to look up what the Bible has to say and read it for themselves.

3. Help them see the consequences of each decision. For younger kids, this often means letting them experience the consequences firsthand. However, for older kids, we can help them walk through the logical conclusion of each decision. Tweens and teens don't often have the ability to look at the long-term consequences of their actions. They need us to help them walk through decisions and find consequences (good and bad) they may not be able to see.

4. Let them make the wrong decision. Our tendency is to protect our kids, but if we save them from the consequences of poor decisions, then we deprive them of the opportunity to learn how to make good ones. I'm not suggesting you let your toddler electrocute himself or you let your teen wreck the car. I am suggesting that the toddler reap appropriate consequences for ignoring the rules and that your teen be allowed to suffer the consequences of not turning in their homework. Experience is a great teacher, and some kids simply have to learn things by doing it themselves. When we let them experience the natural consequences of their actions, we are hopefully letting them learn how to make a better decision next time.

5. When they make a poor decision, stay calm. Offer consequences and discipline if necessary, but don't do it out of anger or frustration. Do it because your child needs to learn to make better decisions. Walk your child through the consequences of their decision and point out the different decisions they could have made that would have created a different result.

6. Love them no matter what decision they make. Our kids need to know they are loved unconditionally, even when they make poor decisions. Even if their poor decision-making results in consequences, make sure your kids know they are loved despite their actions.

Parenting our kids well means we have to focus on teaching them to make good decisions. It's a learned skill, one that even as an adult, I am still learning. Be consistent, offer grace and pray. As a parent, that's the best decision you can make.

Let Your Kids Sing in the Rain

This is dedicated to all the kids who sing in the rain, and all the moms who let them.
— Benj Pasek
photo credit: design blossoms

photo credit: design blossoms

A couple of months ago, I was watching the Oscars. It's the only awards show I watch. I don't really know why. I don't see that many movies, but I love to watch the Oscars. Maybe it's the glitz and the glamour of a world I'll never know. Maybe it's the fashion. But I think, most likely, it's that I enjoy listening to people who have achieved their dreams. I love to see the looks of joy on their faces and hear the names of the people they want to thank.

During this year's Oscar ceremony, Benj Pasek, a songwriter, won the Academy Award for best original song. During his speech he said these words: "This is dedicated to all the kids who sing in the rain, and all the moms who let them."

For two months, those words have rattled around in my brain. Because Benj Pasek had a mother who allowed him to follow his passions, he now has an Oscar to sit on his shelf. I want to be that kind of mom.

You see, God has blessed me with two fabulous daughters. And they each have special gifts and talents. It's my job to nurture those gifts and talents so God can use them in the future. Sometimes, though, that's hard. Their dreams and ideas don't always line up with what I would want.

My older daughter plays soccer, and she loves it. She wants to play in college and is working to make that dream a reality. I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I don't really like soccer. I think it's a boring game, and if I had my choice, I would never watch another soccer game. But my daughter loves it. She has a passion for it. It is her "sing in the rain" moment. So I have spent a good portion of my life as a mom sitting on the sidelines of a soccer field, cheering her on. I have learned the rules of the sport and can carry on a fairly intelligent conversation about soccer most days. It's not what I would have chosen, but it's clearly a God-given passion for her.

Letting our kids "sing in the rain" can be hard for other reasons, too. We all want our kids to be well-liked and to fit in with other kids. Sometimes our kids' interests and personalities just don't mesh with what the world wants them to be. That's when it's difficult as a parent to decide how much to encourage our kids to be different and how much to encourage them to fit in.

But, here's the thing. God created your children and mine to be unique. There should be no one else like them in this world. Every child should be allowed to "sing in the rain" even if it doesn't conform to what the rest of the world is doing.

Our calling as parents is not to raise children who fit in. It's not to raise children who are just like us. Our calling is to raise children who are seeking God and His plan for their lives. And His plan doesn't often require us to conform to what the world wants. It often requires us to stand out -- to be those people who "sing in the rain."

So, today, I want to encourage you to let your kids "sing in the rain." Let them be who God created them to be. Encourage their gifts and talents, even if they're not what you enjoy. Help them stand tall when no one else is standing with them. And love them for who they are.

How Do I Change My Child's Attitude?

Photo credit: designblossoms

Photo credit: designblossoms

My younger daughter turns 14 tomorrow. While she has been a teenager for almost a year, it's just in the past few months that I have really begun to feel like the mom of two teenagers.

And here's what I've discovered. Parenting teenagers is all about attitude -- theirs and mine. As we've been dealing with all kinds of attitudes and hormones in this household with two teenage daughters, I've learned a few things.

The truth is that it's not just parenting teenagers where attitude comes into play. Our kids have attitudes all the way from toddler (try taking a toddler's toy away and see what I mean) through adulthood (I know sometimes I struggle with attitude, too.) Parenting in general is all about changing attitudes.

We've dealt with some particularly poor attitudes in the past couple of weeks, and here's what I've learned: Attitude is always a heart issue. Luke 6:45 says, "the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." When our kids are spilling attitude out of their mouths, it's because there's something amiss in their heart.

When we recognize that attitude is a heart issue, we realize that we have to deal with the underlying issue if we're going to change the behavior. We can correct the behavior all we want, but until our kids have a heart change, their attitude will never change.

When I came to the conclusion that attitude is a heart issue, I started asking myself these five questions before trying to address my kids' behaviors. These questions work at any age and can help you get to the root of the problem instead of just slapping a Band-aid on the behavior.

  1. Is this a pattern of behavior or a one-time deal?

    • Does my kid normally act like this? Is this something that has happened several times? These are all questions to ask yourself. If it's a one-time thing where your child said something rude or talked back to you, deal with the behavior and move on. We all have bad days. If it's a pattern of behavior, it's time to look below the surface.
  2. Are there outside circumstances affecting my child?

    • What's really going on? Attitudes are almost always affected by circumstances. If your child is continually throwing attitude your way, then it's time to investigate what else is going on in their world. Talk with your child. Ask questions about their friends, about school, about how they feel about themselves. Keep in mind hormones are an issue if you have teens. Sometimes our kids need us to cut them some slack. Other times they need us to figure out how to help them solve what's bothering them.
  3. Who has my child been hanging out with?

    • The company you keep matters. If your child is hanging out with kids who are constantly copping an attitude, then they will learn that behavior. Take an inventory of your children's friends and identify any behaviors that your child may have picked up elsewhere. For younger kids, you might decide to stop spending so much time with those friends. For older kids, it's time to have a conversation about the company they're keeping.
  4. Am I the problem?

    • Sometimes, our child's attitude is a direct reflection of our own. If we're snapping at our kids all the time, it's not unusual for them to snap back. After all, we're modeling the behavior. Don't want your kid to be snarky? Don't be snarky yourself. It may be that we have to change our own attitude and behavior before we try to change those of our kids.
  5. Have we prayed about it?

    • Before you address the issue with your kids, sit down and pray about it. God may reveal something to you that you haven't seen before. Ask your child to pray about it, too. They may not even know why they feel the way they feel. God can reveal that to them, too.

Changing attitudes is all about changing our kids' hearts. If we keep in mind that the attitude is just a reflection of what's below the surface, we become much better at parenting our kids through it.

 


 

A New Thing

Photo credit: designblossoms

Photo credit: designblossoms

In Isaiah 43, God says “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” For the past couple of months, that’s what we’ve been doing at Everyday Truth. While the blog has been mostly silent, we’ve been super busy behind the scenes creating a new thing.

When I started this blog six years ago, I was the mom of two young girls. Now, I’m the mom of teenagers. Things change, and it was time for Everyday Truth to change, too.

So, today is launch day here at Everyday Truth, and I could not be more excited. For the past couple of months, my friend and super talented designer Maria Morris from Design Blossoms has been giving this space a makeover.

While I’m pretty good with words, drawing a straight line or creating anything resembling art is far beyond my talents, which is why I’m so thankful that God gifted Maria with plenty of artistic talent. She has given this space a fresh, new look that better meets both my hopes and dreams for this blog and the needs of you, the reader.

Take some time today to click around the site and see all the new stuff. You won’t be disappointed!

I’m also excited to tell you that you can expect a new Everyday Truth blog post every week. I’ve taken some time off to get reenergized, and I have ideas just fighting to get on the page. I’m also working on some new products and freebies for you, as well.

While the focus of Everyday Truth will continue to be about capturing the everyday moments and using them to put our focus on God, here’s where the new thing part comes in. There will be fewer detailed stories about my own kids. Oh, I’ll still share with you in general, but my girls are now 13 and 15 (soon to be 14 and 16 – how did that happen?) Their detailed stories are no longer mine to share. Their stories belong to them.

What I will be sharing in this space are those bigger picture moments. You’ll still get plenty of glimpses into our daily lives, but the stories about my kids will simply be more general in nature.

What Everyday Truth will still do is encourage you as a parent to seek God yourself and to help your children find him, too, no matter their age. I’ve also got lots of new resources in the works for you over the next couple of months.

To get this launch party kicked off, I’m offering you a couple of freebies. If you click on over to the Resources page, you’ll find a free download of my Worry Jar printable (that Maria has done an amazing makeover on). If you have a child who struggles with worry, or you struggle with it yourself, make use of the free download and start taking your thoughts captive.

The other freebie you’ll get is my Summer Toolkit, which will help you get started intentionally planning your summer. All you have to do is subscribe to Everyday Truth, which means you’ll get all the new posts and information about new resources in your inbox. Just click on the button below. Then don’t forget to look in your email and click the button there to verify your email. After that, you’ll get an email telling you how to download your free Summer Toolkit!

I can’t wait to see what God is going to do with the "new thing" he has created in Everyday Truth!

Thanks for reading!

Raising an Introvert in an Extrovert World

photo credit: designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

My older daughter is an introvert in the truest sense of the word. She draws her energy from being alone. Interacting with other people is an incredible drain on her energy. And the thought of having to address a problem situation or be a part of conflict is horrifying on a scale that is almost paralyzing.

My daughter is almost 14, and it has taken me nearly that long to figure out how to parent an introvert and how to help her navigate a world that tends to reward extrovert behaviors. I couldn’t be more different from her. I love people. I’ve never met a stranger. The more people there are around me, the happier I am.

But my daughter doesn’t operate like that, and while I don’t truly understand her dislike of crowds and small talk, I do know that God made her that way for a reason. She is just as “fearfully and wonderfully made” as all the extroverts in this world.

Recently, we’ve encountered a couple of situations that remind me just how hard this world is to navigate for the truly introverted. Raising an introvert takes an extra measure of wisdom and patience. It takes encouraging and prompting and a lot of understanding of how the introvert brain works. So, here’s five things I’ve learned in nearly 14 years of parenting an introvert:

5 Facts About Most Introverts

1. Introverts don’t need lots of people.

It used to frustrate me to see my daughter always on the fringes of events. She’d be the one on the outside of the team huddle or the one standing on the corner of the room at a party. She might be talking to one or two other people, but she was never seeking out people to talk to. The truth about introverts is that they simply don’t need a lot of people in their lives. They need a handful of people who they know they can count on, and that’s enough. They aren’t necessarily interested in making a whole bunch of new friends, and their extrovert parents need to be OK with that. Success is not defined by how many friends you have. It’s the quality of those relationships that matter.

2. Change is hard for everyone, but it’s even harder for an introvert. 

Changing teachers, coaches, teams or houses is harder for introverts than it is for extroverts. Change means your introvert is going to have to expend a whole lot of emotional energy to make new friends or impress a new teacher or coach. They aren’t naturally inclined to reach out to someone else, so if they encounter a coach, teacher or a group of kids who aren’t willing to invest some time in getting your introvert to open up, then introverts may have a really rough time until they can muster up enough courage and energy to reach out to someone themselves.

3. Don’t correct behavior in front of other people.

Unless it relates to the safety of your child or other people, save your criticism and correction for a private moment. Introverts hate to be the center of attention for any reason but especially if they have done something wrong. If you want your correction to be effective, do it in private. If you correct them in public, the likelihood is that your child will be so mortified at being corrected in public and so distraught about being the center of attention that they may not even hear what you’re saying.

4. Praise is important. 

Introverts tend to internalize everything. They often don’t speak up for themselves even when they believe the other person is wrong. It takes a huge amount of emotional energy for an introvert to tell you you’re wrong or that they disagree with you. It goes back to the drawing attention to yourself thing. Many introverts take everything that’s said to them to heart, which means they need plenty of praise when they are doing something right.

5. Keep the yelling to a minimum. 

As I said, introverts really don’t like to be the center of attention. Nothing draws attention to them like yelling. My daughter tells me that when she is being yelled at, she can’t even focus on what’s being said. Not because she doesn’t want to or she’s not trying. She’s simply too upset about being yelled at to focus.

Being introverted doesn’t mean that your child can’t succeed in this world that tends to reward extroverts. It just means that you’ll need to do a lot more parenting and coaching along the way. Here are five strategies I’ve learned for helping your introverted child navigate a world that requires so much energy from them.

Five Strategies for Introverts

1. Protect your child’s alone time. 

Introverts truly need to be left alone to recharge. If your child disappears into her room for hours at a time after a ridiculously busy week, leave her alone. Check to make sure nothing is wrong, then respect her need to be alone. She’ll rejoin the family when her tank has been refilled.

2. Coach your child through difficult situations. 

When your child encounters a situation that requires him to resolve a conflict or have a hard conversation, be his coach. Role play the situation. Throw every possible reaction you can think of at him. Encourage him to write up some notes to take into the conversation. Simply drawing attention to himself by starting the conversation will be nerve-wracking for your introvert, so having notes to rely on will help him remember all the points he wanted to make.

3. Keep groups small. 

If your child is having a party or getting together with some friends, keep the group small. Your child is going to interact better with a couple of people she really likes than with a group of 10 or 15. Don’t insist on 20 people at her birthday party if what she really wants is her two closest friends. There’s nothing worse than watching your child wander the fringes of her own birthday party (believe me, I know).

4. Ask your introvert what their thoughts are. 

Introverts often won’t volunteer their thoughts. I’m pretty sure my daughter’s sixth-grade language arts teacher had no idea who she was. My daughter never raised her hand in class, so the teacher never heard from her. My daughter is smart and funny. She has incredibly deep thoughts, but a lot of people miss out on the chance to hear those thoughts because they are waiting for her to share them on her own. The best question you can ask an introvert is “What do you think?” You might be surprised at the response you get.

5. Be patient. 

It may take your introvert longer to settle in to a new situation than other kids around her. It took my daughter an entire year to get her feet under her in middle school. She’s struggled through other situations like changing coaches and having to make new friends, as well. And it always seems to take her just a bit longer than other, more extroverted kids. Be there to offer encouragement, mop up tears and offer up different strategies.

Parenting an introvert can be an exercise in patience and frustration, especially if you’re not an introvert yourself. It can be hard not to just step in and deal with a difficult situation for them, especially because you understand how much of an emotional toll those situations can take on your introvert. But the best thing we can do for our introverts is to treasure their personalities and offer strategies and encouragement for dealing with those tough situations. We can help set them up for success without changing who they are.

Because the last thing we want to do is devalue our child’s inherent personality. Those introverted kids are often some of the kindest, most compassionate people you’ll meet — probably because they are busy watching others while us extroverts are busy talking.

Introverts can succeed in this world. They just need a little coaching, a lot of love and the knowledge that their less-exuberant personalities are as valuable as those of their extroverted friends and family.

When You Don’t Know What to Do

I have this daughter. She’s 12. She’s smart. She’s funny. She’s compassionate. She’s stubborn. She’s challenging. She sees the world through a lens I don’t have and marches to a beat I don’t hear.

And she is, oh, so hard to parent. She makes me think hard every day. She makes me question whether I’m doing the right thing every week. She makes me pull my hair out at least once a month.

And she makes me want to hold her tight and hug her hard every single minute. Because this world is tough when you just don’t quite fit. When your heart wants to do the right thing, but it’s a struggle to find your spot. When no one else seems to see the world quite the way you do.

When we don’t know what’s best for our kids, we have to go to the one who knows them better than we do. We have to lay our concerns and worries at the foot of the cross and let God carry those burdens.

As her mom, I want her to be everything that God designed her to be. I want her to be the beautiful, compassionate, joyful person that I see not nearly often enough. I want her to examine the world through that lens that is so uniquely her own, so I can find out just what she’s going to do with that perspective.

I have often said I would like to live inside her head for just one day, so I can see the world as she sees it. Because the world she sees, I think, is very different from the one I see.

I love all of that about her, but it makes it so very difficult to parent her. It makes it hard to know what to do when she has problems at school. How do you encourage her to fit in when the things that make her not fit in are the very things that you know are going to serve her well in the future? How do you decide if the struggles she’s having are important for her character or simply unnecessary and a change would be good? How do you know you’re doing the right thing for this child who is so very different from you?

You don’t. You don’t know. You may never know.

All I can do for this child of mine is pray hard over her. All I can do is wipe the tears when they come, deal with the frustration when it erupts, and hug her close and let her know she is loved by both me and God — even when she is at her most unloveable.

The only thing I can do is take comfort in the fact that God knows.

God. Knows.

He knows her better than I ever will. He knew her before she was formed. And He surely loves her more than I can.

And He is the source of wisdom. So, when I don’t know, when we don’t know, what’s best for our kids, we have to go to the one who knows them better than we do. We have to lay our concerns and worries at the foot of the cross and let God carry those burdens.

Because He knows.

He knows what to do when we do not.

The Power of No

photo credit: designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

This space has been pretty quiet for a while. It may seem like I fell off the map. In a way, I did. You see, the past 18 months or so have been pretty challenging. Over the course of those months we have dealt with meningitis, two other bacterial infections, a tonsillectomy (which is brutal when you're a teenager), a thyroid disorder, a parent having a stroke (and subsequently becoming much more involved in that parent's care), a broken hand, vocal chord dysfunction, a concussion, pneumonia, and a cerebrospinal fluid leak (feel free to look that one up). Did I mention my husband got a promotion in June that has him working until 8 p.m. most nights?

And that doesn't even include the normal drama that goes along with raising two teenage girls.

So, in the past year and a half, I've had to make decisions about the things that I can devote my time and energy to. Unfortunately, writing was something that had to take a back seat. This poor little blog suffered from a lot of neglect.

While the past 18 months have been a little rough, I have learned one very important thing. Sometimes, we have to say no. Whether we're saying it to other people or to ourselves, it's an important word to know how to use. And I have gotten so much better at it.

You want my daughter to practice two nights a week until 11 p.m.? No. You want me to add four more things to my schedule? No. I want to blog three days a week and redesign my website? No.

When it's all you can do to just get through the day, no becomes a very powerful word. Saying no has allowed me to say yes to other things.

I've gotten to spend some time with my girls that I wouldn't have had otherwise. I've been able to watch them as they have met some challenges in the past 18 months with grace and patience (and, yes, some frustration and anger).

I was able to say yes to a weeklong vacation with just my husband. And I've been able to say yes to time with God, time that I've been able to spend just soaking up His word and His love without any pressure to have anything meaningful to say about it.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I want you, dear reader, to understand the power of no. This little blog is a worthy endeavor. It deserves more attention than it's getting because I know it reaches people. Maybe in the next month or two, it will get the attention it deserves. My fingers are itching to write and my brain is whirling with unsaid thoughts.

But that will come in God's timing, not mine. I'm not going to force it. When there's something to be said, I'll say it. But there will be days when no is the answer to am I going to write today. There are so many things I want to say and share with all of you about this crazy thing called parenting, but I can't do it at the expense of my own parenting.

So, look for me a little more frequently in this space in the coming weeks, but don't be surprised if it's sporadic.

And do me a favor, take a look at your own life, at the things you are filling your time with. Maybe there's something there that you need to say no to. Maybe forever. Maybe for just a little while.

You won't be sorry that you did.

A Message for My Daughters

My 11-year-old daughter came home from school the other day sick at heart. For the first time in years, she had changed the way she wore her hair to school. Some girls promptly made fun of her. A couple of girls trying to be funny and “cool” had shattered my daughter’s self-confidence and ruined her day. She cried most of the afternoon and evening. It broke my heart.

It also made me think about what I want my daughters to know about themselves, so I came up with this “Message to My Daughters.” I thought I’d share it with you today.

 

You are a masterpiece. God says so. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong.

You are loved. I love you. Your dad loves you. Your grandparents love you. Your sister loves you (even though sometimes she doesn’t act like it). Your friends love you. Most importantly, God loves you.

Be yourself. There’s no one else in this world like you. No one who has exactly the same talents, likes and dislikes, or personality as you. No one can be you as well as you can. Don’t be afraid to be yourself.

Don’t let others define you. People will say mean things. They will want you to be like them. They will try to take away your self-confidence. Don’t let them. Be who God created you to be, not who someone else tells you to be.

Stand up for what’s right, even when it’s hard. Most of the time the easy road is the one that follows the crowd, even if it’s wrong. Be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid to choose the right thing, even when your friends are choosing the wrong one.

Know how to recognize the truth. The world is going to feed you all sorts of lies about beauty, money, self-worth and relationships. Don’t believe them. Seek God, who is the source of truth.

You will make mistakes, and it’s OK. No one is perfect. When you mess up, pick yourself up and get back in the game. Learn from your mistakes and move forward.

We have your back. No matter how bad the day, how mean other people are to you, or how hard the choice you have to make, we’re behind you. We are always praying for you. Home will always be a safe place where you can heal your wounds and be encouraged.

You are a gift. Our lives would not be complete without you. We thank God every day that He gave us you.

 

The Quiet Kids

quiet-kids
quiet-kids

I'm the mom of a quiet kid. She's the girl in class who knows the answers but rarely raises her hand. She'll talk with you if you talk to her, but she's not likely to speak up much otherwise. It takes work to get to know her, but she's a treasure to know when you do.

Some events in our lives in the past few days has me thinking about the quiet kids. These are the kids who when you go to their parent-teacher conferences in middle school and high school, you can clearly see some of the teachers trying to figure out which kid you're talking about. These are the kids who are well-behaved and never seem to have a bad day.

It's not that they don't have bad days. It's just that they don't want to be the center of attention. They shy away from the spotlight and don't volunteer to share their joys and troubles with everyone.

And the reality is that these are the kids that can be overlooked. They aren't outgoing and attention-grabbing. They aren't trouble makers. They are adept at hiding their feelings and blending into the background.

The quiet kids actually bring a lot to the table. They listen more than they speak, which means when they do speak, they usually have something important to say. They observe more than they interact, which means they often have a keen understanding of human nature. When you do get to know them, when you make the effort to get past that exterior reserve, you can find that they have plenty to say, that they have a great sense of humor and that they are willing to share the deepest parts of their soul with you. But it takes effort.

Too often, adults and other kids aren't willing to put in that effort. The quiet kids can get shunted aside and overlooked as adults give their attention to the gregarious ones and the trouble-making ones.

The reality is, though, that these quiet kids need your attention. They need you to spend time getting past the surface and really getting to know them. They need your interest, your love and your attention.

God created these quiet kids because the world needs people who listen and observe. He knew we needed the quiet thinkers to help solve problems created by those of us who jump without looking.

But our society values the outgoing, life-of-the-party personality. That makes it easy to miss the quiet kids. It makes it easy to not notice when they're having a tough time. It makes it easy to assume that they don't have problems.

Today, look around, see if there are any quiet kids in your life. If there are, put in the time and effort to get to know them, to invest in them. Because those kids need your attention, your love, your understanding just as much as the attention-grabbing, outgoing kids. The truth is, they may need it more.

The America That I Know

america
america

It’s election season, and I have been listening to the candidates talk. What I hear, makes me sad. Every candidate seems to point out the flaws and the terrible things about our country. It sounds like America is a terrible place to live.

I know much of it is rhetoric, and I know that we, as a country, have our flaws. But I also know that there’s a reason people are willing to risk crossing an ocean on a raft to come here. I know that even now with all our flaws and problems, we’re still a land of opportunity.

Between the TV commercials, the debates and the soundbites on the morning news, I wonder what country it is that these candidates are talking about. Because I don’t think they live in the America I know.

In the America that I know, in times of trouble, friends and neighbors lend a helping hand.

In the America that I know, the neighborhood kids make sure the elderly neighbor has a driveway and walkway clean from snow.

In the America that I know, strangers stop to help a young mom when she drops her coupons in the grocery store aisle.

In the America that I know, my daughter sits at a lunch table filled with her friends – a girl from Ethiopia, a girl from Malaysia, and a girl from India.

In the America that I know, there are people who make racist remarks. And there are more people who point out the injustice and wrongness of those remarks.

In the America that I know, there is human trafficking. And there are ordinary men and women fighting to stop it.

In the America that I know, people open their wallets to help others in need – whether it’s ringing a bell at Christmastime or funding relief efforts in Haiti.

In the America that I know, people volunteer their time to help kids learn to read, to help adults learn English, to help the homeless learn an employable skill.

In the America that I know, people can exercise their freedom of speech (although we could all learn to do so a bit more gently).

photo credit: designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

In the America that I know, little girls can grow up to be anything they want, including president of the United States.

In the America that I know, the biggest kid on my daughter’s hockey team stands up for the smaller guys (and girl).

In the America that I know, people are generally decent and hard-working.

In the America that I know, the older couple on the street keeps dog biscuits on hand for the neighborhood dogs (and the dogs come knock on the door to ask for them).

In the America that I know, most peoplee are all just trying to get along, live in community and build a better life for themselves and their families.

Nothing about our country is perfect, but the America I know is much different from the one our candidates for president seem to live in. In this election season of turmoil and discord, let’s remember that for every one thing our country could improve on, there’s another that we do well. Let’s remember that it’s not our politicians that make America; it’s the people. We are America. Let’s find the good things in the America that we know.

What does the America that you know look like?

What Do We Tell Our Kids About the Election?

No matter who wins the presidency, God is still on His throne and is still in control. Our collective free will may leave us with a poor choice for president, but God can use anything for His purpose.

Usually, I love election year. I love to watch democracy at work, and I enjoy sharing a civics lesson or two with my kids.

This year, my girls are 13 and 15. It's a perfect time to have great conversations about how democracy works. We should be discussing candidates based on their stand on the issues. We should be having conversations about character and leadership.

Instead, we're discussing what qualifies as sexual assault. We're talking about email security. We're having dinnertime talks about "locker room talk" and infidelity.

And, like so many parents, we are struggling to help our kids understand that these are the two people we have to choose from for president. I find myself wondering how I explain to my girls that the person who will be the next president will be missing all of the moral ingredients that I've been trying to culture and grow in them.

I sit and ponder how exactly I tell these two girls whom I have raised to be strong women of character that one of the candidates for president just demeaned all women and pretty much said he could do whatever he wants with women because he has "power."

I have talked to plenty of parents who are struggling with the same issues. Instead of civics lessons, we're having basic moral lessons during this election. We have R-rated debates. We have name-calling and egoism. It's frustrating as an American, but it's more frustrating as a parent.

So, here's what I'm telling my girls about the election. Here's hoping it might help you, too.

  1. Everyone sins. Both of these candidates aren't perfect. They have both done some despicable things. God loves them anyway. We should be praying for them to recognize their need for God in their lives.
  2. Power corrupts. Machiavelli said it best when he said "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." The pursuit of power can make you do things and say things that are abhorrent. When people become blinded by power, they can't see the mess they are making in their wakes.
  3. Character still matters. Even though these presidential candidates are lacking in character, it does still matter. Character is the only thing that will help you hold a steady course. When you are lacking in character, when you have no rock to base your life on, you will end up saying and doing terrible things.
  4. God is still in control. No matter who wins the presidency, God is still on His throne and is still in control. Our collective free will may leave us with a poor choice for president, but God can use anything for His purpose.
  5. We have survived bad presidents before. This country has survived corrupt, character-less presidents before. The beauty of our system is that the president does not have absolute power.
  6. Our country needs prayer. Our presidential candidates only reflect the heart of our country. These two were voted to be the nominees, which means that our country had no interest in  nominating people of character. We need to be praying for our country daily.
  7. Objectifying women is wrong no matter who you are. This is not a conversation I thought I would need to have when it comes to the presidential election, but our sons and daughters need to hear this over and over again in light of the events of the past week.
  8. I don't know who I'm voting for. I've been honest with my kids about the fact that I can't vote for either candidate. My conscience won't let me. So, I may not vote for president. I may vote third party. I may write in my dad. I may draw a big smiley face on my ballot. I don't know.

These are not the conversations I thought I would be having surrounding the democratic process of electing a president. But they are the conversations that we need to have with our kids.

Reflections on the First Day of School

photo credit: designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

It's just me, my computer, my water bottle and the Olympics this morning. It's quiet for the first time in three months. The dogs are taking some well-deserved naps. I'm catching up on some neglected tasks.

It's the first day of school here, and for the first time since the end of May, I'm looking at a calendar filled with days without my kids. I have lots of projects to work on, a house that really needs a good cleaning and work that needs to be done. But right now, for this moment, I find myself doing a bit of reflection.

This morning, I sent an eighth grader and a high school sophomore off for their first day of school. The morning was a whirlwind. Hair to be done, lunches to be made, advice to be given. But now, in these first quiet moments in months, I realize that I only have five more first days of school.

I am incredibly proud of the young women my girls are becoming, but we have left childhood behind in this house. For the first time, I sent two teenagers to school. My child who would only wear graphic T-shirts and comfy shorts has graduated to a skirt and vest. My daughter who has never liked change faced her first day of school with confidence and a smile.

So much has changed since that first day of kindergarten 10 years ago. And as we face the few years we have left with our girls, I find I treasure the time I have with them more. Don't get me wrong, there were days this summer that I pulled out the calendar and counted the days until school started. But, mostly, this year, I found myself enjoying the days of summer without the distraction of school or sports. And, so, I find myself a bit sad to see school start this year.

As I reflect on our summer and this first day of school, though, I wanted to share this: Whether it's your first first day of school or your last, take a long look at your kids and savor who they are in this moment. Because who they are in this moment may be part of who they are in the future, but they will never be this particular person again.

Whether you're in an easy season with your kids or a difficult one, take a moment today to thank God for who they are today. Identify the traits that your kids have that are positive and thank God for each one.

And, dear mommas, savor this moment here at the beginning of the school year. Because these moments fly by, and as excited as we are to see our kids becoming who God wants them to be, we can't recapture the moments once they're gone.

Making Sense of the Senseless

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
— Romans 15:13

For the past two days, I've sat at my computer wanting to write, but not knowing what to say. I'm a writer. That's what I do. That's how I process things. That's how I make sense of the world.

But how do you make sense of the senseless? How do you explain it to your kids when you don't understand it yourself?

A guy walks into a bar... Sounds like the beginning of a good joke. Except what happened in Orlando when a guy walked into a bar was no joke. It was a slaughter. It was senseless. It was horrifying. It was evil.

My kids are teenagers. They have grown up in a post-9/11 world. Unfortunately, the idea of someone walking into a bar and shooting 100 people is not as unusual to them as it should be. Their perception of the world has never been free of the threat of terrorism. They don't remember a time when you could visit the pilots of an airplane in the cockpit. They don't know what it's like to be at an event with a large crowd of people and not at least have the passing thought that it might make a good target for terrorists.

Because that's the world we live in today. And that makes me sad. It makes me sad for my kids and sad for all of us. Because our world is one where hate thrives. It is a place where one person's hatred of another person's beliefs or choices or religion can result in the slaughter of innocent people.

So how do we help our kids process the senselessness and the hopelessness inherent in these acts of terror? How do we help our kids find the hope in the situation?

We start by remembering the words of Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God is the God of hope. This is a long game, and we know who wins in the end. Hope endures, light shines because God brings hope. Hope is found in a tiny baby in a manger. It's found in a young man nailed to a cross. Hope shines out of an empty tomb.

Make no mistake. Every single life that was taken in that bar in Orlando was precious to God. It doesn't matter what they believed, what they did or who they were. God loved them as part of his precious creation, just like He loves you and me. Their senseless massacre broke God's heart.

And it should break ours, too. While we help our kids focus on the hope that is found in knowing that God triumphs in the end, we also must be careful to help them grieve the tragedy of the moment. Because the biggest danger in this post-9/11 world is that we and our kids become immune to the immensity of these events. We can start to view them as just another attack. Just another death.

We want ourselves and our kids to never lose sight of the fact that whenever hate causes someone to take a life, it's an immense tragedy. It is Satan grabbing hold of this world and announcing that he has no intention of letting it go.

And it's our job to shine light into that darkness. It's our calling to help where we can. It's our responsibility to pray without ceasing for the victims, for the families, and, yes, even for the perpetrators. Because the only way we raise kids who can see the good through the evil, who can find hope in the hopeless, is to make sure that the things that break God's heart are still breaking ours.

So, today, talk with your kids. Remind them that God is still in control. Talk with them about the reality of evil in the world. Grieve the senseless tragedy of the moment with them. Then find a way to help. Pray for all those affected. Hold onto the hope. Because in this dark moment where it seems evil has triumphed, hope is the most important thing left.

A Birthday Prayer for My 13-Year-Old

photo credit: designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

My baby girl turned 13 yesterday. She's officially a teenager.

There's something about having your youngest child enter her teens. Childhood in your house is officially over. You've got five years left until they're 18.

When my girls were babies, people told me the time would fly. I didn't understand then what they meant. Sure there have been long days, hours, even minutes, but the years have flown, and I'm now the mom to two teenage girls. My job is less hand holding and more pushing out of the nest.

It's become a tradition for me to use this space to offer up a birthday prayer for each of my girls on their birthdays. So, this one is for my sweet baby girl as she turns 13.

birthday 13
birthday 13

Embracing Your Season

Just like winter turns into spring, there are seasons in life. Embrace the season you’re in. There are beautiful moments to be found in it.
— Lori Fairchild
design_blossoms-103.jpg

The sun is shining, and it's warm here today. We're probably still in for some more cold weather, but it's clear the seasons are changing. Spring is on its way.

My writing in this space has been sparse lately. Those little girls in the header picture at the top of the page aren't so little any more. They're growing up fast, and I'm trying hard not to miss it.

Because just like winter turns into spring, there are seasons in life. And in this season, there hasn't been a lot of time to write. There hasn't been a lot of time for me to even breathe, much less dream my own dreams.

You see, in this season, my kids have needed me. My husband has needed me. And my calling has been to minister to them.

And sometimes, that calling can seem small. They're only three people in this very big world. I could reach hundreds or thousands if I was blogging regularly. But those three people, they are my first calling. They are the people God has said to love first.

And that's hard sometimes. Honestly, some days if I have to help do one more algebra problem or one more 7th-grade project, I feel like I might just lose it. If I have to take my older daughter to one more doctor or sort through one more day of girl drama, I just might create my own drama. And if I schedule one more date night with my husband to have it be interrupted by someone at his work scheduling a 7 pm meeting on Friday night, I might throw my phone across the room.

But this is the season I'm in. This is the season where my family simply needs me more than they have in a long time. We're juggling a kid who has had multiple medical issues in the past year, a middle-schooler struggling to find her place in this world, and my husband's parents who both need specialized care. None of that leaves much time for writing and dreaming and creating.

Am I selfishly ready for this season to pass? You betcha. I want to write and dream and create. I want to chase my own dreams. But there is going to come a day when my house is empty and silent. The bus will go by my door, and no one will come running home to share their day with me.

So, if my calling right now is to focus on the other three people in my house, then that's what I'll do. Because as sure as winter is changing into spring, this season will change into another one.

When God calls us to a season, he does so for a reason. We need to embrace the change. Just as winter brings the fun of sledding and snowmen, Christmas and Valentine's Day, spring also has it's great moments -- the first daffodil, Easter and warm weather. Our seasons in life are like that, too. Each will bring challenges, but they will also bring some perfect moments, moments we would not trade for anything in the world.

If God is calling you to a season that seems to be leaving the things you want to do behind, remember that He's calling you to that season for a reason. It may be that things you want to do require that you walk this path before you can walk that one.

Whatever the reason, embrace the season you're in. There are beautiful moments to be found in it.

When You Don't Know What to Do

When we don’t know what’s best for our kids, we have to go to the one who knows them better than we do. We have to lay our concerns and worries at the foot of the cross and let God carry those burdens.
— Lori Fairchild

I have this daughter. She's 12. She's smart. She's funny. She's compassionate. She's stubborn. She's challenging. She sees the world through a lens I don't have and marches to a beat I don't hear.

And she is, oh, so hard to parent. She makes me think hard every day. She makes me question whether I'm doing the right thing every week. She makes me pull my hair out at least once a month.

And she makes me want to hold her tight and hug her hard every single minute. Because this world is tough when you just don't quite fit. When your heart wants to do the right thing, but it's a struggle to find your spot. When no one else seems to see the world quite the way you do.

As her mom, I want her to be everything that God designed her to be. I want her to be the beautiful, compassionate, joyful person that I see not nearly often enough. I want her to examine the world through that lens that is so uniquely her own, so I can find out just what she's going to do with that perspective.

I have often said I would like to live inside her head for just one day, so I can see the world as she sees it. Because the world she sees, I think, is very different from the one I see.

I love all of that about her, but it makes it so very difficult to parent her. It makes it hard to know what to do when she has problems at school. How do you encourage her to fit in when the things that make her not fit in are the very things that you know are going to serve her well in the future? How do you decide if the struggles she's having are important for her character or simply unnecessary and a change would be good? How do you know you're doing the right thing for this child who is so very different from you?

You don't. You don't know. You may never know.

All I can do for this child of mine is pray hard over her. All I can do is wipe the tears when they come, deal with the frustration when it erupts, and hug her close and let her know she is loved by both me and God -- even when she is at her most unloveable.

The only thing I can do is take comfort in the fact that God knows.

God. Knows.

He knows her better than I ever will. He knew her before she was formed. And He surely loves her more than I can.

And He is the source of wisdom. So, when I don't know, when we don't know, what's best for our kids, we have to go to the one who knows them better than we do. We have to lay our concerns and worries at the foot of the cross and let God carry those burdens.

Because He knows.

He knows what to do when we do not.

When You're Too Tired for Christmas

God created beauty out of the struggle. The savior of the world was born. And in the midst of their joy, I’m sure Mary and Joseph struggled to see the plan laid out for them. I’m sure they were scared. I’m sure they were often uncertain about what to do next.
— Lori Fairchild
photo credit: designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

Christmas is in four days. My house is decorated. My kids are excited. And I am tired.

This year has worn me out. 2015 has been a long, hard slog from January to December. Every time I thought we had conquered the mountain in front of us, we reached the peak to find a taller mountain behind it.

Illness after illness has hit our family hard. Stroke, meningitis, thyroid, liver. You name it. We had a taste of it this year. This year has been so tough that both my daughter and I completely forgot she broke her hand in October. You know it's been a rough year when broken bones don't even make the Top 10 Events of the Year list.

And, yet, there have been moments in this year that I wouldn't trade for the world. The precious perspective that my 14-year-old has gained embodied in the words she said the other day, "Just think, six months ago my biggest worry was staying on my soccer team. That doesn't even register now."

The shared moments with my husband where we tried to tackle the mountain together, knowing that when one failed, the other would pick them up.

The intentional moments with my 12-year-old created because she simply needed some time with her mom.

Because in the midst of the trial, in the midst of what seems like never-ending struggle, there is beauty. God is creating a better perspective, a stronger family and a sheer reliance on Him.

So, as I sit here four days before Christmas, I am reminded that the very first Christmas was probably the end of a very long year for Mary and Joseph. Unmarried and pregnant in a culture that had no allowance for that. Miraculously pregnant, but with a story no one would believe. I imagine Mary and Joseph felt very alone and very afraid. They knew God was creating something wonderful, but they were the only ones that knew it.

Two young people, teenagers, really, on the road to Bethlehem. No place for them to stay. A baby on the way.

And, yet, God created beauty out of the struggle. The savior of the world was born. And in the midst of their joy, I'm sure Mary and Joseph struggled to see the plan laid out for them. I'm sure they were scared. I'm sure they were often uncertain about what to do next.

God creates beauty out of chaos. His plan to save the world started with two young people having a baby in a cave in Bethlehem.

And, I'm reminded this Christmas, that if God can do that, He can make something amazing out of the crazy that has been our year.

So, this Christmas, if you're struggling to just put one foot in front of the other, if the weight of the world is on your shoulders, remember this: God specializes in making great things out of difficult times. Jesus' birth is proof of that.